Waco, TX (Nov. 23, 23)—In light of the challenges presented by increasing food costs, The Salvation Army of McLennan County is helping by offering Thanksgiving meals to anyone in need. “Rising food costs have created challenges for many people in our community,” said Major James Taylor, leader of The Salvation Army of McLennan County. “Anyone needing food this Thanksgiving is invited to get a hot Thanksgiving meal.”
Community Meal: The Salvation Army hosts a Thanksgiving meal at the Community Kitchen to share the season’s spirit. This will be the 132nd year to serve a Thanksgiving meal in Waco Texas.
Date: Thursday, November 23, 2023
Time: 11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
Location: 300 Webster Avenue, Waco TX, 76706
How to Get Help:
If you need a Thanksgiving meal, please join us at 300 Webster Avenue on Thursday, November 23, 2023 from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
We are looking for volunteers to support this event. To volunteer, please sign up online at The Salvation Army Waco/McLennan County – Volunteer Console (cervistech.com) or contact our Volunteer Coordinator at 254.756.7271. We are also asking for pies and cookies and cakes from the community for the event.
Your support and generosity will help ensure that everyone in our community can enjoy a warm Thanksgiving meal during this season of gratitude. Donate by visiting our offices at 4721 W. Waco Drive or by mailing a check to 4721 W. Waco Drive, Waco, TX 76710. Please note “Thanksgiving Meals” on the check memo line. Thank you for your kindness and community spirit. Pies, cookies and cakes are need too!
For additional information, please contact 254.756.7271 M-F 8-5 or visit Facebook to see the event.
About The Salvation Army
The Salvation Army, an evangelical part of the universal Christian church established in London in 1865, has been supporting those in need in His name without discrimination for more than 130 years in the United States. Nearly 30 million Americans receive assistance from The Salvation Army each year through the broadest array of social services that range from providing food for the hungry, relief for disaster victims, assistance for the disabled, outreach to the elderly and ill, clothing and shelter to the homeless and opportunities for underprivileged children. 82 cents of every dollar The Salvation Army spends is used to support those services in 5,000 communities nationwide. For more information, go to www.salvationarmyusa.org
By: Hope Middlebrook
There is always something exciting going on in the foster care world! And fall is especially busy. If you’ve been wanting to get plugged in, now is the time to hop in!
Arrow is a child-placement agency for foster kids. In McLennan County alone, there are around 800 children in the foster system. When there are not enough homes for them, they are referred to as a CWOP (child without placement) and are often housed in CPS conference rooms or hotel rooms. Here at Arrow, we believe the best place for a child to grow up is in a family. We work each day to make sure that every foster child is placed in a loving and healthy home, one where they can grow and heal!
Does this sound like something you might want to know more about? Join us for our next Orientation, this October 26th at 6 pm. This low commitment Zoom class will tell you everything you need to know about foster care and Arrow.
Need more information first? Arrow Child and Family is pleased to announce we will be partnering with Nightlight Christian Adoptions for a monthly book club. Our kickoff meetup is at 1 pm on October 23rd at Glory Bell Coffee. We will be discussing the first half of Foster the Family.
Additionally, Waco’s Families and Foster Care Coalition will be hosting a multi-agency informational meeting on November 2nd. We would love to see you there!
It’s a great time to learn more about foster care! Contact Hope Middlebrook at [email protected] to learn about how to get involved. Whether you want to be a foster parent or get more information on how to donate to the kids in our community, we can all do something!
Arrow Child and Family Ministries is a child-placement agency committed to finding quality, loving homes for foster children. They were established in 1993 and have been a leader in the field ever since.
Be sure to tune in to the “Act Locally Waco” podcast! In their latest episode, they delve into the state of foster care in the city of Waco, shedding light on crucial insights and discussing ways you can make a positive impact. For a full and informative interview on Waco’s foster care system, featuring Hope Middlebrook from Arrow Child & Family Ministries, check out the podcast here! It’s an excellent resource to learn more about this important community initiative.
WHO: The Salvation Army Waco Corps, Local Waco Walmart locations, Waco HEB Stores
WHAT: The 2023 back-to-school campaign encourages shoppers to purchase and donate school supplies and other requested items at the Salvation Army collection bins at Walmart on Franklin and in Hewitt from August 4th to August 6th. Additionally, all Waco HEB stores will be collecting Back to School donations for school supplies, which will be purchased for distribution by The Salvation Army. The aim is to provide new school supplies to 300-500 students in the McLennan County community, ensuring they have the necessary materials for the upcoming school year.
WHY: The collaboration between The Salvation Army and local communities, along with supporters like HEB and Walmart, helps meet the needs of people and serves over 23 million Americans annually through social services, aiding communities in overcoming poverty and economic hardships. This joint effort ensures children in Waco and surrounding cities have the school supplies they need for academic success.
WHEN: School supply collections at Walmart will take place on August 4th, 5th, and 6th, 2023, from 10 am to 6 pm. The HEB Back to School Event will be ongoing throughout August, including curbside purchases.
WHERE: Live event at Walmart on Sun Valley in Hewitt, scheduled for August 5, 2023, from 10 am to 6 pm. Interviews and photo opportunities can be arranged upon request before the event.
Education Service Center Region 12 staff, educators, mental health advocates and care providers will join forces for the 18th Annual Teen Suicide Prevention Symposium from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Thursday, June 15 at 2101 W. Loop 340 in Waco.
ESC Region 12 and Partners Cedar Crest Residential Treatment Center and Daybreak Health want to gather educators, mental health providers and community members to learn and take action to help save the lives of challenged youth. The event will encourage awareness, intervention and prevention of teen suicide, regarded as the ‘preventable epidemic’ among Texas youth.
“This year’s event focuses on issues and trends impacting youth in many ways that educators, parents and care providers are seeing in our schools. From speakers on Pediatric Acute Onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome (or PANS), to discussions about the US Surgeon General’s Advisory on Social Media and its Effect on Youth Mental Health, we are presenting cutting-edge topics that have a direct impact on our teens and their mental health,” said Jenipher Janek, a counseling services coordinator and lead for the Region 12 School Crisis Response Team.
The ESC Region 12 School Crisis Response Team includes ESC counselors and communication staff, school counselors and mental health advisors from the Heart of Texas Behavioral Health Network. The group coordinates grief response and provides logistical and communications support, and crisis recovery at no cost to area schools. In the last year, the team has responded to 18 calls to support educators and students affected by the loss of a student, employee or other crisis incident impacting school operations, including loss of life to suicide. Part of this work includes connecting schools to mental health providers and creating awareness about TCHATT, the Texas Child Health Access Through Telemedicine, which provides telemedicine or telehealth programs to school districts to help identify and assess the behavioral health needs of students and provide access to mental health services.
Event partners, expecting 80 attendees, hope to bring in even more educators, mental health providers, police officers, counselors and emergency services personnel. Advance registration ($45) is requested at: txr12.escworks.net/catalog/session.aspx?session_id=297715. Schools in the Counseling Services Membership may send staff at no additional fee. For more on ESC Region 12 Counseling Services and School Support, visit bit.ly/2023ESC12.
Additional event supporters include the Central Texas Regional Advisory Council, Heart of Texas Behavioral Health Network, Heart of Texas Regional Advisory Council, Heart of Texas Suicide Prevention Coalition and VOICE.
Waterparks Open to the Public Mother’s Day Weekend
Moms are the heart of every household. They know what we need before we even ask. And they rarely ask for anything in return. To honor them, Hawaiian Falls Waco is inviting Moms to enjoy complimentary admission Mother’s Day weekend when the waterparks open to the public.
Photos by David Alvey
In addition to free admission, Moms will receive a special Hawaiian-themed gift (while supplies last) Saturday, May 13 and Sunday, May 14.
“We’re inviting mothers of all ages to come enjoy a day at the park to thank them for their selfless roles as cook, chauffeur, activity director, nurse, and countless other tasks they do for their families,” said Hawaiian Falls Marketing Director Ron Mckenzie. “We want Moms to enjoy a carefree day where others can wait on her. Float down the Lazy River and feel the stress melt away or recline in the shade and enjoy a cold drink while Dad races the kids down a slide. We want Mom to take away memories she’ll never forget.”
Hawaiian Falls will officially kick off the summer season with free admission to all active duty and retired military personnel with a valid Military ID Memorial Day Weekend, May 26 – May 29. The parks will be open daily beginning Friday, May 26.
Other special events planned throughout the summer include:
- Father’s Day weekend – Dads get in free June 17 – 19
- Champions Day – June 20 and July 22 Champions (individuals with special needs) and their families will have exclusive access to the park from 9 am -10 am. Champions tickets are FREE and family companion tickets are only $10 (limit 4).
- World’s Largest Swimming Lesson – June 22
- Independence Day weekend – Active duty and retired military personnel as well as first responders receive free admission.
- Aloha Fest – July 15 in Roanoke, July 22 in Mansfield, and July 29 in Waco.
- Family Fun Fridays throughout July with Ohana Games led by Hawaiian Falls Activity Director.
Season passholders can visit their home park to process their passes from 4 p.m. – 6 p.m. May 8 – 12 at the park’s front gate.
Hawaiian Falls Waterparks are located in Mansfield, Roanoke and Waco. More information about special events, operating hours, directions, tickets and season passes, are at hfalls.com.
By Andrea Zimmerman
It’s not news to anyone that foster care is in crisis. It seems we’ve become accustomed to this reality and even somewhat apathetic to it, probably because it is so overwhelming and simultaneously kept behind the doors of state offices.
The State of Texas is changing this and has mandated that local communities confront the crisis among vulnerable families in their own communities by privatizing foster care with what is called Community Based Care. Under this model, CPS will handle investigations and removals, then a private agency will handle placements and case management.
Consequently, without the state’s placement network, children will no longer be sent to other communities with more resources and more foster homes. If you are asking, “Wait, we send children away?” The answer is “yes.” We send away A LOT of children and youth due to a lack of kinship support, foster homes, youth homes, and resources for complex needs.
In fact, of the approximately 450 children and youth whose cases originated in McLennan County, half are sent to other areas. Under Community Based Care, this will no longer be possible and our local community is expected to increase our capacity in every way to care for these children.
While this is a stunning and overwhelming change, if our community rises to this occasion and works together to care for our own children, keeping children close to home is proven to provide better long-term outcomes for both the child and the family of origin.
Keeping children and youth in their own communities means they remain close to their family of origin; they may stay in the same school and faith community and can maintain consistency in medical resources, not to mention their social structure. Older youth retain employment, schooling, and their support system. Proximity supports reunification efforts and enables the foster or kinship parent to provide support to the family of origin, as well.
This is a tall order for our community. We have a network of support in foster care, but we are stretched thin and have limited resources. We need help! We need more human and financial resources to make this work.
This doesn’t happen overnight, but the Families and Foster Care Coalition began efforts about a year ago to gather our resources and assess the landscape for this change. The needs are great, and we are working hard to increase capacity in our community.
One area that would help is the involvement of the faith community. While becoming a foster parent is a rare and unique call, becoming involved in the supportive work of foster care is a way the faith community could help in this crisis.
Kingwood Methodist Church, just outside Houston, shared a beautiful story of their work among youth in foster care in their community (watch or listen here). In that story, you can hear about Jason Johnson, who helped prepare their congregation for this work.
Jason will come to our Waco community April 13 to lead a faith congregation leader’s training workshop. This session will help equip leaders in the faith community with practical tools for starting the work of foster care in their congregations. This event is free, and childcare and lunch are provided. RSVP here.
This training workshop is the first step in preparing for this change headed our way. We would love for you to join us!
For more information about the Families and Foster Coalition, please visit:
Email: [email protected]
Find us on Facebook: Families and Foster Care Coalition
Find us on Instagram: ffcc_heartoftx
Andrea Zimmerman is coordinator of the Waco Families & Foster Care Coalition.
By Ferrell Foster
Families come in a variety of forms, and they serve varied personal and social services. One of the key functions of family is to nurture the growth and development of children by providing for a child’s basic human needs.
We all know, however, that some families become unable to provide the needed care for a child. When that happens the state steps in to protect the children, as it does in other circumstances where vulnerable persons are at risk.
A number of things can happen when the state intervenes; one is by arranging foster care — a place to provide needed care to a child for a time. Kids may be placed in a number of possible settings — a relative’s home, a licensed foster home, or residential psychiatric care.
Foster care placements have been rising in many counties in Texas. In 2020, 1,181 McLennan County children were placed in foster care, a figure which has risen steadily over the past 10 years; there were 465 placements in 2011. These numbers reflect all children in the varied types of housing.
The placement number reflects the number of children in care at the beginning of the year and those who enter care during the year, said Anna Futral, executive director of CASA of McLennan County. On any given day there are about 700-800 McLennan County children under state supervision with relatives, licensed homes, or other residential facilities.
The rise since 2011 is staggering and should get our attention. Yes, our population has risen, but it has not nearly tripled, as have the placement numbers. This tells us that a lot of families are struggling to care for their children.
Are we any different from counties of similar size?
The rate of placement in McLennan County is 18.36 per 1,000 children. That means 1.8 percent of our children are needing state-supervised care. This is a higher rate than in similar counties — 16.5 per 1,000 in Bell, 4.21 in Brazos, and 7.6 in Jefferson.
The need for care points to a challenge on the family-of-origin side of the equation, but there is also a challenge on the foster care side. Last year, there were 17 licensed homes for foster care in our county. These homes typically house no more than two children.
“Many/most kids do get placed with relatives, which is a good thing,” Futral said, “but for those that don’t have safe relatives to be placed with, they are placed in licensed foster homes. But with so few licensed homes here locally, many children end up outside of McLennan.”
This resulted in only 35% of McLennan County children being placed in the county in 2020. That’s pretty consistent with other similar counties — 36% in Bell County, 35% in Brazos, and 33% in Jefferson. Lubbock County, which is similar in size, placed 51% within their county.
Enough of the numbers; you get the picture. Families need help, and the children in those families need help. Leaders in McLennan County have come together to pursue solutions — stress on the plural “solutions.” These things will not be improved overnight, but we have a lot of good people who care about pursuing that improvement.
If you would like to be involved, contact me at [email protected].
The data was compiled by Jeremy Rhodes of Prosper Waco from the Texas State Department of Family and Protective Services Data Book.
Ferrell Foster is senior specialist for care and communication with Prosper Waco. He is also acting executive director of Act Locally Waco.
The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email Ferrell Foster at [email protected].
By Ferrell Foster
Doing family is not easy. Families have struggles. Anyone who grew up in a family — all of us — know this truth. But sometimes those struggles become so difficult or dangerous that children need to be protected. That’s when the state steps in, and that’s when the whole community needs to step in, as well.
Forty-two leaders in McLennan County met Sept. 24 to form a new strategic working group — the Families & Foster Care Coalition. Waco Mayor Dillon Meek provided the impetus for this meeting, asking Prosper Waco to convene those who are working in varied sectors to address the challenges faced by families and children in foster care.
Texas is in the midst of a crisis related to foster care, and Waco is no exception. Children are having to spend the night in local Child Protective Services offices because there are no places to take them. This is not the fault of CPS and its workers; it is caused by inadequate human, community, and financial resources.
Local leaders, however, are committed to disrupting the status quo; they believe we can do better if we work together. It is uncertain exactly what varied actions this new coalition will pursue, but we are rising up to make a difference.
Anna Futral, executive director of CASA of McLennan County, has agreed to chair the coalition’s steering committee. Anna has been seeking such community-wide action for some time and is well-prepared to lead. (CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates. CASA trains volunteers to advocate for abused and neglected children in the foster care system.)
It is tempting to think of these issues as only a state government matter, but government agencies are not families, and these kids need families and all the care that should go with such relationships.
State-approved families that can provide foster care step into the gap. They become a child’s new place of safety and nurture for varied amounts of time as issues with the families of origin are worked out. But foster families and families of origin need support from community networks.
In addition to the state agency services and families providing foster care, there is a critical legal system to protect the rights of children, parents, and other relatives. Judge Nikki Mundkowsky and Judge Gary Coley are two who seek to guide this court system with eyes on both legal matters and human concerns.
Then multiple attorneys provide the proper legal representation to the children and families.
In short, it is a multifaceted system that seeks to look after the needs created by families and children in crisis. In Greater Waco, leaders realize we need a more cohesive response to the situation. We need more communication, planning, and implementation. We also need more people and organizations to work together for these children and families.
If you or your organization would like to become involved in this collaborative effort, please reach out to me via email — [email protected].
As an African proverb says: It takes a village to raise a child.
Ferrell Foster is senior specialist for care & communication with Prosper Waco. He is also acting executive director of Act Locally Waco.
The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email Ferrell Foster at [email protected].
by Leah Gorham, MAMFC, LPC
In early March, a Waco man was arrested for allegedly hitting a child in the face. The story was followed with additional arrests in other instances involving individuals who had sexually abused different children. According to the Children’s Advocacy Centers of Texas, 185 children in the state of Texas become victims of abuse each day. That is a staggering statistic that keeps me wanting to serve and empower more families. April is Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month and the Child-Safe Alliance is making efforts to reduce and eventually end all types of child abuse. STARRY is honored to partner with them by providing free counseling for children and families as part of the DFPS STAR program.
Child abuse prevention is a cause that is near and dear to my heart. I work with its victims on a daily basis and have become an advocate for child abuse prevention since I was a child. I remember being in elementary school when I first realized people were capable of hurting others. While some may call it “discipline,” leaving bruises and marks is never okay. Raising kids is difficult when you’re constantly being mom-shamed on social media for letting your kids eat that extra piece of candy. (Mostly because you’re so tired of the constant whining and screaming and all you want is a little peace and quiet!) Besides, we tell ourselves, My parents did that and I turned out okay. But … did we really? The only way to change the next generation is to do a little self-work. And the result could have a HUGE impact in the lives of our children.
What is one way to help families reduce the risk of child abuse and sharpen their parenting skills? I’m glad you asked! Trust-Based Relational Intervention® (TBRI®) is the brainchild of Dr. Karyn Purvis and TCU. From her research, Dr. Purvis found that empowering, connecting, and correcting children can help reduce child abuse and increase attachment and cohesion in families – especially children from hard places. Dr. Purvis published a book called Empowered to Connect, which I highly recommend you read. Over the next three weeks, I’m going to blog about the three principles outlined in the book and how to implement them into your life (with your current family or maybe your future family).
The first principle is empower. We all desire our children to succeed in life through their actions, education, emotions, relationships, etc. Empowerment focuses on using the child’s strengths and fostering a healthy view of self. Power struggles occur in relationships because we all desire to feel in control. Giving your child choices allows him or her to share the control. A word of caution helps set boundaries for the choices. Rather than saying that they can have any kind of snack after school, give them a choices of pretzels, veggie sticks, cheese crackers, or fresh fruit as options for the snack. It will help you keep your sanity and it’ll help you be able to say “yes” to more options. This will also build your child’s confidence in the fact that that they have power and can make good decisions. When kids feel in control of a few things, they are more likely to make better decisions and poor behaviors will likely decrease. There may be underlying issues too, so don’t be afraid to seek counseling for additional support. Next week, I’ll talk more about ways to connect with your child.
Leah Gorham, MAMFC, LPC, is the Team Lead at the STARRY-Waco Counseling office that offers free counseling for children and families. She has been a Kid’s Hope Mentor for the past five years and is currently part of Leadership Waco.
The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email [email protected] for more information.