Category: Stories

Meet Jayden

Meet Jayden

When five-year-old Jayden entered ACH’s Behavioral Care program, he was dealing with extreme behavior issues and trauma stemming from entering foster care due to parental neglect.

At first, staff described Jayden as being high needs with toddler-like behaviors. He had trouble managing his emotions and would often become aggressive to get attention. Jayden also had issues with trying to run away to his mother.

“When you have someone who is so young and has experienced so much trauma, it’s hard to help him understand there are other ways to handle emotions,” said Kaitlyn Smith, Behavioral Care Supervisor.

For so long, Jayden learned certain techniques on how to survive while living with his mom and then in foster care, but those were unhealthy tools. During his stay, the staff taught him how to express his needs in a healthy way.

A Family Approach

Behavioral Care serves kids, ages 4-12, with moderate to severe behavior challenges. This short-term residential therapy program provides a safe and structured environment that teaches adaptive behaviors and supports successful child development.

Behavioral Care is unique because it is set up in a home-like setting with a family feel, where the kids get to participate in normal activities like decorating their bedrooms and celebrating their birthdays.

“We get to know the kid and look past the behavior,” said Kaitlyn. “In a psych hospital, they are there to manage behavior and we are here to love the kid.”

During his stay, Jayden was able to accurately identify his emotions and his escalations became much shorter. He learned to gain control of his impulsivity.

ACH’s Behavioral Care program is located at ACH’s Wedgwood Residential Campus in Southwest Fort Worth and is home to residential programs like the Morris Program, as well as crisis intervention programs like Summit and Turning Point.

“In a psych hospital, they are there to manage behavior. We are here to love the kid.” —ACH Supervisor Kaitlyn Smith

“If he was feeling overwhelmed, he would tell staff he needs to go to his room because he needs a reset and calm down,” said Kaitlyn. “It was awesome to watch him identify his behaviors and big emotions and know what to do about it.”

One of Jayden’s biggest areas of concern was him jumping and running on the dinner tables. As a natural consequence, staff told Jayden that he had to wipe down the table if he gets on it.

“It only took him two to three times and he never did it again,” said Kaitlyn. “He learned that his actions had consequences and he learned other ways to get our attention.”

Staff eventually got to see Jayden’s personality come out, including his incredible humor. He even began to show empathy for the other children in the program.

Working Together

Most of the children who arrive at Behavioral Care are in foster care or will transition into foster care. The program encourages family reunification whenever possible and ACH staff work with the parents to ensure long-term success after the kids graduate from the program.

“When the parents are in the picture, it is so important that they too are a part of the healing process,” said Kaitlyn.

For Jayden, he would be going home to his birth mother. She had a history of drug use and worked hard to become sober to raise Jayden.

Staff provided Jayden’s mom with an individualized parenting class to teach her strategies that worked best for Jayden while he was in Behavioral Care.

“We gave her techniques on how to connect with Jayden, how to empower him, and how to correct his behaviors in a way that is beneficial for everyone,” said Kaitlyn.

They also empowered her as a mother and reminded her she is not alone—individualized support she might not have gotten from another program or hospital.  

Toward the end of Jayden’s 11-month stay in Behavioral Care, Kaitlyn said she was not only proud of his progress, but his mom’s as well.

“The coolest thing I got to do is encourage her in her journey,” said Kaitlyn.

If you would like to support the children and parents in our Behavioral Care program, ACH offers many ways to get involved. To get started, visit

Spreading Joy in LIFE

ACH Young Adult Arranges Special Celebrations for Peers

In ACH’s LIFE Project, our staff is dedicated to providing care, support, and most importantly, love to the youth in our programs. When we see the youth in our care share that same love with their peers, it’s an especially proud moment for our staff.

K, a young lady in LIFE, took the initiative to plan birthday parties and special celebrations for her peers in the program. When K first arrived in LIFE, the staff threw her a birthday party. She held onto that happy feeling and wanted to be a part of planning those celebrations for the other youth.

“I thought I should do the same for other people to make them feel this good, too,” said K.

K takes the time to meet with staff and plan out all the details. With each celebration, K makes sure to find out what each person likes and the activities they enjoy.

 “The older you get, the less you care about your birthday,” said K. “This is their special moment.”

Creating Memories

For many of the youth in LIFE, the first birthday they celebrate in the program is the first birthday they’ve ever celebrated.  

“Many of our girls come from different backgrounds and have different interests – but these are times that bring us together,” said Cassie Morgan, LIFE Project Mentor. “Watching them use their gifts and contribute is just amazing.”

K’s generosity and hard work also extend to the volunteer mentors who participate in activities with the young adults in LIFE. During volunteer appreciation week, K met with the youth in LIFE and led a project to create gift bags for each mentor.

“It felt good because they always do stuff for us,” said K. “They don’t have to come, and they do. I just wanted to do something special for them.”

What is LIFE?

ACH’s LIFE (Learning Independence from Experience) Project is a program that builds self-confidence and self-sufficiency in young adults ages 18 to 21 who are homeless or are in extended foster care. Young adults who are on their own are given guidance and support in developing life skills—such as applying to college, entering the workforce, and preparing to live independently.

K, a young adult in ACH’s LIFE Project has been throwing birthday parties and celebrations for her peers in the program. 

Reflection of Growth

According to ACH Staff Mentor Stephanie Henry, the thoughtfulness and care K has shown to her peers in the LIFE project reflects one of the many leadership skills she has developed at ACH.

“K has grown significantly in the past year since coming to the LIFE program,” said Stephanie. “She has grown in knowledge of cooking, learned how to take better care of herself and how to garden.”

While planning the events is fun for K, her favorite moment is when she reveals the surprise.

“I love seeing their faces,” said K. “They always look so happy, and that makes me happy.”

Support K in creating special moments for the youth in ACH’s LIFE Project, by getting involved at ACH today!

K helps prepare food for her and her peers in The LIFE Project.

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.

A Community of Support: Volunteer Mentoring at ACH

Transitioning into adulthood is a challenging time for anyone. The number one factor in helping young people through challenging times is the support of at least one caring adult or ideally, a community of adults, who can provide support and guidance in many ways.

The young adults in ACH’s LIFE Project are facing all the challenges and responsibilities of adulthood on their own. As a result, we must recruit a community of supportive adults who can help them with this major transition. Mentoring does not remove every obstacle but gives them the important knowledge that they are not alone.

Qua’ (far left) chats with a group of mentors from Connections for LIFE during a night out at Alley Cats.  (Pre-pandemic)

“Mentoring at ACH gives our young adults a community that walks beside them, through all the ups and downs, to help move them forward,” said Kate Faggella-Luby, ACH’s Volunteer Mentor Coordinator.

ACH’s volunteer mentors are committed individuals who together form a community of support for young adults in LIFE through two groups: Connections for LIFE for the young men; and, Circle of Caring for the young women.

Volunteer mentors participate two to three times per month in fun group activities with the young adults and other volunteers to build connections and provide a sense of belonging for them,” said Kate.

Before the pandemic, the groups would get together to cook a meal, play a game outside, or leave campus to visit a museum or see a movie. They also celebrate birthdays, graduations, and other big accomplishments. In the past year, they’ve shifted their activities to Zoom, with some socially distanced events.


Volunteer Mentors celebrate milestones with the young adults in LIFE, including graduations as seen here in 2019.

Qua’ has been a part of the LIFE Project since July 2018 and he’s actively participated with the volunteer mentors.

“Connections for LIFE was the highlight of my time at ACH,” said Qua’. “They gave us opportunities and resources, and just having dinner and interacting with them was engaging and fun.”

Qua’ met his mentor, Dennis, last year and the two bonded over stand-up comedy and rap music.

“He’s old-school and I’m new school,” laughed Qua’.

It wasn’t long before Qua’ began to open up to Dennis and the pair grew closer.

“I try to give them the sense of being wanted and appreciated,” said Dennis. “I try to guide Qua’ the same way I do my own son.”

For Qua’, Dennis became the first male role model he ever had, and one of the first adults to make him feel seen and heard. Experiencing years of emotional abuse made him feel ignored and abandoned, which made it hard for him to develop a connection with trusting adults.

That changed with Connections for LIFE.

“Getting the chance to know all these volunteers is definitely a milestone in my development,” said Qua’.

Dennis believes that taking a vested interest in these young adults creates a much larger impact in the long run, for both them and the community.

“They’ve never had anybody take a vested interest in them or care about them, so when you show them that, they know how to give that love and care back into the world.”

Qua’ encourages other young adults in LIFE to get the most they can out of the mentorships.

“Without those friends, those bonds, and those connections, you’re not going to make it very far,” said Qua’. “It’s good to know that you’re appreciated every once in a while, and that there are people you can depend on.”

That’s what Kate wishes all young adults in LIFE receive from the volunteer mentors.

“The fact that the mentoring group shows up for them time and again, sends a message that they matter, that they have something to offer, and that the world can be a safe and good place for them,” said Kate. “That sense of belonging, of receiving and giving support, is what I hope they take away from the experience.”


Qua’ will soon graduate from the LIFE Project and venture out on his own, but he and Dennis still have plans to remain close. For Dennis, the most rewarding part of the mentorship will be getting to see Qua’ “spread his wings and fly.”

If you’re interested in becoming a volunteer mentor and making an impact on ACH’s young adults, reach out to Kate at [email protected] to get started.

Celebrating Karrington!

For many young adults, juggling a job and going to college can be incredibly difficult. Imagine how much harder it would be if you were given an unfair start into adulthood. The young adults in ACH’s LIFE Project come into the program with backgrounds in foster care or homelessness. Oftentimes, ACH becomes a safety net for them, creating a positive environment where their accomplishments and milestones are celebrated—as any family would do.

ACH is so proud of 18-year-old Karrington, who recently reached her six-month anniversary at her first job. She also earned a promotion!  Working at In-N-Out Burger is an incredibly stressful, fast-paced job—and balancing this while being a college student is no easy feat.


“With everything that is going on with the coronavirus, it is definitely a job that is intense,” Karrington shared. “It felt like a huge accomplishment when they told me I was promoted.”

Volunteer Mentor Coordinator Kate Faggella-Luby spends a lot of time with the young adults. She mentioned how important it is that big milestones like these are affirmed for the young adults in LIFE because of how hard they work to become independent, self-sufficient adults.

“Part of what families do is build celebrations and memories that become part of our identity. Because these young adults are already on their own, it’s up to us to help celebrate and encourage all the positive things in their lives,” said Kate.

As a way to honor this milestone, LIFE Project mentors threw Karrington a fun-filled celebration. They gathered on Zoom and played a trivia game through Kahoot! During the celebration, Karrington was presented with a certificate of achievement.

“It felt really nice to have people celebrate the fact that I’m working hard,” she said.

Afterward, volunteer mentors shared experiences, funny stories, and advice from their first jobs—it became a great way for the young adults to connect.

“It is a real privilege for our volunteers and staff to celebrate the progress and hard work of these young adults,” Kate added. “It makes all of us feel good to take a minute and recognize good things happening in the world.”

Stay tuned in our blog as we celebrate many more milestones with the young adults in the LIFE Project!

ACH is especially grateful for the continued support of the Holloway Family Foundation, which helps fund volunteer mentoring programs for our LIFE Project.

Proud Moment: Jane’s Growth

A new start in LIFE


When Jane* entered ACH’s LIFE Project last year, she was determined to build a better life for herself. Even after years of abuse from her mother, Jane was ready for a new start.

Things took a turn for Jane when the pandemic started, and she began to struggle with old wounds. These challenges brought her to a deeper understanding of herself and the trauma she went through. She started taking more time to focus on her mental and emotional health, and has found mindfulness and exercise to be hugely beneficial to her.

“Jane went through a huge transformation in the last year in setting healthier boundaries for herself and developing a more positive outlook for herself,”  said LIFE Mentor Cassandra Morgan.

Jane recently shared with staff that she now recognizes the abuse for what it was, and is more aware of all the pain she had bottled up. She’s more optimistic about her future than ever before and feels she is no longer hindered by the abuse from her past.

“I am so proud of her for coming to a place where she can acknowledge the abuse and experience freedom from the lies she had believed for so long,” said Cassandra. “Hearing her talk now, there is a deep conviction and determination of someone who has survived deep pain and who wants to inspire others in their journey towards healing too.”

*Client’s name has been changed for this story. 

Do you have a Proud Moment with a client? Tell us all about it!



Adding LIFE to Our Garden

Special Volunteer Opportunities Blossom at ACH

Even with the COVID-19 outbreak, volunteering is still the heart of ACH. Without our volunteers, we would not have the support we need for our children and families.

During the pandemic, young adults in our care created a volunteering initiative by founding a gardening club sprouting from the Wichita campus! Clients and staff from the LIFE Project have come together to form the Sprouts Gardening Committee, to spruce up the community garden, which will continue to grow beautiful flowers and fresh fruits and vegetables for all clients who live on campus. The young adults will be able to log the hours they spend working on the garden to go toward volunteer credits.

Young adults from life noticed that the campus garden looked a little rundown. Instantly, they had a desire to bring it back to life.

 “They just want to beautify the garden on campus, and they seem very passionate about it,” said Cassie Morgan, a LIFE Project Mentor. “We’re very excited.”

What is the LIFE Project?

ACH’s LIFE (Learning Independence from Experience) Project is a program that builds self-confidence and self-sufficiency in young adults ages 18 to 21 who are homeless or are in extended foster care. They live on our Wichita campus where they are given guidance, support, and assistance in developing life skills—such as applying to college, entering the workforce, and preparing to live independently.

Sprouting Hope

The garden committee could not have started at a better time. Before the pandemic, many of the clients were applying for jobs but, because of shelter in place, plans were put on hold. With all the uncertainties, the garden gives them a way to unwind and destress while volunteering, while at the same time providing sustainable products for our residential clients.

“I think they enjoy getting out of their rooms, getting away from the TV, and just digging in some dirt,” Cassie said.

Cassie is most looking forward to the sense of community and teamwork the committee will bring.

“I think this is another unique way that we can connect with clients with other areas of campus,” Cassie said. “I see so much beauty in that.

Cultivating LIFE

Several of the young adults from the LIFE Project were strolling around campus one evening and noticed that the garden looked a little run down. Instantly, they had a desire to bring it back to life.

“We set a time to meet,” Cassie explained. “Four clients showed up and they took it from there.”

So far, the committee has been pulling weeds and refreshing the soil in the garden. For now, they are going to focus on planting seedlings. They even have plans to add artwork.

“A lot of our clients that are a part of this garden project are extremely artistic,” Cassie said. “We are always looking for ways for them to try a new art skill.”

Eventually, they hope the garden will produce fruits and veggies for everyone at ACH to enjoy.

Help Us Grow!

For the garden to flourish, the Sprouts Gardening Committee needs a helping hand from our community.

We are currently asking for in-kind donations that include seeds, plants, soil, and gardening tools. For the safety of our clients, all donations must be new and unopened and through appointment only.

Schedule a Drop-Off

Got a green thumb? Tips and tricks from gardening clubs and horticulturists could really help our budding gardeners and are most appreciated!

Send Us Tips

Perseverance Through the Pandemic

ACH adjusts care during COVID-19 outbreak

Right now, times are scary for many as the world is dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak. In this time of darkness, ACH is working to bring light, positivity and security to the families and children of Tarrant County. We’re also joining with others to bring needed resources.

For ACH, “Kids can’t wait,” is not just a mantra, but what drives our staff to adapt during this crisis to provide the best care.


In ACH’s Foster Care and Adoption program, staff is working to maintain social distancing as much as possible, including working with therapists to have more teleconferencing sessions with families.

However, ACH follows the law and is still doing home visits for biological family visits, as does the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services

“ACH’s foster care, adoption and kinship staff will continue to ensure all our homes are safe and all children and families are cared for,” said Stella Maggs, Director of Foster Care and Adoption. “We are supporting and thinking outside the box to provide whatever our clients need at any time. It’s a new experience for all.”

Families Together

ACH’s Families Together program is also working to incorporate social distancing as much as possible. Families Together provides temporary housing for mothers and children who have been displaced due to domestic violence.

Staff have been modeling social distancing by staying six feet away from each other as well as keeping clients informed on safe and healthy practices.

“We remain in communication and present for our clients,” said Olga Luna, a Families Together Case Manager.

Because many of the Families Together clients are dealing with depression and anxiety from trauma, Olga said the uncertainties that come from the outbreak have been especially hard on them.

“We continue to inform about reliable sources for information in the wealth of mixed messages online,” Olga said. “We are also encouraging healthy ways of coping with the stress and exploring ways to stay connected even with social distancing.”

The children in Families Together also have difficulties dealing with the outbreak and having to keep a distance from others.

“They often time will run up to staff to hug us as soon as they see us,” said Olga “With those that are old enough we are informing and encouraging distance hugs.”

Youth Emergency Shelter

The COVID-19 response puts a financial and emotional strain on many families that can lead to an increased risk of child abuse and neglect. Find out how to RECOGNIZE THE

If you suspect abuse, use the Texas Abuse Hotline Website. A hotline is provided for cases requiring a response
within 24 hours.

ACH’s on-site Youth Emergency Shelter has been taking preventive measures to keep youth safe from COVID-19. The Youth Emergency Shelter, currently the only one in Tarrant County, is an immediate safe haven for youth 10-17 who are runaways, homeless or human trafficking survivors.

Shelter staff have taken steps to create an isolation room should a child become symptomatic.

“There has been an increase use of board games, arts and craft activities, and kids are cooking with the staff more often and have especially enjoyed baking cookies and other desserts for the shelter,” said Sharon Soh, the Youth Emergency Shelter Clinical Manager.

We need your help

While our staff has been amazing at persevering through this crisis, help from our community is always appreciated and makes a big difference in the lives of our clients.

ACH is currently in need of in-kind items such as hand sanitizer, all-purpose cleaner, and Lysol/Clorox wipes to help keep our families and children clean. We also need puzzles, board games, card games, and craft supplies.  For the safety of our clients, all donations must be new and unopened and through appointment only.

Schedule a drop-off!

Donate Today!

 Follow us on social media for updates on how we are dealing with COVID-19.


Hotrods & Hope


A Unique Safe Place Site

Safe Place is a national program that helps youth ages 10-17 years old who need help and safety. It’s locally administered here in Tarrant County by ACH, with more than 250 locations. Businesses, restaurants, and organizations can offer their space as a site to provide help to youth in trouble, which is what made the people at House of Hotrods & Classics excited to become certified.

“It is just another way to serve the community, and if you’re in the retail business or have a store in your town, it is a great way to do some positive stuff in the community,” said Joey with House of Hotrods & Classics.

House of Hotrods & Classics is a reputable business in Mansfield, offering services that include building, repairing, and restoring hotrods. According to Joey, it made sense that the shop would open its doors to youth in need.

Typically, ACH prefers that Safe Place sites are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, but every community needs a location.

A great sign for business

Every Safe Place site can be spotted from the yellow and black, diamond-shaped sign posted outside its building. ACH staff and volunteers assure this sign is positioned where it can be easily seen.

House of Hotrods & Classics now includes one of those distinctive signs to go along with their dazzling showroom, featuring classic editions of Chevrolet Impalas and Porsche Speedsters. A muscle car shop isn’t the first image that comes to mind when thinking of a typical Safe Place, but that didn’t discourage Joey from getting certified by ACH.

 “Most businesses think you can’t be Safe Place certified unless you’re a fire station or QT (QuikTrip),” Joey said. “But ACH was very helpful with training us on procedures and getting us started.”

Joey encourages other businesses to learn how they can become involved with Safe Place and work with ACH in keeping youth safe.

Stop by House of Hotrod & Classics at 2301 FM 1187 #201 in Mansfield, TX Texas, and let them know their willingness to step up for children is appreciated.

Learn more about Safe Place