When James was 17 years old, his father was struggling to care for him at home. His father became disengaged and was ready for James to start living on his own. James’ father dropped him off at ACH’s Youth Emergency Shelter, and this devastated him.
The Pat O’Neal Youth Emergency Shelter at ACH is the only 24-hour emergency shelter in Tarrant County offering 24/7 safe shelter to runaway and homeless youth and trafficking survivors, ages 10-17.
When James first came to the shelter, he struggled with peer interactions and behavioral issues. Every day, ACH staff worked with James to build a trusting adult relationship. Over time, James started to open up to staff and began to accept their help. He became invested in his future and began to change his behaviors and outlook on life.
“James figured out that he mattered, and his future was important,” said Stephen Parker, ACH Homeless Services Program Manager. “Our relationship with James allowed us to help guide and mentor him, and together we put him on a path for success.”
James recently got accepted into ACH’s LIFE Project. LIFE is a supervised independent living (SIL) program that promotes self-confidence and self-sufficiency for young adults aging out of the foster care system and homeless young adults.
“James’ progress, change in behavior, and focus was outstanding and exactly why we do this type of work,” said Stephen.
Many of the youth in ACH’s shelter share similar stories to James. They are in most need of safety and shelter, as well as trusting adults to show love and support. To learn more about the shelter, click the button below.
ACH raises awareness of child abuse and neglect in Tarrant County
FORT WORTH, Texas (March 23, 2021) – Each April, ACH joins other organizations throughout the country to participate in Child Abuse Prevention Month, which calls attention to the trauma and long-term impact of child abuse and neglect.
Tarrant County has among the highest numbers of confirmed child abuse and neglect cases of any county in Texas, with 6,202 confirmed victims in 2020 alone. More than their peers, childhood victims of abuse and neglect are likely to develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), to become homeless and to end up in the criminal justice system. The cost of being denied a normal childhood is immeasurable. But the impact on the American society is not without cost, as the annual cost of lost worker productivity alone exceeds an estimated $65 billion.
As a thought leader in child abuse prevention, ACH is committed to partnering with organizations, corporations and individuals to raise public awareness of child abuse and to bring about needed change in our community.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, factors like heightened stress, school closures, loss of income and social isolation resulting from the pandemic increase the risk for child abuse and neglect. The CDC is also concerned that victims might not receive the care they need and that the severity of their injuries might have worsened. They recommend that strategies to prevent child abuse and neglect are important, particularly during public health emergencies.
We at ACH believe that attacking this issue on a grass-roots level will lead to greater success in getting the public engaged in an issue that truly affects everyone. So, we will continue to share ideas and communicate key statistics to the public at large. Preventing and treating child abuse and neglect is everyone’s job. If you know a family who is struggling and needs support in parenting, call ACH at 817-335-4673. If someone suspects abuse and neglect, call the Texas Abuse Hotline at 1-800-252-5400.
To kick off Child Abuse Prevention Month, ACH is holding a virtual event from 12—1 p.m. on Thursday, April 8. This year’s 11th annual “Lend a Hand” event will feature Tia Magee, ACH’s Youth Emergency Shelter Manager and the focus of an upcoming Netflix original movie, ‘Redd Zone,’ and her son Brandon Magee, producer, and former professional athlete. They’ll be discussing Child Abuse Prevention Month and Tia’s experience helping youth in crisis.
How can you help bring attention to this issue? Wear blue on Friday, April 9 and post photos of yourself and your friends wearing blue to #SilenceEndsHere, #KidsCantWait, #WearBlueDay and #GoBlue. All of us at ACH will be wearing blue, so you should, too.
With more than a century of experience, ACH Child and Family Services, a Fort Worth-based nonprofit agency, brings needed resources and skills to children and families struggling with life’s challenges. Some of our 17 programs and services keep children and families together while others provide a healing home for children who can’t live with their families. Through the “Our Community Our Kids” division, ACH is leading the way in Community-Based Care in seven counties of the Texas foster care system. ACH has been accredited every year since 2003 by the Council on Accreditation and in 2018 Our Community Our Kids became nationally accredited. Our vision is for families to thrive and children to experience safety, hope and love. Learn more at achservices.org.
“Last year, I started not knowing much about gardening, and when I leave the LIFE Project, I’ll have so much more knowledge in plant growth and growth within myself.” —Melissa*
ACH Child and Family Services’ Sprouts Gardening Committee is celebrating one year of growth since beginning their journey in ACH’s garden in March of 2020. Despite a few challenges, the group is proud of the work they accomplished and has high hopes for the future.
“I am so excited for a new year to learn more,” said K, one of the young adults in Sprouts.
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 are given guidance and support in developing life skills—such as applying to college, entering the workforce, and preparing to live independently.
A SUCCESSFUL YEAR
At the start of the pandemic, young adults in ACH’s LIFE Project program created a volunteer initiative by founding the Sprouts Gardening Committee on our Wichita Street campus.
During such an uncertain time, gardening became a healthy, peaceful activity. For the young adults in our care—many of whom come from a life in foster care or homelessness, gardening brought healing and a sense of belonging, which was incredibly beneficial for them.
“I am excited that we are turning one year old because it shows the dedication to a project, especially during a really hard year both in the world and in everyone’s personal lives,” said Cassie Morgan, LIFE Mentor.
In November, the committee received the Outstanding Youth in Philanthropy award by the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Fort Worth Metro Chapter. This award honored the more than 200 volunteer hours the committee spent in ACH’s garden.
Of all their accomplishments, the biggest blessing of the group was the new friendships that blossomed.
“I am excited because we still have our team together,” said Cole*, Sprouts member. “It’s the same people still sticking together, facing challenges we’ve never faced before.”
Melissa*, one of the young ladies in Sprouts, attributes gardening to helping her develop patience, something she struggled with before.
“I enjoyed watching the plants grow and change while learning more about myself as an individual,” said Melissa. “Last year, I started not knowing much about gardening, and when I leave the LIFE Project, I’ll have so much more knowledge in plant growth and growth within myself.”
The group also learned the hard work necessary for maintaining a garden.
“There is nothing cookie-cutter about gardening,” said Cassie. “We had to find what works best for us and our garden.”
ENTER THE POLAR VORTEX
Sprout’s first year was one for the books. They had some surprises, including the February Texas Winter Storm, which proved to be a valuable teaching moment for the committee.
The group, as with most Texans, was not prepared for such extreme weather. That week, they made their safety a priority and held out hope for the garden.
“We took care of ourselves instead of the plants,” said Cole. “It was frightening and scary, but had high hopes that the garden would survive, and it did… kind of.”
The group was sad to see some plants die but happy to see most of the plants hanging on. To be better prepared, the group formed a Weather Committee within Sprouts to track the local forecast in case of any extreme weather occurrences.
LIFE Mentor Cassie Morgan looks forward to another year of gardening.
Having recovered from the storm, the committee is focused on their surviving crops, which include sea kale, cabbage, rosemary, and some flowers.
“We are excited to grow more this year and build on the skills we learned last year,” said Cassie. “Every time we check on the plants, there is more new growth happening.”
With volunteerism at the heart of the committee, Sprouts would like to open the group up to members of the community who want to volunteer in the garden. The group is even working on creating a resource guide for those future members.
“When we opened the garden, it was kind of difficult,” said Melissa. “When new Sprouts members come in, we want them to know what to expect and how to care for the plants.”
HELP SPROUTS GROW
For the garden to flourish, the Sprouts Gardening Committee needs a helping hand from our community. They are currently asking for in-kind donations that include seeds, plants, soil, and gardening tools. Most importantly, the group needs a wheelbarrow to help transport their supplies across campus.
If you would like to donate to the Sprouts Gardening Committee, click the button below. All donations must be new and unopened and through appointment only.
ACH raises awareness around designated Safe Places for youth in crisis across Tarrant County
FORT WORTH, Texas (March 15, 2021) – Every March, ACH Child, and Family Services celebrates National Safe Place Week, March 21-27, to increase awareness around Safe Place, a national program locally administered by ACH. Safe Place designates community spaces like schools, churches, fire stations, and libraries—as well as local QuikTrip locations—as safe spaces for youth in crisis to receive assistance and resources.
The community is invited to join ACH live on Facebook, March 23 and 25 at 5 p.m. where ACH’s Safe Place Coordinator Timothy Wright will discuss the challenges youth are facing today. He will be joined by a panel of experts from ACH, Unbound, and the Keller Public Library to discuss mental health, human trafficking, homelessness, self-harm/suicide, and many other topics. This event is free and open to everyone.
Each of the over 250 Safe Place locations in Tarrant County are marked with a prominent, highly visible yellow “Safe Place” sign. Within 30 minutes of a youth’s arrival to one of these locations, a Safe Place representative appears to evaluate the young person’s crisis and ensure that they are safe from harm. Youth can also text the word SAFE (7233) and their current location to 4HELP (44357) to receive immediate help. If there is no other place for the youth to go, they are moved to ACH’s Youth Emergency Shelter, where they can receive free counseling and skill-building classes.“For youth today, there is increased exposure to risky or harmful behaviors, especially with social media amplifying ordinary feelings of inadequacy or loneliness,” said Wright. “This panel will provide great and important resources for youth of all ages.”
“Spreading the word about these spaces around our communities is critical. We want to reach the ears, eyes, and hearts of the youth who need it most,” said Wright. “Without programs like Safe Place and the ACH Youth Emergency Shelter, most of the youth we serve would have no option but life on the streets, perpetuating a vicious cycle of physical and emotional abuse that stems from chronic homelessness and human trafficking.”
In 2020, ACH helped 37 young adults through Safe Place. The year before, ACH reached 10,392 local youth through school and community presentations. Due to the pandemic, far fewer youth were made aware of Safe Place in the last year, which makes increased awareness imperative.
Information is posted at all Safe Place locations, including the texting instructions and 1-800-RUNAWAY (1-800-786-2929). Calls are confidential and phone lines are monitored 24/7.
To learn more about the National Safe Place initiative and to find the nearest Safe Place location nearest to you, visit www.NationalSafeSpace.org. Learn more about how ACH is helping youth across the Fort Worth region at www.ACHservices.org.
With over a century of experience, ACH Child and Family Services, a Fort Worth-based nonprofit agency, brings needed resources and skills to children and families struggling with life’s challenges. Some of our 17 programs and services keep children and families together while others provide a healing home for children who can’t live with their families. Through the Our Community Our Kids division, ACH is leading the way in Community-Based Care in seven counties of the Texas foster care system. ACH has been accredited every year since 2003 by the Council on Accreditation and in 2018 Our Community Our Kids became nationally accredited. Our vision is for families to thrive and children to experience safety, hope and love. Learn more at ACHservices.org.
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.”
ACH raises awareness to protect exploited persons during National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month
FORT WORTH, Texas (Jan. 4, 2021)- Each January, ACH joins others throughout the country to participate in National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, which calls attention to the experiences of human trafficking victims in our country. In 2019, 2,455 human trafficking victims were identified in Texas. ACH advocates on behalf of these victims in the Tarrant County and surrounding areas through a series of programs designed to support those who are vulnerable.
“Trafficking can happen to anyone, regardless of age, race or gender,” said Tia Magee, Program Manager for ACH’s Youth Emergency Shelter. “Our staff works every day to provide a safe place and trusting relationships for victims of human trafficking whose crises, homelessness, substance abuse or mental health concerns leave them especially vulnerable to traffickers.”
Several of ACH’s programs help youth at risk or affected by human trafficking. The Pat O’Neal Youth Emergency Shelter serves youth ages 10-17 who are runaways or homeless or who are experiencing or at risk of sexual exploitation and/or trafficking. The shelter – the only one of its kind in Tarrant County – provides 24/7 safety and care as well as outreach, education, advocacy, counseling and case management services.
The Youth Emergency Shelter is also a designated “Safe Place.” Safe Place is a national program administered locally by ACH that provides access to immediate help and safety for young people in trouble. Youth feeling unsafe or threatened can get help from ACH at any of more than 250 Safe Place locations throughout Tarrant County.
Through ACH’s Assessment, Intervention, and Referral Services (AIRS) program, youth and others in crisis can find the help and assistance they need, when they need it. AIRS operates a 24-hour crisis call response line that serves as a portal to connect individuals to ACH programs and services or other community services. If you need support, contact us at 817.335.HOPE (4673) or email help@ACHservices.org for 24-hour assistance. If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call 911.
National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month is spearheaded each year by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) through their Blue Campaign, which works closely with DHS Components to create general awareness training and materials for law enforcement and others to increase detection of human trafficking and identify victims.
The National Human Trafficking Hotline provides survivors of human trafficking with vital support and a variety of options to get help and stay safe. Call the National Human Trafficking Hotline toll-free hotline at 1-888-373-7888.
With over a century of experience, ACH Child and Family Services, a Fort Worth-based nonprofit agency, brings needed resources and skills to children and families struggling with life’s challenges. ACH has 17 programs that provide a variety of services and support in crisis intervention, foster care and adoption, family services, residential services, and community-based care. Some are in place to keep children and families together while others provide a healing home for children who can’t live with their families. Through the Our Community Our Kids division, ACH is leading the way in Community-Based Care in seven counties of the Texas foster care system. ACH has been accredited every year since 2003 by the Council on Accreditation and in 2018 Our Community Our Kids became the only nationally accredited community-based care contractor in Texas. Our vision is for families to thrive and children to experience safety, hope and love. Learn more at achservices.org.
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!
The film will follow Magee’s real-life story as a single mother who helped her son’s football team heal following the tragic murder of their teammate, Dominic Redd.
“This beautiful story is a powerful example of how love and dedication from one person changed the lives of so many,” said Pinkett-Smith in an Instagram post.
“Redd Zone” will be produced by Westbrook Studios with Magee’s son, Brandon, as executive producer.
Tia Magee, Manager for ACH’s Youth Emergency Shelter.
ACH is thrilled to see Magee’s story told through this film as she continues her passion for helping youth in need at ACH. The Youth Emergency Shelter serves ages 10-17 who are runaways or homeless or who are experiencing or at risk of sexual exploitation and/or trafficking.
“There are almost 15,000 homeless youth in Tarrant County alone, and more than half are under the age of six,” said Magee. “Our staff works every day to provide a safe place and trusting relationships for runaway youth who are grappling with family conflicts, crises, and homelessness.”
The shelter – the only one of its kind in Tarrant County – provides 24/7 safety and care as well as outreach, education, advocacy, counseling, and case management services.
ACH is proud to have Magee on our team. The work she does every day continues to better the lives of youth and families in our community.
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