Counseling Kids from Hard Places

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When kids grow up in families in crisis, they undoubtedly experience some kind of trauma. This can be in the form of separation, a death in the family, hunger, or abuse; sometimes it’s a combination of those things.

Boys and Girls Country Staff and Students 2017Often, children do not understand the instability going on around them, and parents do not have the time or emotional resources to explain situations to their children. This results in kids internalizing the crisis and blaming themselves for things beyond their control.  “It’s important to explain to children what’s going on, even if it’s something hard like, ‘Dad is sick and angry; he needs help. We can’t live with him right now until he gets better,’” explains Clinical Director B.J. Barksdale.

The goal of the BGC Community Counseling Center is to help support the organization’s mission of changing the lives of children from families in crisis by loving and nurturing them in a Christian home environment.  The center is flourishing under B.J.’s direction, thanks to generous funding from Houston Methodist. B.J. is the immediate past president of the Texas Counseling Association and has been a practicing Licensed Professional Counselor and National Certified Counselor for over 20 years.

At this time, half of the children living at the Roberts Road campus go to counseling about once a week. We have two LPCs and five interns serving our kids. Each intern is working on hours for their Master’s degree in Licensed Professional Counseling. B.J. is implementing clinical intake behavior assessments to screen kids and would like each new child to attend three therapy sessions. This would allow counselors to further assess our kids’ needs and help them get comfortable with the center.

Helping kids get over the stigma of going to counseling is one of the center’s main objectives. B.J. hopes that enforcing a confidentiality policy and proving trustworthy to the students will help them see counseling as a safe, nonjudgmental place. “The most exciting development is when kids make the transition from being afraid or uncomfortable with therapy to telling us, ‘I think this is really helping me.’ We want them to handle their anger and grief appropriately. I try to remind them, don’t let the past cut off your blessings!”

When Micah* first came to visit the counseling center, he repeatedly told B.J., “I’m not crazy. I don’t need therapy.” Like most of our kids, Micah has experienced trauma from witnessing abuse and being separated from his family. B.J. reassured him that in his counseling sessions he could talk about anything on his mind, and she wouldn’t share it with anyone. She pointed out to him the quote she keeps framed on her bookshelf: “Forgiveness does not excuse their behavior. Forgiveness prevents their behavior from destroying your heart.” By the end of the session, Micah kept turning around to look at the quote. When asked what he was doing Micah said, “I’m trying to memorize it.”

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*Name changed to protect privacy.

Student’s Dream Comes True

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When an anonymous donor offered a scholarship opportunity for a BGC student to attend Hargrave Military Academy in Virginia, 17 year old Deven immediately came to mind. A bright, energetic young man and ROTC Master Sergeant, Deven has excelled since arriving here three years ago. He has formed strong bonds with his teaching parents and brothers in Cottage 9. Deven took a moment out of his hectic schedule this week to express his gratitude…

Boys and Girls Country is full of opportunities if you are open to them. If you try your best with the program, it will expose you to so many life lessons. I’m grateful that I get the chance to reach my full potential here. I’ve been in R.O.T.C the last couple years which has taught me discipline, so as soon as my teaching parents presented this to me I was excited! When we took a trip to visit Hargrave last month I knew I had to attend.

Attending Hargrave will equip me with the skills needed to succeed in life despite all the struggles the devil may put in front of me. I’m grateful for the donor who provided this opportunity. Boys and Girls Country has been incredibly good to me. They have shown me how blessed I am and just how many people care about me. I came here due to instability in my life; I’m entering into this new experience with self-confidence and faith. In my time here I’ve learned a lot about patience; I’m still learning to this day.

While I’ll still be a resident of BGC, I won’t be here like I’m used to. I’m going to miss the other boys in my cottage, their sense of humor and hanging out with them before school in the morning. I’ll miss Mrs. Madela’s cooking, Ms. Karen’s jokes, and Mr. Jim’s country accent!  I appreciate all that my teaching parents have done for me, especially believing in me when I didn’t believe in myself. They have given me that extra nudge to keep going and to accomplish my goals. I hope to attend Queens University on an academic/wrestling scholarship after I graduate.

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My mantra right now is, “Life is too short to take for granted! You blink and it’s time to graduate, so take everything like gold, and treat it like so.” 

Deven is having a blast with Kristi Pierce, our Education and College and Career Program Manager. They just arrived in Charlottesville, Virginia! We’re going to miss Deven, but we are so excited for this next chapter and can’t wait to see him over Christmas break!

Our High Schoolers Want You to Know…

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When visitors come to Boys and Girls Country, they are often surprised by our family structure and cottage homes. Guests exclaim, “This is just like our house!” We love hearing that! Just like any family, our kids are involved in after-school activities, jobs, sports, career preparation, and much more. Two of our high schoolers took time out of their busy schedules to share their experiences as normal kids at BGC.

Tirzah lives in Cottage 2 and is currently a junior. She has been at BGC for 6 years and has grown tremendously in her time here.

 

What do you like most about school this year?

My clinical science class! I love that I get to work in something that directly involves my future career.

What do you look forward to after school?

Coming home and getting to rest. The school day seems like forever sometimes. I also really look forward to catching up with the other girls in the house. Even though we live together, we all have so many other things going on. I don’t get to see them as much as I’d like too, so after school and during dinner is when we get to catch up.

Are you in any extracurricular activities?

I’m on the dance team, in National Honor Society, and I work at Whataburger around that schedule. It doesn’t seem like that much compared to some of my peers though.

 

How do your teaching parents work with and around your school/work schedule?

They do so much! Four of the girls in our cottage have our driver’s permits, including me, but none of us has a license yet. Most of us have an after school/weekend job so Ms. Dani and Mr. Sackett have to drive us everywhere and pick us up, not to mention cooking every meal and helping us with homework.

 

Sounds like you’re very grateful for your teaching parents.

I adore them! I’m beyond grateful for all they do and all they put up with from us. They make our cottage feel like home, and I look forward to seeing them after a long day. I was brought to BGC because my grandmother who raised me was no longer physically able to take care of me, so I appreciate the family and support I’ve gotten here.

What do you want people to know about the Boys and Girls Country kids?

We’re normal kids. This is our home, and we have a typical life with a little extra support. We also have amazing college opportunities. I am really excited to go into the College and Career program after graduation, especially since I come from a family where most of the adults never made it to college. The fact that I have a whole group of people to help me get set up for college is a huge relief for me. I’m working hard because my dream is to go to Texas A&M and pursue a career as an ER doctor. I want to double major in pre-med and criminal justice, which seems like a lot, but I come from a family who never had the chance to pursue higher education. I’m in the top 11.2% of my class as a junior! I have time to improve so just keep watching!

Morgan is a senior and lives in Cottage 6 with Amy and Austin Woods. He’s been a part of Boys and Girls Country for seven years and has a vivacious and driven attitude we enjoy so much!

 

What are the highlights of a typical school day for you?

Getting to see my friends. I don’t get to see them as much as I’d like with all that I’m doing. Then sleep! By the time I get home I’m ready for bed.

What are your extracurricular activities?

Band, student council, Spanish club, and National Honor Society

 

What would you want people to know about you?

I’d want them to know about my love for Christ and how important that relationship is to me.

What are you grateful to your teaching parents for?

There are seven high school boys in our cottage. They put up with a lot of nonsense and attitudes when we’re going through things. They stay patient and loving and support us and everything we sign on to do for school and work. Technically we’re not their kids, but they treat us like their own. Nobody is making them do that; they want to. This is our home, and they make it feel like it.

 

Is there anything you want people to know about Boys and Girls Country?

This is like a regular home. It has its ups and downs. I never really had a relationship with Christ until after my mom died; that was when I really wanted to know Him. Boys and Girls Country has a lot of people in place who’ve helped me understand and grow in that. My goal is to go to University of Texas – San Antonio, and I will be in the reserves.

If you’d like to come visit Boys and Girls Country and see for yourself how our kids live, our next Walk of Hope campus tour is on Saturday, October 7 at 10:00. You can get more details HERE.

 

 

Teaching Parent Spotlight: Serving God’s Children

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Robin Hoke has been a single teaching mom at BGC for eight months. She parents 16 junior high and high school girls in the Watford Cottage and Cottage 2. She is a senior at Southwestern Assemblies of God University, taking online classes. Robin shares about her experience at Boys and Girls Country below.

When I accepted the job as single teaching parent, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that God called me here. I also knew it would be hard, but it’s been hard in different ways than I could have known. I came here grieving over leaving a sweet family I had nannied with for three years who moved out of state. God has used BGC to heal that grief and has given me 16 girls to love! I am growing every day and learning about balance, forgiveness, grace, and community.

From the beginning, it was challenging to work with two different sets of girls. Even though it started out difficult to ‘toggle’ between two cottages, I love that I get to teach and love on 16 girls instead of just eight. Another challenge has been co-parenting. Being assigned to a cottage and a partner can be daunting because you really have no idea who your partner will be and if you have compatible parenting styles. I am so happy and incredibly blessed that I have the most amazing partners and teams in both my cottages.

When these girls became “my girls” and every coworker here became “family” I knew I was right where I am supposed to be. I just want the world to know how amazing my girls are. I am grateful for the love and support of those around me and for being able to see God transform the hearts of the kids here.

Among my favorite memories was our cottage vacation this summer. Routines were set aside and to do lists didn’t exist. There was loud obnoxious singing on the way to San Antonio. There was rolling laughter and shenanigans during downtime. The girls exercised great teamwork while trying to escape the zombie room. There were screams and funny pictures as they braved roller coasters at Fiesta, Texas. I saw girls conquer their fears on the rope swing, high slide, and in the cold deep waters at Landa Park. They told stories as they relaxed before bedtime. I loved seeing them let their guards down and have the time of their life!

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The hardest moments are when my girls are struggling. These precious ones have been through so much and sometimes, even when you want to, you can’t rescue them – not from themselves, not from their fears, not from their lot in life. When I watch them take disappointment so hard or when they make the same mistakes over and over again, all I can do is pray and keep on loving them. Personally, I am not able to see my friends and family as much as I would like, but they are very understanding. God is definitely teaching me that my strength comes from Him. He will help me do well in my classes this semester, balance self-care and spending quality time with my family and be the best teaching parent I can be to my sweet girls at BGC.

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What I want everyone to know about Boys and Girls Country is that this place is amazing. These kids are precious. They have gone through so much but oh, are they resilient and special! God has such incredible plans for each one. If I could have my way, everyone I know would be involved here. There is so much that donors can do to invest in the lives of these kids. And each volunteer is SO blessed by taking part in these kids’ lives!

HoUSton Strong

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“In all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

The past couple of weeks, since the first news of Harvey, are a blur. It’s been said as a joke, but there is some truth to it: we really don’t know what day it is. While Boys and Girls Country was spared any damage from the storm, we have all experienced the fear of flooding, hours without power and some cabin fever. Our Teaching Parent staff did a wonderful job keeping our kids safe and occupied while Harvey poured down on us.

Once we were able to leave the campus, all of us wanted to help out. Our kids have done a lot of volunteering the last few days. Some went to area churches to organize donations. Several groups helped clean flooded houses. Our kids spent time helping around the campus, too, picking up debris and organizing donations.

 

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We received this wonderful message on Friday from Gene Manuel, Riata Ranch HOA Board Member.

My emotions were on a roller coaster today. I went to the park today to see how things were going and to lend a hand. I saw a group of boys wearing the same shirt, and all of them were tired and sweaty. They all came from Boys and Girls Country of Houston to help the community. They started at Barker Lakes and ended up coming over to Riata Ranch when they heard that there were more homes that needed to be cleaned up. I took a few minutes to talk to their teaching mom and couldn’t thank her enough for their time and effort. I spoke with some of the boys as well; they felt good about helping the neighborhood and were looking to do more. Afterwards, I had to take a few minutes to compose myself. It’s overwhelming just seeing the outpouring of support from every corner of the Cypress community. Thank you neighbors! #HoustonStrong

During times like these, we might wonder where God is.  We might question why some people are spared and others suffer.  We grieve for ourselves and for others, but we also celebrate the many gifts we have been given.  The good news is that God is with us during the good times and the bad.  He hears our cries for help.  He wants us to lean on Him and pray to Him for strength.  He also calls us to be the hands and feet of His Kingdom.  Houston showed the world what that looks like, and for that we are grateful.  We are also grateful to you for praying for us and for giving our kids an opportunity to serve you. It means the world to them.

 

The Recipe for Success Starts with Family

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As you can imagine, with over 100 kids and young adults to feed each day, our cottage kitchens never cool down. Our dedicated Teaching Parents not only maintain a safe and loving environment in their cottages, they teach essential life skills to each child. We try to make one meal each day a family affair where everyone gets involved! Students may help with meal prep, setting the table, dishes or clean up. Older students are encouraged to plan and cook meals for the family when their busy schedules allow. Our kids routinely say they enjoy time in the kitchen, and many pride themselves on a favorite recipe.

The Cottage 8 boys love trying new recipes, and they are very talented. Over the summer the cottage contributed breakfast food to our weekly all-campus meeting and devotional. Several staff members really enjoyed the boys’ cooking and always got in line early!  (Not that we ever have favorites!)

Last night Cottage 8 invited the Cottage 10 girls for dinner. They had been packing and preparing all day to move into the new Pool cottage, and they were hungry! These little girls had so much fun with their older “brothers” and the boys enjoyed serving them.

 

Be sure to check out what they cooked up, and if you like be sure to share and pin the recipe for later!

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Ingredients for taco meat:

  • 5 Lbs. Ground Beef
  • 1 Tbsp. Olive oil
  • 1 ½ Tbsp. Cumin
  • 1½ Tsp Chili Powder
  • 1½ Tsp Cayenne
  • 1 ½ Tbsp. Garlic
  • ½ Yellow Onion

Preparation:

Dice up your preferred toppings and set to the side. We like tomatoes, avocados, and lettuce. We also serve with homemade salsa and shredded cheese.

 

 

When you finish getting your toppings sorted, heat a large skillet over medium heat and add your onion, olive oil and seasoning. Gradually crumble in your beef and cook until completely brown (about 7-10 minutes). Once the beef is completely cooked, add a little water to finish. Before you serve, strain out the excess grease with a colander.

Taco night is always a hit, and sometimes prompt messy faces and spontaneous dancing!

 

We also like to treat ourselves to our favorite Sopapilla Cheesecake Bars!

Sopapilla Cheesecake Bars

Ingredients:

  • 2 pkgs of refrigerated crescent rolls
  • 2 pkgs 8 oz. Cream Cheese (Softened)
  • 1 ½ Cups of granulated sugar
  • 1 TBS Vanilla extract
  • 1 Stick of butter, melted
  • ¾ cup of brown sugar and cinnamon mix. (2 tsp of cinnamon)
  • Honey (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 13 x 9’ baking pan with cooking spray and set aside.
Lay one can of crescent rolls down for one single layer on the bottom of the pan. Don’t leave any spaces uncovered!
After you’ve finished prepping the first layer, prepare the filling.
With an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese, white sugar, and vanilla until well combined. Spread the mix evenly over the already prepared first layer. Distribute the remaining can of crescent rolls over the filling and again, no empty spaces! Pour the melted butter evenly over the top and coat with cinnamon sugar mix.
Bake for approximately 30 minutes, and drizzle with honey while cooling. We never have any of these left, but if you do they can be stored in the fridge after.

We make these in bulk so alter it to suits your needs! We cook two to three meals daily, and we rely heavily on our food pantry to help us do this. It is truly a blessing when groups hold food drives for us or bring in cars full of food! Of course, we’re well equipped to keep it stocked, but the extra help is always a relief. We’re always in need of staple items like:

  • Spices
  • Broths
  • Bullion
  • Rice
  • Beans
  • Spaghetti sauce
  • Pastas
  • Canned vegetables
  • Condiments
  • Canned tuna & chicken
  • Rotel

Thank you so much for your continued support! Let us know what else you’d like to see on here and be sure to keep up with all our other social media accounts.

 

 

 

 

Growing Children for Life: College and Career Update

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One of the most unique and wonderful things about Boys and Girls Country is that, through the College and Career program, our kids are able to continue with us past high school graduation. There are currently 13 young adults on the College and Career Campus who are seizing this opportunity.

 

This summer the C&C kiddos went on day trips to Austin, where they stopped in for a quick dip at Hamilton Pool Preserve before hitting the shops along Congress Avenue, and San Antonio, where they had a blast at Six Flags Fiesta Texas. This was a time of bonding for new C&C staff, the tenured residents and the recent high school graduates, who enjoyed this down time together.

The C&C family also came together this summer to give a big “thank you” to the men and women in our Operations Department who work tirelessly every day to keep us up and running. Each of our College and Career kids wrote a card to an Operations staff member. Joseph and Naidi also delivered homemade cookies!

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But it’s definitely not all fun at C&C! The young adults are hard workers, too. This summer they could be found working internships at the American Productivity and Quality Center, watching our kids at the BGC pool as lifeguards, delivering pizzas for Pizza Hut, making coffee at Starbuck’s, working for our favorite beaver at Buc-ee’s, serving up food at Whataburger, and helping us work out at Planet Fitness.

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Two of our young ladies, Cynthia and Vannesa, have been working toward their goals of attaining their licenses to become phlebotomists. Vannesa will take her final state exam in the coming weeks, and Cynthia will be finishing up her certification classes this fall.  Cynthia and Vannesa will be looking for work in the medical field in order to use their skills, so if you know of a job opening, do not hesitate to contact us.

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We were blessed this summer by Dr. Friedrichs and his team at Tropical Dentist who provided our campus with checks ups. We are proud to report no cavities and lots of happy smiling faces!

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As our summer comes to a close, many of our students will be leaving for the fall semester and headed to Prairie View A&M, Texas State, SHSU, University of Texas, University of North Texas and SFA. Some, however, will remain on our C&C campus while attending Lone Star College.

Please continue to pray for these awesome kids as they transition into adulthood on our College and Career Campus. Thank you for your support which makes these exciting steps possible for them!

 

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