AŌer almost 20 years in the same locaƟon, the AWFC agency office in Round Rock has moved. What a wild and wooly undertaking—cleaning out all the closets and accumulated junk was an amazing undertaking! But we made it and moved in the middle of May. We absolutely love our new locaƟon. It is so peaceful and so nice. Be sure to stop by if you are close—we are just off I 35 at 2007 Sam Bass Road, Bldg. 2 Below are some photos to peak your interest in visiƟng!
Our Expands Services World AWFC Opens Up Private AdopƟon Agency
A World for Children is thrilled to announce the expansion of its services! As of September 5, we received our license and can begin business with our new infant adopƟon program! The new agency, Texas AdopƟon Center , will work with pregnant women who are experiencing an unintended pregnancy, as well as with families who are hoping to adopt. “ Texas AdopƟon Center was born out of AWFC’s longstanding passion for providing
permanent, loving homes for children—a mission AWFC has been pursuing with great success since 1997, thanks to wonderful families like YOU! We offer a fresh approach to today’s adopƟon. Our aim, always, is to provide a very personal kind of support that goes way beyond professionalism. It is this personal dimension that sets us apart from other agencies—the same personal dimension that you’ve come to know and love about AWFC. “ states Caitlin Phillips , director of Texas AdopƟon Center. If you know someone who is experiencing an unplanned pregnancy, is considering their opƟons, and in need of help, please refer them to Texas AdopƟon Center. We’ll make sure they’re counseled on all of their opƟons so that they can make the right choice for themselves and their baby. If they choose adopƟon, we’ll be their biggest supporters, we’ll help them through the process every step of the way—and we’ll provide counseling services for life! Also, if you know an individual or couple who want to expand their family, please let them know that Texas AdopƟon Center is here for them. We will work with families from all across Texas, as well as families from out of state! And as we do, we’ll provide a full array of services from the home study through the birth process to the finalizaƟon of the adopƟon. At every step, we will be their biggest supporters.
Learn about Texas AdopƟon Center! Visit our website or call us today for more informaƟon.
Texas AdopƟon Center 2007 Sam Bass Rd. Ste. 200 Round Rock, Texas 78681
Foster care has always had its twists and turns but lately, it’s been an upside down, twisty, round and round, up and down ROLLERCOASTER of changes and twists in direcƟon. As those of you that have been in foster care for a while know, it is ever changing – there are always many great intenƟons but, as with any change, changes create both opportuniƟes and challenges. First, it seems appropriate to have a very quick review of the history that has perpetuated, or at least accelerated, the changes. A few years ago, the State of Texas and then, Governor Perry, were sued by a child rights advocacy group out of New York. They represented 9 youth that had gone through the foster care system. This lawsuit lasted over two years and the mishandling of the cases and the abuse the youth were vicƟms to was staggering. The State’s defense did not adequately explain
the circumstances suffered by these individuals. As we all know, the system of child welfare is not perfect and most people that have worked in the system can tesƟfy that tragic things do happen and we could all do more. However, we also can agree that though those nine faced tragic circumstances, there are thousands that have thrived. In response, at least in part, to the lawsuit, the State began to make internal changes to Health and Human Services Commission, which is the umbrella of Texas Department of Family and ProtecƟve Services. For instance, we are currently on the fourth HHS commissioner in as many years. With that change, of course, comes massive changes in many of the administraƟve and managerial posiƟons in the Department. Every one of those people have had their own ideas on what could make the system beƩer but some common ideas seem to be constant – the State leadership believes we need more workers, more oversight, more regulaƟons, one or more outside enƟƟes to manage regions, and an objecƟve way to measure providers and, in turn, the progress of the children they serve. With these ideals, one Single Source ConƟnuum Contractor (which is what they call the “Redesign” administraƟng agency) has come and gone for Regions 2/9, another (Our Community Our Kids “OCOK”) is currently providing services in Region 3b, and a Request for Proposal has been released for Region 2. They are hoping to start a new Redesign in that region by Spring of next year. There is, of course, a lot of dissenƟon in how the Redesign Program has impacted children and the overall child welfare program in Texas. I will not get into the details of that at this Ɵme, as it is an enƟre arƟcle/ lecture in itself but, suffice to say, A World For Children is staying abreast of the latest informaƟon and making comments at any possible Ɵmes. In addiƟon to the Redesign Program, TDFPS is making changes internally. There are three enƟƟes within the heading of the Department that hold us, and by extension, the foster parents, accountable – Child ProtecƟve Services (CPS), ResidenƟal Child Care Licensing (RCCL) and ResidenƟal Contracts (Contracts). They all are aƩempƟng to make a beƩer system for our children but each has their own way of going about things and someƟmes that can get confusing in implementaƟon. Below are the ways that each of them are making changes. CPS: CPS is really “driving the bus” on Redesign. They are focusing on making an SSCC in each region responsible for finding resources and providers within the community that can provide services to foster children within that region. The SSCC will then contract with those providers and the hope is that by localizing the focus, the outcomes for children will be beƩer. While the idea behind an SSCC does make sense, there have been some issues, including but not limited to, ensuring the redesign program is cost neutral (people at the SSCC have to be paid too), having a geographic pocket that abides by different rules than homes that are in counƟes surrounding that area, and having another “hand in the pot,” making decisions for a child. However, they are reporƟng that there have been some posiƟve outcomes. It will likely take more Ɵme to get a clear view of whether redesign can work in the long run. Though we will not apply to be an SSCC, in any areas in which Redesign takes hold, we will work with them to remain at the forefront of providing quality services.
AddiƟonally, CPS is pushing permanency more than they ever have before. There is a very big push for finding familial/ficƟve kin permanent placements for children and, if that does not work, finding an adopƟve placement. We have seen an uptake in kinship referrals recently and AWFC has licensed more kinship families this year than any other year. Some of our homes have also been faced with the decision of a child going to a new home or deciding to adopt. These are hard decisions and we are here to support you. We are very happy that so many families have made permanent addiƟons to their households and our children are finding forever homes. “Normalcy” is another of the words that is being pushed lately, as there was a federal mandate that foster children receive “normalcy” while in care. The wonderful thing about AWFC is that we have always strived to give our children normalcy and foster parents have really bought into the philosophy that the youth we serve are not “foster children,” they are children with a different set of needs. One of those needs is being like other kids. Of course, since the youth we serve have a different set of needs than a youth outside of the system, there is a constant balance between giving a child a “normal” childhood, with age appropriate acƟviƟes, while also ensuring their safety with prudent judgment. As the restricƟons are liŌed on what children in the system can and cannot do, we will conƟnue to provide training and guidance to our families as to what acƟviƟes are appropriate for a specific child in care. Last, but not least, as part of the lawsuit, CPS no longer uses group homes. This, along with other circumstances, has created a capacity crisis statewide. Our agency alone lost 109 beds due to the prohibiƟon of group homes. It remains to be seen how this will be handled in the future. RCCL: In the lawsuit, there was a great deal of tesƟmony regarding lack of oversight by the licensing representaƟves for the parƟcular youth that were subjects of the lawsuit. In response, again, at least in part, licensing has had an upƟck of invesƟgaƟons, citaƟons, and technical assistances. We have seen a lot more sampling visits and concerns are surfacing that were never an issue in the past. The homes we have remain quality, our staff is superior, we are just simply having to get used to a new way of looking at things. Rues have not changed but the interpretaƟon of some of them has. AddiƟonally, the new commission has a background in law enforcement. It remains to be seen how that will affect the agency as a whole, if at all. As some of you know and some of you don’t, AWFC both is licensed with the State and contracts with the State. And, yes, those rules someƟmes conflict. Contracts main focus right now is PMET, which stands for Performance Measure EvaluaƟon Tool. That’s a mouthful! Basically, what that means, is they are going to look at certain indicators, like sibling visits, contact with community, dentals, drivers licenses, etc, etc, to determine whether we are doing a good job. For years, we have wanted a way to show the amazing work that our families are doing. Unfortunately, when you are dealing with 12,000 foster children, it is hard to objecƟvely define what “good work” is because there are ifs, ands, and buts to every story. We are dealing with humans, not manufacturing parts. However, this informaƟon is not only going to be provided to the State, it is going to be published to the public. The public will simply see the percentage of yes/no. That means that if only 15% of our teens have a driver’s license, that will show up. It will not give a note that this one was not ready or that one did not have a birth cerƟficate. There is a yes or no box. So, when case managers are asking you to do this or that, please keep in mind that the work of every foster parent in AWFC will be judged based on these performance measures. We are on all of the commiƩees that are determining how this informaƟon will be reconciled, etc, but, at the end of the day the State will make that determinaƟon and we will just report the data. How does all this impact you? First, just breathe calmly . It is going to be okay. Know that our staff is constantly going to meeƟngs, finding out the latest on all of these maƩers. We are opining to as many people as will listen and aƩempƟng to influence the changes in the favor of our kids and families. We will, in turn, keep you as informed as possible through newsleƩers and the staff that visit your homes. It is an ever changing machine but please be paƟent and know that the good you are doing for children cannot be overshadowed by bureaucracy. This Ɵde will pass and another will come through but AWFC’s vote will conƟnue to chug away. With people like you at the helm, we have no choice but to succeed. Ashleigh Wilkes AWFC ExecuƟve Director
AWFC Teen Awarded PresƟgious Honor Texas Foster Child of the Year
Starla Huff was awarded Texas Foster Child of the Year at a Luncheon in AusƟn given in her Honor. In her LeƩer of NominaƟon her CPS Caseworker, Connie Wells, described Starla as “ one of the most determined, well rounded young ladies I have ever had the pleasure of working with”. Ms. Wells contributed Starla’s remarkable progress since being placed in foster care to her foster parents, Linda and Jay Rohus, who have provided Starla with a loving, stable home with the structure and nurturance she so desperately needed. A World for Children is very excited to have both the Rohus and
Starla as a part of our World Family. Starla’s AWFC Case Manager, Penny Brown, describes Starla as a “beauƟful young woman on the inside as well as the outside”. Starla has been a posiƟve role model for the younger children in her foster home and we at AWFC are very proud of her determinaƟon to succeed and wish her future success as she begins her College Career. Starla is a wonderful example of the popular saying, “It takes a village to raise a child” and we are so pleased to be a part of that village. The event and luncheon were sponsored by the Texas Council of Child Welfare Board . When presented with the award “Starla sparkled with enthusiasm as she shared her story with the audience. She credited Jay and Linda, AWFC foster parents, as being instrumental in turning her life around. She also stated her foster mom calls her daily as she is away at college. Foster mom is just checking in to see if Starla needs anything.” In addiƟon to a plaque and a $1000 check, Starla received a proclamaƟon from Senator Bob Hall .
“We are so proud of this young lady. She has worked hard, she has made some really important changes in her life and is preparing herself for great things to come!” “Starla was so gracious and humble in her acceptance of the award… she thanked her foster parents and her case worker saying that they are like normal parents who sƟll call her everyday to check on her. Starla has had the opportunity to live with great foster parents, Jay and Linda Rohus, in a group home seƫng. They have loved her and helped her to succeed! A beauƟful example of how group homes are successful.” states Leslie Deen, Regional Director of AWFC North East Texas Commissioner Hank Whitman was also present at the luncheon. In his brief remarks, he stated that he was going to persist in making changes in CPS unƟl the problems were eliminated.
100% of AWFC Seniors Graduate!
This is a significant fact in that staƟsƟcs report only 40% of foster teens graduate from high school.
How did AWFC help these teens accomplish this? For the past five years, AWCF has really focused on preparing our teens for life aŌer care. Many stories throughout this newsleƩer describe our LAUNCH Camp ‐ this is our major introducƟon which is designed to inspire, encourage and educate our teens on the world they are about to faced. In addiƟon to LAUNCH Camp, AWFC has a LAUNCH program which consists of staff working with our teens in expanding on their skillset for survival aŌer care. It is our belief at AWFC that the way to end the cycle of abuse is to change the lives of children that were abused. We work to heal their emoƟonal and physical scars every day. In conjuncƟon with making them physically and emoƟonally ready for life aŌer care, we also focus on ensuring that they are educaƟonally ready to succeed. Due to truancy, unstable home environments, conƟnual moves, hunger, no parental support, etc, the average foster child is two grade levels behind in school. For them to catch up and make the grades necessary to graduate is a monumental task, one that cannot be done by the youth alone. It requires the youth’s perseverance and good aƫtude, as well as emoƟonal support and effort of the foster parents. Even with all good intenƟons, with the instability inherent in the child welfare system, graduaƟon from high school is difficult. We are thrilled to announce that 100% of all of our seniors graduated from high school this year!! This is such an exciƟng staƟsƟc and will do wonders to set up these teens for a successful future. A big shout out to both the teens and the foster parents that supported them along this journey!
San Antonio says YtÜxãxÄÄA
This past August we said farewell to one of our greats. ChrisƟne Roberts began working with AWFC in January 2007 and eventually transiƟoned from Case Manager to CM Supervisor to Regional Director. At every step of the way, she graced the San Antonio/Victoria teams with her intelligence, sense of humor and kindness. What sƟcks out in my mind is that she always knew her stuff . She was passionate about her job, this agency and our foster families. She sacrificed for our team in so many ways, some of which I don’t think we’ll ever really know. ChrisƟne worked hard to take us through some very difficult Ɵmes and we are all beƩer people for it. And then there were the desserts! ChrisƟne was a very accomplished baker and some of my fondest memories consist of our team siƫng around one of her baked treats just talking and laughing. One of the things I admired about her is that she seemed to really pay aƩenƟon to the small details of her staff. Yes my birthday giŌ might be two weeks late and slightly melted but it would sƟll be my favorite brand of chocolate—and it’s those trivial things that made me feel like I had someone who had my back. AŌer almost ten years with AWFC the impact she had on our World is immeasurable. Here we are months later and we sƟll feel the absence of her like a hole in our team that gets patched over but never quite fixed. And though we wish her the best, we will miss her terribly .
In March of this year “Our World” made a commitment to be the first CPA in Region 2/9 to contract with CPS offering supervised visitaƟon between the biological families and their children. This has been no small undertaking but has proven to be a wonderful blessing to not only the children and families our agency serves; but also, to the children in care served by all agencies in Region 2/9. To date, AWFC is the only CPA in our region offering supervised visitaƟon monitoring. Being involved in this journey has helped AWFC venture into the “other side” and has allowed us to not only work with the foster families and children they serve; but also, has allowed us to help prepare the biological families for the children to return home and hopefully helped strengthen the families to be more successful once their children do return into their care. As always at AWFC, we went BIG with our
The Cat in the Hat WELCOMES you!
commitment in working with biological families. AWFC hired 2 part Ɵme staff in Brownwood and Wichita Falls who serve as monitors to supervise each visit referred to us by CPS. We believe that families and their children deserve a warm,
inviƟng and posiƟve atmosphere to share their Ɵme together. We converted the upstairs apartment in our office and transformed the area into the “World of Dr. Seuss” ! Families have been in awe when they enter the room and see all the bright colors, new furniture and posiƟve sayings Dr. Seuss has to offer them. Just as Dr. Seuss teaches, AWFC believes that “ A person’s a person no maƩer how small ” and with help from others….families can travel to unimaginable places together!!! Due to the volume of visits we are now supervising, AWFC has also added a second visitaƟon room which we transformed into “The Road to Family Success” complete with road signs, traffic lights, car parts etc…Families are amazed when they walk in to the room and see the pickup hood and truck door on the wall. We want families to understand that their journey to healing may not be an easy road but with the collaboraƟve help of others, their desƟnaƟon to be unified as a family is possible!!!
In addiƟon to visitaƟon occurring in Brownwood, we also have an acƟve program in Wichita Falls. Their major focus is on younger children as they are a big part of AWFC’ populaƟon in this area. Their theme is “ Exploring the Wild Kingdom ” This room is complete with animal mounts adorning the walls—stuffed animals (so adorable). Sharon Willis, VP and founder of AWFC states “ Ronda Harth has outdone herself in ensuring families get to visit in a fun, refreshing environment. In addiƟon, Samantha Taggart is ensuring our Wichita Falls children get to visit with their family in a sƟmulaƟng environment.
We are very proud of the program and the staff who make it work well. ” AWFC believes that if children are going to be successful once they return home, relaƟonships are essenƟal between the foster
families and the biological parents. Both families have played a criƟcal role in the child’s life and both families are an important factor in the child’s ability to
heal from the trauma of being removed from home. At AWFC, we are working diligently to unite the foster families and the biological families in working together as a parental team to provide the best outcomes for children in care and maintain conƟnued relaƟonships of support once the children return home. Both biological and foster families have been amazing as they work together and sacrifice schedules to ensure children get to have their visits. “Our World” believes in families, we believe in relaƟonships and we believe in collaboraƟvely working together to help damaged children heal. We believe that in working to unite biological families and foster families together in serving these children, AWFC truly can “Change the World…One VISIT At A Time”.
A World for Children is so blessed to have long tenured staff. The average length of stay for staff is 8.5 years. It is always biƩersweet when someone leaves our World and oŌen it is for reasons beyond their control. But as we wave goodbye, we have faith that someone else will take their place who has vision and will take us to new heights. We are pleased to briefly introduce...
AAA New Management Staff!
Keri Cooper Keri has worked in the field of social work and foster care for many years. She began as a case manager and moved into a clinical role. AŌer many years of service in this field, Keri has joined AWFC with the Round Rock Team and has a dual role—Keri is our Regional Director and Clinical Director. Our precious Stacy Payne decided to move home to Florida so her son Caleb could be close to his grandparents. According to Keri, “I’m super excited to be a part of the team and count myself lucky to work with such a terrific group of people”. BTW, all true. “As for about me, I started my career in child welfare and aŌer a few years off to have a liƩle private pracƟce, I’m glad to be back working with children and families. I spend my Ɵme with my teenage son and my two liƩle dogs. I enjoy hiking, birdwatching (I’m nerdy that way), kayaking, listening to live music and eaƟng great food. Two things I can’t live without (besides family and friends) are coffee and snuggles with my dogs.” Meagan Light
Meagan has moved into the Case Manager Supervisor Role in Round Rock. Meagan explains, “I can’t wait to see the conƟnued growth in the Round Rock office and feel this team will do amazing things in Region 7! I came to work for AWFC 8 years ago as a case manager. This was my first job out of college and I couldn’t be happier working here. I was born and raised in AusƟn and am sƟll discovering new things about this amazing city. I recently got engaged and am building a house with my fiancé which has all been very exciƟng!”
Sarah Vasquez Sarah has been involved with AWFC for many years and recently moved into the Regional Director Role in San Antonio. She assumed the role aŌer our fabulous ChrisƟne Roberts who decided to be a stay at home mom to her three children. Sarah states ”A World for Children has been my family for the past five and a half years. It has been a wonderful experience for me! The staff and families have taught me so much along the way. I feel blessed and honored to have accepted the Regional Director posiƟon. I look forward to learning new ways to contribute to the agency and our mission. In my spare Ɵme, I enjoying spending Ɵme with my
husband and our two dogs. I enjoy being outdoors in the sun, preferably by a beach.”
Nancy Recalde Nancy recently joined us aŌer a long search and will work for both the San Antonio and Houston teams. Nancy states, “ I feel truly blessed to have found AWFC! … When I first read the tag line ‘changing the world one child at a Ɵme’ aƩached to AWFC, I was transported to a Ɵme in the past when I chose that same line for my personal email signature and, just like AWFC, I used a rainbow of colors to design it! What are the odds?! To this supersƟƟous woman, that was a sign that this is where I belong. My career spans over 30 years, I have done it all in the helping profession, from being a missionary overseas to helping.. many populaƟons at risk or at a disadvantage both at home and overseas. My other passion is healthy lifestyle, (closely compeƟng with music!) and as a hobby I grow my own organic vegetables. I try to spend Ɵme in the outdoors with my beauƟful Great Dane mix dog,
Dante. I hope that I can contribute to AWFC’s mission. Working together, we can advance the cause of protecƟng the vulnerable children of our community by creaƟng an oasis in their lives when they are entrusted to our care.
ROUND ROCK Rocks
During our all‐staff meeƟng this month the accounƟng staff presented a fun and thoughƞul project. All the staff went outside and found beauƟful rocks then painted and decorated them to represent aspects of our foster families that we really appreciated. It really brought out the arƟst in each of us. Then the rocks were prayed over by Paul and aƩached with a blessing wriƩen by Aletha . “ The rocks will now be distributed to each foster parent as a thank you for their conƟnued dedicaƟon and hard work. I think the staff was blessed in the process. (And we have some secret arƟsts in our group)! ” states Keri Cooper, Round Rock Regional Director.
The blessing reads: “ We’ve touched this stone In prayer for YOU
And thank the Lord for all you Do And know that he will always be A friend, a comfort in your need; For you have been a blessing true And God sends blessing back to You ”
If you are a foster parent in the Round Rock or Waco area, you might have received a beauƟful new suitcase for your new foster placement. Ever wonder where those suitcases come from? Let me introduce you to Connie with Project Care Case . Connie reports that she understands the stress children in foster care undergo, especially ones experiencing mulƟple placements. She experienced foster care herself from the age of 12 to 18. One of the challenges children in care face is not having any personal belongings, someƟmes not even the blanket or pillow from the night before. When they do have possessions, they are oŌen transported between placements in
garbage bags. That is where the mission of Project Care Case comes in. Connie, her family and friends have created a mission to provide every child in foster care a new suitcase, blanket, pillow, and an age appropriate bible. She wants every child to feel they have their own belongings and that their belongings are worthy of being moved in a suitcase, not a garbage bag. Since 2009 Connie and Project Care Case has provided over 1,200 suitcases to Texas
foster children. AWFC is a proud beneficiary of Project Care Case’s
wonderful work. We’re so excited to have our children be a part of Connie’s ministry. Thank you Connie and Project Care Case!
Round Rock Kids Leave with a
AWFC loves to celebrate school with an EVENT ! As educaƟon is so important in life, our World is intent on helping our kids have the right aƫtude. In addiƟon to a swim party, each school age child was given a $100 to supplement their new school clothes. AddiƟonally AWFC provided back packs filled with brand new school supplies. School is hard enough without being decked out like all the other kids. We made sure our kids started the year out right!
Round Rock case manager Kim Garcia has a special place in her heart for our older youth. She rouƟnely takes our older teens on college tours so they can start planning for their future. On one such tour she took some youth to visit Blinn College campuses in both Bryan and Brenham. During the tours they were able to get info on college life including a visit to the dorms. They got to meet school staff as well as learn about admissions and different programs available. Even nearly as important, the teens were able to connect with other PAL teens. To complete the day, the teens were able to have lunch at a Japanese steakhouse where they could be entertained by the fancy knife works and the tower of fire. Huge thanks to Kim for going the extra mile to encourage and support our older youth! AWFC Case Manager Helps Youth Plan for the future.
McAllen volunteers share their
thoughts on LAUNCH Camp
Ashley Moen shared her thoughts about Launch Camp 2016: “Thank you for giving me the opportunity to write about my feelings regarding the Launch Camp in June. I found it to be an opportunity to not only interact with the children but to also learn about some of the challenges related to being in foster care. I especially liked the atmosphere of the camp. It was relaxed but at the same Ɵme the days were filled with acƟviƟes that were a combinaƟon of fun and entertaining. It also gave me an opportunity to meet individuals in foster care and establish a relaƟonship with them through my interacƟons. I felt that it gave me an opportunity to learn more about the challenges that teens are faced with when in foster care. At the same Ɵme, I also learned through the camp that opportuniƟes are available and the teens are supported through staff and other resources. I especially liked the speakers. I liked that there were speakers who had been in the foster care system and went on to become successful not only in their employment or school but in their personal lives. I felt that the speakers and the acƟviƟes gave the teens aƩending camp a feeling of empowerment. I also liked the acƟviƟes. I was able to parƟcipate with the teens and felt this allowed me to develop healthy relaƟonships with them. It was simply an atmosphere that encouraged healthy relaƟonships. As a student and a volunteer for organizaƟons that support children in foster care, I found the camp to be helpful for me to learn about the struggles and opportuniƟes for foster children. I felt the Launch Camp nurtured an atmosphere where the parƟcipants felt empowered and encouraged to develop healthy relaƟonships with others and to learn about opportuniƟes available for them. In short, the parƟcipants seemed to feel that they can do anything despite their circumstances. It was a privilege to be part of Launch Camp and am grateful that I was part of it.” “Hello, my name is Elias Valdez III and for the last two years I have been volunteering with A World for Children Foster Agency. For the past two years, I have volunteered as a chaperone for a launch camp that the agency provides for their foster youths. The camp is held in Brownwood, Texas every summer. The camp’s sole purpose is to provide the foster youth with adequate training in life skills in order for them to succeed aŌer they exit the foster care system. Branches from A World for Children gather together and unite to form what I like to call a family system of diverse individuals. The children are exposed to guest speakers that have been in the foster care system and have successfully created a life for themselves. During the first day of camp the foster kids seem overall shy and are hesitant to interact with one another. As the days pass and a variety of acƟviƟes are conducted the children’s shyness seems to fade away. By the last day of the camp, one can physically see how much the launch camp has helped these foster kids. Their faces full of smiles and for that moment one can tell that they are free of problems despite what the world has thrown at them. In all, this agency does everything in their power to help these foster kids,” stated Elias Valdez III.
Back to School In Superhero Fashion!
McAllen’s Back to School Bash was a success Superhero style! Our children and families enjoyed a Mexican Taquiza, charro beans and corn in the cup with all the tradiƟonal dressings. The children parƟcipated in a dance compeƟƟon, hit a Captain America piñata and of course received their back to school supplies in a brand new back pack! We wish to thank the community that donated supplies and a special thanks to DOC Home Health, FED EX, Gateway, Hidalgo County Juvenile ProbaƟon and Edinburg Seventh Day AdvenƟst Church.
Drawing Awareness, Partnering with Local Child Welfare Advocates and ConnecƟng with the community
AWFC Waco joined McLane’s Children’s Hospital of ScoƩ & White during a Foster Care Symposium with medical professionals, Child Life Specialists and social workers providing trainings on child welfare topics. This collaboraƟon of experts shared informaƟon on a range of subjects all in the name of educaƟon and child abuse prevenƟon. AWFC was honored to be invited and take part in this special event. Recently, the Waco team co‐hosted the Empowered to Connect simulcast conference for local foster/adopƟve families, educators and child welfare professionals. Equipping foster parents with the latest research available to beƩer understand and care for those that have experienced trauma is a extremely important. We were thankful we could play a key role in offering such helpful informaƟon to those in this community. AWFC Waco also helped draw awareness about challenges our county CPS office is facing with children staying overnight in the CPS office. We assisted by connecƟng local donors to provide the CPS office with toiletry bags, giŌ cards, snacks and duffle bags.
Standing Up against Child Abuse at McLane’s Children’s Hospital.
Denise Mason, AWFC staff, posing along with 5 other Child Placing Agencies and local CPS co‐hosted Empowered to Connect simulcast.
Welcoming newly Licensed Families to AWFC
We are thrilled to have new families in the Waco and surrounding areas join the AWFC family. With growing foster care needs in McLennan and Bell counƟes, these families are opening their homes to care for children! Waco families enjoyed bringing children to AWFC events this summer including Fiesta Texas in San Antonio and the Back to School Bash in Pflugerville. ConnecƟng with kids and building memories! We are so thankful to be working alongside such wonderful families!
Hurley (“JR”) and Alexandra Moon
Samuel and Tiffany Hansen
ScoƩ and Sheri Pelham
John Henry and Cinda Keane
AWFC Foster Parent Regales “ Our World ”
I have been associated with this wonderful organizaƟon as a foster parent for over seven years. I can honestly say AWFC has a very strong management team, most of who have been involved the enƟrety of my Ɵme with them and longer. They keep the interest of the children they serve in the forefront of every decision they make. I have heard the founders of AWFC, Paul & Sharon Willis, speak from the heart on many occasions about the children in care and their deep calling to help. They are not content to just stay with the status quo and are always looking for other ways to help not only the children in care, but the families that serve them. One example of this that I have first‐hand knowledge of is the recently started visitaƟon program in the Brownwood office. I have four children currently with three different visits monitored by this program. The visitaƟon program was only started in April aŌer CPS asked for bids as they were having trouble meeƟng all the court‐ordered visitaƟons due to staffing and logisƟcal issues. AWFC started with just a few visits for children under their caseload. They quickly expanded to covering visits for children under the care of other CPAs in the area and currently handle visitaƟon for 30 cases. Each case has varying numbers of children and many moving parts such as schedules of foster parents, kids, and visitaƟon staff to consider, as well as travel distance for many involved in the visits. SomeƟmes all involved parƟes have to be contacted several Ɵmes to get the iniƟal visits set up and again with any changes. The referrals keep coming and A World for Children has accommodated by hiring qualified personnel to monitor the visitaƟons and provide documentaƟon as well as rearranging the office to allow private family friendly space for visitaƟons. The space alone has had to double since they originally started. As the program grows they have adjusted and grown with it. A World for Children always goes above and beyond for the children and families with everything they do. They have been having a LAUNCH camp for teens for the past few years. I have personally seen this, having been a vendor at their career fair secƟon of the camp, and am duly impressed. This camp provides youth in care a chance to start planning for their future aŌer care. I am amazed at the amount of work that goes into everything they do. They provided memories for our kiddos by providing a back to school party each year, a truly extravagant Christmas party, a trip to Six Flags/ Fiesta Texas for everyone, and so much more.
A lot has been going on in the Tyler/Texarkana area in the last few months. We had six high school graduates that then went on to either leave care or remain in extended foster care. Those that remained in foster care then began the process of enrolling in college, geƫng or maintaining jobs, obtaining driver’s license and in some cases cars to drive. All of these things were accomplished with the help of their foster parents, PAL coordinator, CPS worker and AWFC case manager. In some cases, A LOT of work by their AWFC case manager so it would be a horn toot to both foster parents and staff for all the extra Ɵme and energy that goes into research, contact, applicaƟons, pushing the teen, hiƫng the pavement, advocaƟng with employers or school personnel, etc. We have had adopƟons and new placements. We licensed two new homes and are working with two others to complete the process in 2016. We are excited by a three part plan to recruit new families which enlists the aide of our foster parents. One: Reach out to their church pastor and ask for a meeƟng. Two: Put their statement on Facebook declaring their love of the life of a foster parent including their agency. Three: Geƫng into the communiƟes for fairs, fesƟvals and such with a booth (such as the fire department’s Special AbiliƟes Family Fun Event SAFFE DAY in Kilgore). I (my family) is blessed to be a part of something that is reaching out to others in a posiƟve way. We are foster parents and it is the biggest source of joy, pride, excitement, fear, love, heartbreak and graƟficaƟon in our lives today. Yes, we have felt loss but we have also felt accomplishment, success, support, and great LOVE from the children that we have served. Is there a greater act of service than protecƟng another selflessly? Our soldiers, our police, and countless others do it daily. We feel humbled by this opportunity to be there for a child and provide them with whatever they need for as long as we are able to do so. If you would like to learn more about fostering, please contact me and I will speak the truth about a much needed service that you could provide but that would undeniably benefit you as well. We have hired new staff recently in the AA posiƟon and re‐assigned staff to former posiƟons as well as having a Case Manager that will celebrate her one year anniversary with AWFC on September 28 ( La’nika Graham . We are really proud of our office and what we have been able to accomplish together. We are at 100% on almost all compliance checks. Our families have been going above and beyond to serve needy children and we cannot express how excepƟonal we feel that our families are in regard to their care of the children in their homes. We have a single foster mother that has accepted placement of the sibling of her adopted son with the intenƟon of adopƟng her as well which would bring her total adopted children to four. We have another parent accept PMC of a young child and is working with the biological mother to allow her conƟnued contact with her child. All our parents are so willing to help children whenever the situaƟon call for acƟon. LAUNCH camp this year was a really special Ɵme for our staff. We drove several hours to get to camp and had such a wonderful bonding Ɵme with all our young adults. It was worth any sweat, loss of sleep, mosquito bite that we endured to form deeper relaƟonships with our kiddos. They were also super with all the staff that interacted with them and we got a lot of compliments on the aƫtude and behavior of the Tylerkana gang. We have high hopes for our young adults and their future success. Ethan is aƩending a mechanical program at Kilgore College learning about paint and body right now AND loves it. This may be the first Ɵme that he enjoys school and definitely the first Ɵme that he is up, out of bed on his own every morning, ready to go! KaƟe is aƩending SFA in Nacogdoches living in the dorm; sƟll in contact with her foster mother and PAL workers. Anthony is driving the whole Kegarise college clan to class daily, working part Ɵme, and in the Kilgore College Band (hey, he also goes to class and plans to be a nurse). Casandra works part Ɵme and started classes this summer to get a jump start on college. We all know about our Starla; foster person of the year and now a college student living on campus. We have a very cute satellite office in Maud, Texas which houses staff case managers and is convenient to our families if they need us or so that we can have training and meeƟngs here. Happenings in Tyler and East Texas! Foster Parenting: A Selfless Act
Renaissance Faire &
By Tina Saenz
You can hear the minstrels playing as the Savvy Sword Swallower and the Magician insƟll “oooooohs” and “ahhhhhs” from the crowd. What set the scene more though on this magical evening, is the small village square that was created by our AWFC team. Each Renaissance tent was decorated to take the teens back to a Ɵme of Chivalry, Strength and Bravery . The teens got to wander through the Baker’s Booth serving breads and sweet goodies that they could eat along with their giant turkey legs or sausages provided by, none the less, the Butcher booth. But what went beƩer with the good meal was the ice cold Lemonade, Italian Ices, Fruit Cups and more to tame that dragon sweet tooth. The best part of playing Renaissance is… Dressing Renaissance !!! Who doesn’t like to strut their crown or garland of flowers every now and then. The teens were treated to knights helmets, garlands of flowers for their hair and hair braiders and face painters to complete the look. Sharon Willis added, “ Tina was the mastermind of the Renaissance Faire. She worked for months gathering all the ‘STUFF’ to make the faire authenƟc. What a super job Tina did. ”
LAUNCH LAUNCH LAUNCH!! WE heard that a lot before and way aŌer June!! As a maƩer of fact I’m sƟll talking about it!! Needless to report I had a terrific experience as it was my first!! Yes I was away from my own loves but it was a liƩle vacay ( ssh you didn’t hear that ) The most fulfilling part, and what I personally brought back (no not poison ivy), was having the opportunity of taking our two sibling groups that were able to share this experience together. I was amazed how they encouraged one another during acƟviƟes and couldn’t wait to sit with each other and share all the things they were doing!!! Not only were they eager to help one another each was more than willing to work as a team and help where needed!! It was such an awesome thing to see and be a part of!! And not to menƟon they have an awesome Case Manager that they made fun of all four days!!
One of the most successful events we host for our youth is our annual summer Launch Camp . Ashleigh Wilkes, AWFC ExecuƟve Director, spearheads this four day camp geared towards our youth aged 15 to 18+ but our enƟre staff of 100 works hard to make it a grand experience. All four days are crammed full of excitement—a perfect blend of learning acƟviƟes and lots of fun! LAUNCH Camp: Medieval Renaissance Career Fair — Community volunteers share important informaƟon about a variety of different professions. We also have representaƟves from colleges, trade schools and the military who advise our youth on the different programs and opportuniƟes available to them. Internet Dangers — FBI agents explain how youth are vulnerable to the crimes of sexual exploitaƟon, kidnapping and are prime targets for pedophiles. They also detail how youth are suscepƟble to being involved with the use and distribuƟon of drugs. Budget Planning —This is not a pencil and paper acƟvity! We set up Mad City , a series of simulated “real world problems” for them to solve. This curriculum involves acƟve parƟcipaƟon including the preparaƟon and uƟlizaƟon of a budget. RelaƟonships —A therapist who specializes in this area shares with our teens what a healthy relaƟonship entails. Through quesƟons and answers, she helps them idenƟfy the roadblocks to creaƟng and maintaining healthy relaƟonships . Youth Panel —A group of foster care alumni are invited to Camp to share their story regarding transiƟoning from foster care into “ life aŌer care ”. These are just a few of our therapeuƟc acƟviƟes. In addiƟon we do team building, help idenƟfy individual fears and a host of other acƟviƟes. Certainly we agree with the old adage “ All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy .” We swim, raŌ, dance and enjoy a host of Olympic games involving lots of water acƟviƟes. The theme this year was Medieval to Renaissance so we had a fabulous Renaissance Faire complete with turkey legs and roasted corn on a sƟck. For entertainment, we had a sword swallower and a fire eater. From our teens to our staff—everyone was amazed! The final night was Camelot Night complete with King Arthur and the knights of the realm as well as the ladies of the royal court. This seƫng would not be complete without a castle and fire breathing dragon AND a host of games that the teens really enjoyed. Another “hit of the camp” was our ‘Caught Doing Good’ behavioral program. Staff hand out Ɵckets when a teen is doing something helpful. Hundreds of Ɵckets are given out over the span of the four day camp—all as a means of encouraging posiƟve behavior. Then we have a barrage of prizes available—a TV, computer with printer, iPad, iPad Mini, iPod, laundry giŌ baskets, beauty baskets, kitchen baskets, giŌ cards and so much more! The teens slip their Ɵckets in any or all of the jars which represent the various prizes. During our closing ceremony a Ɵcket is pulled from each jar and the lucky campers claim their prize. Throughout the Camp we have speakers who share stories, encourage, empathize, etc. Some of these role models interact with the campers for the enƟre Camp—the teens love that interacƟon! Some highlights of our learning acƟviƟes:
The Renaissance FesƟval would not bed complete without a fire‐eater!
Puƫng heads together—Teaming or ploƫng?!
Sword swallowing took on a whole new meaning at the Renaissance FesƟval.
ExecuƟve Director Ashleigh Wilkes transforms into the fierce Camp Director!
Knocker ball adds excitement!
BudgeƟng! Our Mad City was transformed to beƩer meet the need of our teens.
The Ladies of Camelot prepare the castle for the “games”of the evening.
FUN in the Sun!
Fire breathing dragon is smoking’ hot! He truly added authenƟcity to our Camelot.
Foster Care Alumni Panel shared their struggles and success. The panel was headed by Jonathan Brown.
Pastor Bateman who created a program for teens who have aged out in Wichita Falls area encouraged our teens.
CAUGHT DOING GOOD prize!
Black knight maintains order!
Our teen entertains the Camelot Court with a song—rockin’ song!
New Foster Family Compliments AWFC!
Our Next of Kin caseworker provided us with a list of Foster Care Agencies. In reviewing the list A World for Children had nothing but good reviews. For this reason we chose A World for Children. Even though we had to drive out of town for some of our classes it was well worth it. A World for Children is an agency that has guided us step by step through our journey in becoming foster parents. A World for Children has the children’s best interest at heart. A World for Children is blessed to have a wonderful employee by the name of Mica Allgood . Mica has always gone above and beyond. She has answered our calls regardless of the Ɵme and day. She answers all our quesƟons to the best of her ability along with a scenario to help us understand. She has kept us informed with all the upcoming classes, webinars and events that will help speed up our process in becoming foster parents. We are blessed to be a part of A World for Children Agency. We will highly recommend A World for Children to everyone joining the foster care family. With sincere graƟtude, Norma Espinoza-Arizmendi and family
Marni Morgan … Geƫng the Word Out!
AWFC was so blessed to do several radio interviews Statewide regarding Foster Care. Felipe Aguilar with KLOVE radio staƟon was gracious enough to come and talk about AWFC as a program, as well as just some myths vs facts about foster care. These radio interviews will be aired at different Ɵmes throughout July, but we hope that this can bring a posiƟve awareness to child abuse prevenƟon as well as bring a posiƟve light to the great work that our AWFC foster parents are doing! Thank you KLOVE for taking an interest in our World!