Archive for the ‘Foster Care’ Category

Dec12

“A Home for the Holidays” for Former Foster Youth in Central TX

BeREAL moving day [story by Sarah Crocker, BeREAL Austin transitional services program director]

BeREAL [Ready Educated Accomplished Leaders] Austin, the LSS housing support and mentoring network for youth aging out of foster care in Central Texas, began accepting applications in September and placing young adults in Supervised Independent Living (SIL) apartments in October.

There has been a flurry of moving activity recently, with seven new BeREAL residents – five young adults and two children. Two more are moving in December 19, for a total of nine by year’s end. Eventually, we anticipate serving around 30 youth each year.

About BeREAL Austin

BeREAL Austin helps foster youth transition to self-sufficiency and independence by providing Supervised Independent Living as they age out of care. Through a partnership with a national multi-family real estate company, LSS secured discounted apartments for participants in Austin.

Foster children have little control over decisions impacting their lives, then suddenly at age 18, they are treated as fully capable adults, with adult responsibilities and expectations. BeREAL Austin helps prepare them for this new role.

A grant from Grande Communications is helping fund the cost of utilities and household items. BeREAL is an important component of LSS’ continuum of care in our children’s programs, focusing on our mission to break the cycle of child abuse by empowering children, families and communities.

Our BeREAL Austin clients

Applicants for the program are initially screened by DFPS, and to be eligible must be foster youth between 18-21, who were in foster care on their 18th birthday. They must either be in school or working, or a combination of both, and all of our participants fit into these categories.

Meet our residents:

  • A 19-year-old mother, who has a one-year old daughter, attends classes at Austin Community College (ACC) and is working for an insurance company. She is studying criminal justice and plans to be a probation officer.
  • A 19-year-old mother, who has a one-year-old son, completed one year at ACC and plans to re-enroll this spring. She wants to study accounting and become a CPA.
  • An 18-year-old female, who works at the nearby HEB, has enrolled to start her first semester at ACC in January. She wants to be a social worker and help kids like herself.
  • A 20-year-old male completed one year at A&M-Corpus Christi and is now at ACC. His 18-year-old sister, another new resident, lives in the same complex in an adjacent building. She enrolled for her first semester at ACC and is looking for a job nearby.

For most of their lives, they’ve been placed apart. Now they get to see each other every day – to learn and support one another – as they figure life out. They also enjoy waving at each other from their balconies!

As each of these youth achieve their identified education and employment goals, they are expected to transition to unsupervised independent living.

crib BeREAL Unpacking

Can You Help BeREAL?

Yes! As we move in more residents, we always need gently used furniture (couches and dining tables), microwaves and other household items. View our online donation list  and contact Sarah Crocker at 512-813-9828 or by email [email protected].

Dec04

Adoption Day in Laredo

laredo garcia Adoption

Congratulations to the Garcias of Laredo!

“Words cannot express the gratitude we feel for helping us form our dream family. May God bless you always!” – note to FIT area director Oscar Guerra from foster and adoptive mom Norma Garcia

Laredo’s Foster In Texas (FIT), parents Edmundo and Norma Garcia, saw their dreams come true on November 21 when they adopted the three adorable siblings who had been in their care. In addition, several other children found their forever families on the same day during adoption consummation hearings – in celebration of National Adoption Month – presided over by Honorable Judge Oscar J. Hale of the 406th District Court.

The court house was filled with balloons, decorations, family and friends, and to commemorate the event, the siblings each received gifts from our FIT staff and Mrs. Garcia was presented with a beautiful bouquet of roses.

The Garcias couldn’t have been happier and are very grateful for Laredo’s FIT team who were with them throughout the entire process. What a beautiful family!

This year during National Adoption Month, FIT consummated 29 adoptions. Currently, there is a state wide shortage of foster families in Texas capable and willing to foster infants, children with special needs, siblings and teens.

 If you are ready to make a difference in the life of a child, visit – www.lsss.org/go/fit – for more information.

FIT is a program of Lutheran Social Services of the South.

Laredo garcia Adoption (1)

Nov21

FIT News Across Texas

Texas FIT Map (3)Lindsey Stockton, Regional Director for Foster In Texas (FIT), does a lot of traveling around Texas to various foster care and adoption offices, and many of her recent journeys have coincided with FIT foster family festivals and events. Lindsey and Area Director Oscar Guerra have reported on some of these recent celebrations and foster care activities, and shared photos to document the occasions. 

Austin/Georgetown Foster From the Heart Conference October 17

The “Foster From the Heart” Training Conference garnered a lot of interest from new and potential foster parents. Conference speakers presented a variety of topics, including: Preventing Sexual Abuse; What is a Primary Medical Needs (PMN) Home?; An Overview About Foster Care; How to Help a Traumatized Child;  and Supervised Independent Living for Kids Aging Out of Foster Care. A highlight of the conference was meeting and hearing the success stories of two former foster children.

The Austin FIT staff kept the show running and gave out door prizes. Thanks to Angela Acevedo for the great decorations!

sarah conference2 FITconferencedecor

San Antonio/Austin – Kinship Festival October 25

The 1st Annual Kinship Fall Festival was held in South Austin and drew more than 150 foster children and their families. The Travis County kinship workers and volunteers coordinated with many community partners including: BACA (Bikers Against Child Abuse), CPS (Child Protective Services), and CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates).    t child abuse), Foster Angels, Partnerships for Children, CASEY Family Programs, the Travis County Sheriff’s Department. There was a costume contest and a raffle for different themed gift baskets for the kinship caregivers, pumpkin painting, face painting, and lots of food to enjoy. The families had a wonderful time and we were blessed by the community to offer this event free for our kinship homes.

Representing LSS-FIT from our San Antonio office were: Recruiter Amanda Perez, Area Director Claudia Rodriguez, and Kinship Specialist Carmen Castillo. All LSS-FIT families in the area were invited to join the festivities, and the FIT staff led an activity for the kids and provided information to one and all about our kinship foster program.

SA kinship festival SA kinship fest outside SA fall fest lindsay SA kinship fest group

Lubbock – Foster Parent Appreciation Dinner November 8 

The Lubbock FIT staff recently went all out hosting a dinner for our deserving foster parents. It was a wonderful evening that could not have taken place without the help of our LSS-FIT supporters and volunteers. Many thanks to the community partners and donors who made this event possible!  There were several door prizes donated to show appreciation to our foster parents!

lubbock fp apprec dinner(3) lubbock fp apprec 5 lubbock fp apprec 4

El Paso – Thanksgiving Luncheon November 20

A special Thanksgiving luncheon was held in honor of El Paso’s foster families, hosted by the El Paso FIT team. Sixty-three families and children attended the event and seemed to thoroughly enjoy themselves. Door prizes were awarded, and the families felt our care and support.

FIT folks: Cecelia Cardenas (left) and Area Director Jacqueline Sandoval

FIT folks: Cecelia Cardenas (left) and Area Director Jacqueline Sandoval

 

Laredo – Thanksgiving Luncheon November 20

The Laredo FIT team hosted its annual Thanksgiving luncheon at a local restaurant. Our FIT staff greeted all foster parents and made them feel very appreciated! Everyone enjoyed sharing a delicious turkey dinner with all the trimmings.

FIT families had a good time chatting and exchanging parenting tips. It was a joyous and festive occasion, with a raffle and door prizes added to the fun. Thanks once again to the Lamar Bruni Vergara Grant for making this holiday luncheon possible.

laredo Tksgiving luncheon groupLaredo Tksgiving luncheon(4) Laredo staff Tksgiving luncheonLaredo Tksgiving lunch ladies

Tyler – Foster Parent Support Group Formed

A group of Tyler FIT parents gathered to share their fostering experiences and form a network for education and support.  In other Tyler FIT news, Nick Wilkerson, who is placed in the Hall home, was the subject of an interview that appeared in the Tyler Morning Telegraph.

 

Nov07

Celebrating Halloween with FIT Team in Laredo

Left to right: Oscar Guerra, Area Director (rapper); Monica Bondoc, Placement Coordinator (Minnie Mouse), Linda Mendiola, Regional Recruiter (’60s hippie girl); and Marissa Martinez, Family Service Worker (2nd Minnie Mouse)

Left to right: Oscar Guerra, Area Director (rapper); Monica Bondoc, Placement Coordinator (Minnie Mouse), Linda Mendiola, Regional Recruiter (’60s hippie girl); and Marissa Martinez, Family Service Worker (2nd Minnie Mouse)

Laredo’s Foster in Texas (FIT) office recently hosted a Halloween party for foster parents and the 75 children in their care. Our FIT staff is always ready to celebrate holidays, and Halloween was no exception.

FIT parties often provide an opportunity to bring siblings together – brothers and sisters living with different foster families – and encourage family interaction. During this particular event, several sibling groups got to play and spend time together.

One of the most special moments of the party came when several guests witnessed a very moving sibling reunion – a child broke into tears when she realized her brother and younger sister were there too! The three of them enjoyed an evening of games and Halloween fun together.

FIT’s Laredo staff, in their not-very-scary Halloween costumes, made everyone feel welcome, served food and made sure all the children had a great time playing with their goody bags and prizes.

A special thanks to the Lamar Bruni Vergara Trust and Foundation for providing funds for this activity.

We appreciate our foster families, and events like this one let them know just how much we do!

Enjoy the photos!

laredo halloween batman laredo halloween capt laredo halloween 2014 witch laredo Halloween 2014 staff laredo Halloween 2014 kids laredo Halloween 2014 kids2 laredo halloween 2014 ketchup

Nov05

Fall Festival for Dallas-area FIT Families

Processed with VSCOcam with a4 preset[story by Rebekah Poling, Assoc. Vice President of Development NTX]

What do you get when you cross a fire truck with a photo booth and a whole lotta barbecue?

The 2014 Fall Festival for the foster families and children!

On Friday, Oct. 24, our North Texas children and families enjoyed our annual Fall Festival at the Richardson Foster in Texas office. Thanks to the generous support of our community through our 2014 Caring for Kids and North Texas Giving Day events, everyone had a great time!

The farm animal crew, from Wild West Pony Parties, joined in the fun with more than 35 critters and the Richardson Fire Department lent us a fire truck for the evening. Other festival activities included pumpkin and face painting, costume decorating, eating candy and a “spooky” house where kids enjoyed snow cones at the end!

One of my favorite parts of the party was provided by The Cool Booth. Many of our kids are just starting to create positive childhood memories, and there is no easier way to preserve a fantastic evening, than with a photo booth. I know everyone will enjoy looking back at their party pics for years to come!

Many thanks to:

  • Ken Hogan and the Hogan Financial Systems’ team
  • Lisa Mowry and her amazing friends
  • CJ and Melinda Winslow and their Foodtronix and Hope for North Texas teams
  • Bartley’s BBQ in Grapevine
  • Kristene Hostenske and Rejoice Lutheran Church
  • The Richardson Fire Department
  • National Charity League of Richardson
  • North Texas Giving Day’s – Foster In Texas supporters
  • Supporters of Caring for Kids, a Foster In Texas benefit

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Oct31

Fosterware Party in Victoria

victoria Fosterware party“You’re invited to our Fosterware Party,” the invitation read. Fosterware parties may take their name from their better-known counterpart, Tupperware parties, but the name shouldn’t detract from the serious nature of the gathering. Fosterware parties are hosted in a fun atmosphere while providing opportunities for guests to learn more about becoming foster parents.

“A Fosterware Party is a chance for potential foster parents to get a realistic picture of fostering, not just from a social worker, but also from previous or existing foster parents,” said Edgar Ricalde, regional director for Foster In Texas (FIT), a program of Lutheran Social Services.  “And we know from experience that many of the best foster parents are the ones who have been recruited by other FIT parents.”

The Haydens, a couple from Victoria who are currently in the process of FIT verification themselves, recently hosted a Fosterware Party in their home for two prospective foster families. One of FIT’s area directors, Paula Vrana, lead the orientation and educated guests on the myths and facts of foster care and adoption. The party included snacks, a door prize and lots of great information – Paula said the party was a big success!

More than 2,000 children depend on us every year to provide safe, loving foster homes – but more homes are needed. Our highest need is for families who can foster siblings and teens. Those interested in becoming foster parents will need to complete many hours of classes in order to become licensed. Visit our site to have one of our 14 offices contact you.

Oct29

You give them rest. You give them hope. You give them a shoulder to lean on.

The Crabtrees

The Crabtrees

 

[story by Rebekah Poling, LSS Associate Vice President of Development NTX]

At the 2014 Caring for Kids fundraiser in May, supporting LSS’ Foster in Texas program, your gifts were designated to provide Respite Care for our North Texas foster parents.

I’ve enjoyed interviewing several of our amazing families to find out how their lives have been positively impacted by your generosity – here is what they shared with me:

What type of life events cause you to use Respite Care?

“Work travel time, finding a babysitter during mandatory foster parent training, date night.”

“Spending time alone with biological children or one struggling foster child to reconnect and regroup.”

“Attending a family funeral, and giving the kids a chance to do something fun with a safe, trusted adult – away from foster mom and dad!”

How does Respite Care bless your family?

“It feels great to know that someone truly cares about the parents as well as the children.”

“Because we don’t have many options, we have to leave our children with a daycare-style facility when we are unable to take them with us…whenever we have training…because our approved babysitter list is limited.”

“Honestly, it helps keep the sanity. The stress level of being a foster parent is extraordinary.”

“I have to say that respite care is one of the best things offered through LSS. It allows my husband and I take a much needed break. Although we love what we do, sometimes we need some just ‘us’ time.’”

“Respite has helped my husband and I keep in touch with each other.  It is very important to me to keep a healthy relationship so we can help each other succeed… and have the kids see this.”

What would happen if Respite Care was not provided?

“We wouldn’t be able to take training classes together. The expenses for daycare for our two (an infant and toddler) are more than our foster care reimbursement.”

“As difficult as it is to even find sitters for kids with these type behaviors, trying to find one who is qualified and willing is much more expensive than an ‘ordinary’ sitter.”

What is your favorite part about being a foster parent?

“My children are absolutely my heart and world…Biological, adoptive, foster, etc.; my children are just my children. Who and what would I be without them?”

“These are our first placements…I have never felt more fulfilled in my life. Every time I see one of them accomplish something new with our support, the joy is priceless.“

“Knowing I’m making some kind of difference.”

”Being able to be a part of their lives and make a positive change has been great.  We can show them that you can come from a bad situation and still have and do good things.  I can show them what family life is and that there are still people you can trust. Thank you to all the people who donate to help foster parents succeed!”

Oct28

Boohaha Bash in Harlingen

harlingen booHarlingen’s Foster In Texas (FIT) families caught the Halloween spirit last Friday, when the LSS-FIT staff hosted their 3rd Annual “Boohaha Bash” for area foster children. FIT’s Harlingen office has 19 foster families and 51 children in their care, and the Halloween party has become a much anticipated – and truly spooktacular – event.

This year’s party included games, a photo booth, pizza and plenty of yummy treats. The kids trick-or-treated from office to office and showed off their costumes – they all looked super cute! A costume contest selected two winners and awarded each a prize.

Parties like this one present a wonderful opportunity to bring all of the area’s foster families together to socialize and connect. It’s also a chance for siblings who live in different foster homes to reunite. FIT staff note that these are the really special moments, when brothers and sisters can spend time together and play. The Halloween party is all about these deserving kids, and it’s a joy to see.

harlingen boogroup

harlingen boocakes

 

Oct24

Silpada Jewelry Gifts that Give Back – To New Life Children’s Center

silpada jewelryAre you ready to start counting down the number of shopping days before Christmas? We present an opportunity to bring a philanthropic spirit to Christmas shopping while bringing joy to the girls at New Life Children’s Center.

Between NOW and October 30, 2014, you are invited to shop at an ONLINE SILPADA PARTY, and 30% of the proceeds will go toward a jewelry donation for the silent auction at the “Make a Difference” Gala and fundraiser for New Life Children’s Center. If you’re not familiar with Silpada Designs, the selection of unique, handcrafted sterling silver jewelry is terrific, and it’s very affordable.

Kerrin Gaenzle, a faithful New Life supporter and Make a Difference committee member for 13 years, is a Silpada representative, and this is the sixth year she has hosted a Silpada fundraiser benefiting the New Life girls. We can’t thank Kerrin enough!

Orders placed by Oct. 30 will arrive early November, and come with an extended return policy, so give a gift of glitz to someone on your list.

You’ll be giving a GIFT AND A DONATION, when you shop through THIS LINK: http://sild.es/Dt1. Please send and share this link with all your friends and family so that we can really make a difference for these girls at New Life.

Ready. Set. Shop!

Oct02

Foster From the Heart: October 17th Child Welfare Conference

Foster From Heart blog graphic (3)What an opportunity! LSS-Foster In Texas (FIT) is hosting a continuing education event in October that is not to be missed by anyone interested in (or already involved in) foster care and children’s services. And it’s free and open to the public.

Essential information:

Date: Friday, October 17, 2014 – 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

Location: Christ Lutheran Church

510 Luther Street, Georgetown TX 75701

Lunch and daycare provided

Must RSVP by October 7*

CEUs available; fulfills TIC training hours

The “Foster From the Heart” Conference is for foster parents, future foster parents case workers, nurses and mental health providers, social workers, school counselors and administrators, and all interested parties. And you will want to invite your friends. [A little perk/incentive: FIT parents who have the most guests attend will receive gift cards valued up to $300.

Speakers & Topics:

  • Naigene Owens, PhD – Preventing Sexual Abuse
  • Phyllis Christensen, RN – What is a Primary Medical Needs (PMN) Home?
  • Kelley Broadaway, LPC, FIT Statewide Clinical Director – An Overview About Foster Care; How to Help a Traumatized Child
  • Sarah Crocker, LSS Transitional Services Program Director – Supervised Independent Living for Kids Aging Out of Foster Care
  • Tiffany Greer – Former foster child and LSS-FIT employee
  • Star Colin – Former foster child

*To RSVP, call 512-706-7593, email [email protected], or via Eventbrite.com and search “foster from the heart.”

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Foster In Texas® is a registered trademark. Copyright 2014. All rights reserved. Foster In Texas is a program of Lutheran Social Services of the South, Inc., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.