Month: July 2021

Caring for kids in your family…who aren’t yours?

ACH’s New Program is a Unique Solution Providing Much Needed Resources to Kinship Families

Chantel Bedlington plays a  vital role in helping ACH Child and Family Services create a program that will change the lives of families caring for relative children.  

Chantel, ACH’s Kinship Navigator Support Specialist, has been reviewing data from a voluntary survey and connecting with kinship families as well as organizations that serve kinship families to build a network of resources, education, and support to build our Kinship Navigator program.

“The Kinship Navigator program will help kinship families with their unique needs and connect them to much-needed resources, support groups, as well as financial assistance, legal assistance, and more,” said Chantel.

ACH is one of four organizations selected by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services to develop and implement a program to serve kinship caregivers.

Because of ACH’s broad range of programs that help children and families, Chantel has been able to assist many kinship families before the program has even launched. Kinship families have been able to utilize AIRS, ACH’s 24/7 bilingual crisis hotline, Real Help for Real Life, which provides free youth and family counseling, and our Kinship Connections support group. The Kinship Navigator Program has also partnered with Texas Grandparents Raising Grandchildren support groups in North Texas.

What is kinship care?
A kinship family occurs when a grandmother, aunt, uncle, or sibling is raising a family member. Kinship families can also include children placed with close family friends, also known as fictive kin. In either case, when a child is placed with a family member, it’s new to both.
Close to home

Chantel understands the needs and struggles of kinship parents because she is one herself. Chantel and her husband began raising relative children they had only met once before the placement. She also has two biological children and one adoptive child.

Two years ago, Chantel got a call from Child Protective Services in Kansas saying that her husband’s stepsister’s children would be placed in foster care if a family member couldn’t care for them.

“What do you do when you get that call,” asked Chantel. “I don’t want to be that person that stands in front of these kids one day and have them ask, ‘You are my family, and you didn’t come?’”

So, they went. Chantel and her husband packed up their car and drove to Kansas to pick up the children. Almost as soon as the kids were in Chantel’s care, she was faced with a lack of support and resources to help her kids since their DFPS case was closed as soon as they were picked up by family.

For the last two years since the placement, Chantel had to fight to get the kids on Medicaid and get adequate resources for their critical health needs. She had to obtain a lawyer to get legal guardianship. Even getting the kids enrolled at their neighborhood schools was a struggle.

“I had to fight for everything,” Chantel said.

This experience led her to ACH.

“When I saw this position at ACH, I wasn’t necessarily looking for a new job,” she said. “I was just like, ‘Wow, somebody has got to do that. Somebody has got to help fight for these families.’”

Chantel has built strong relationships with local kinship families from the very beginning of the Kinship Navigator program. These relationships were extremely rewarding and beneficial in her role as a kinship parent.

“Before I started working with ACH, I didn’t know any other kinship caregivers,” said Chantel. “It has been wonderful to connect with them and know that we are on this journey together.”

Chantel Bedlington, ACH Kinship Navigator Support Specialist
ACH Kinship Services Dig Deeper

That connection is almost as equally important as financial assistance and legal aid for kinship parents.

Many kinship caregivers, especially those who are grandparents, are again having to raise children during a time when none of their friends are. They don’t have anyone to relate to in their lives.

Not only that, but many are dealing with the guilt of their children’s choices that led to their grandchildren entering their care. It is hard for them not to feel shame for their children’s choices that led to things like addiction or imprisonment, which caused them to lose their children.

“Many of our grandparents feel isolated because of that,” said Chantel. “They need to know their adult children’s choices are not their fault.”

Most people don’t realize kinship families have unique needs: They are raising the children of a family member and experiencing the many emotions involved in that. The family dynamic can be a very difficult one to navigate for the kids and the caregiver. For many of the children going into kinship care, they are dealing with the trauma they experienced with their parents. Oftentimes, even though the children are going with family, they don’t have existing relationships with the family they are being sent to live with, which can be traumatizing.

“Foster and adoptive parents have the advantage of being trained on trauma, what to expect and how to help a kid who is losing control,” said Chantel. “For kinship families, they just get a call.”

What to Expect When You’re Not Expecting

To combat this common problem, Chantel has begun developing a guide to help kinship parents navigate their new role: What to Expect When You Weren’t Expecting. It will teach parents how to get the children enrolled in school, what to expect in the licensing process, and how to apply for Medicaid. Becoming a licensed kinship foster parent offers benefits like monthly financial compensation and long-term support. However, the Kinship Navigator Program is ready to help those who are not eligible or interested in seeking licensing. The guide will also have recommendations for articles, podcasts, and books on kinship and trauma-informed care. 

The Kinship Navigator program is planned to start this Fall, and it will benefit kinship families in Tarrant, Parker, Palo Pinto, Johnson, and Hill counties.

If you are a caregiver, legal professional, child welfare worker, educator, or in law enforcement and would like to participate in assisting us in our planning process or get more information, please register by clicking here.

ACH Child and Family Services Celebrates 500th Adoption

Randall and Nikki Emery welcomed Everett into their forever home, making them ACH’s 500th Adoption.
Local nonprofit focused on protecting children and preserving families celebrates historic milestone

FORT WORTH, Texas (July 19, 2021) – ACH Child and Family Services is excited to announce the organization’s 500th adoption. ACH serves children from infancy to age 17 who are in the care of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) with special attention around the placement of sibling groups and children age five and up, especially teens.

“While we’re proud to announce this milestone, we recognize there is still much work to be done,” says Lance Ortiz, ACH Outreach Coordinator. “Every day, we seek parents who will open their hearts and homes to deserving children. This work is so important in our ability to make a positive impact in the lives of those children and teens who need it most, as well as the greater Fort Worth community. We want to continue to do what we can to provide the critical support and resources children need to succeed.”

ACH Child and Family Services continues to raise awareness of the impact and importance of foster care. In 2020, there were more than 9,000 children in North Texas in need of Foster Care.

“Foster parents are important because they protect children and preserve families,” said Ortiz. “They provide homes and hearts filled with love and compassion and help children heal from the traumatic experiences and environments they may have come from. ACH thoroughly trains and supports foster parents to help children heal while their biological parents are working with agencies to regain focus and prepare for reunification. If a court determines that’s not possible, then we look to adoption to find the child a forever family.”

ACH has several upcoming virtual & in-person Foster Care and Adoption Meet & Greet events:

  • Tuesday, August 31st, 12-1 p.m. (Zoom Meeting)
  • Tuesday, September 7th, 6-7 p.m. (In-Person)
  • Thursday, September 16th, 6-7 p.m. (In-Person)

Those interested in learning more about foster care and/or adoption are invited to join these free information sessions. Participants can register online or by calling 817.335.HOPE (4673). 

Learn more about how you can get involved at ACH today!

Going Beyond the Classroom

Being a teacher requires patience, kindness, and an open mind. When educating children with severe behavioral or emotional needs, providing safety, love, and hope through caring relationships is equally important.

Marcy Collins is the Academic Coordinator for ACH’s Wedgwood Campus, where she has been providing educational support to the children in our care for the past year.

This campus is home to several crisis intervention programs including Summit, Turning Point, and Behavioral Care. Wedgwood also houses the Morris Program, which helps 14–17-year-olds who are unable to live with their families develop the life skills needed to transition to independent living.

Providing Normalcy During Uncertain Times

Unlike many other therapeutic treatment facilities, the children in Summit and Turning Point attend school during their stay. These programs provide crisis intervention to avoid hospitalizations, in a safe home-like setting.

“When the kids enter our programs, their whole world has just been turned upside down, and they are having to deal with heavy emotional and behavioral issues,” said Marcy. “Having school during their stay establishes a structure and gives them a place to practice the coping skills they’re learning.”

The children in our care attend school through Odysseyware, an online curriculum that assigns students work and provides lessons. For the youth in Morris, some attend school virtually or in-person at schools in our neighborhood or are working towards achieving a GED. Collins works with each of them to ensure they are on track to graduating while accommodating their specific needs.

Leading with Love

Oftentimes, the children in our programs are coming from hard places, experiencing trauma that has made an impact on their behavioral and mental health. Because of that, Marcy must be prepared to handle these various behaviors in her classroom.  

“I make it a point that for every kid that comes into our care, I become familiar with their history,” said Marcy. “I learn about these kids before I even meet them, because I want to know what they are working with.”

This preparation helps Marcy learn what their triggers are and how she can avoid them, as well as the best techniques for helping them calm down in stressful situations. Just like with any child, there are times when they don’t want to do schoolwork and will outright refuse or break down.

“That is an opportunity to work with that kid and prepare them for life out of the treatment program,” said Marcy. “We can show them how to work through those frustrating times.”

Relationships Get Results

Because of her unique classroom of students, Marcy must go beyond the traditional role of a teacher. Maintaining the bond of a teacher and student is equally significant as that between a caregiver and a child.

“I am there not just to be a schoolteacher, but to be there for the kids,” said Marcy. “I make them feel comfortable, feel safe, and feel as if school is not their enemy.”

Daniel Pectol, ACH Director of Residential Services, praises Marcy for her ability to develop relationships with the children and utilize them during stressful situations when a child is frustrated or upset.

“You have to connect before you correct and she can get a child back on track,” said Daniel. “She is personal with them and she will sit down with them and make sure they have what they need.”

Always on Board

For Marcy, class is not over when the school day ends. She also provides training for the employees working on the Wedgwood campus. The love and care she gives children also extend to staff, according to Turning Point Supervisor McKenzie Slawson.

“She will help guide you in the right direction and answer any questions you have without judgment,” said McKenzie. “Marcy is a very important person here on our campus.”

During the pandemic, Daniel beamed at Marcy’s efforts in and out of the classroom. She covered for employees who fell sick with COVID-19 and stepped up in taking care of positive children as well. With all the stress and uncertainty of the pandemic, Marcy made sure the kids were taken care of.

“Marcy is committed to making things better for kids,” said Daniel.

For Marcy, juggling a classroom filled with different-aged kids, all with unique challenges can be tough, but she said the reward is so much greater.

“I love getting to see the confidence they develop while here at ACH,” said Marcy.

If you would like to support Marcy and our programs at our Wedgwood campus, ACH offers many ways to get involved. To get started, visit