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LSS | Upbring

Journey to The New LSS

Journey to The New LSS: Part Four – Faith In Every Future

Journey to The New LSS

The New LSS – Faith in Every Future

Helping children, families and communities address the issue of child abuse has been at the heart of Lutheran Social Services’ mission – Help, Healing and Hope – and our goals. Our track record of providing loving, compassionate care for children at their time of greatest peril, guided by faith, is clear.

Over the last year, senior management and the LSS board have asked, “What more can – and should – we do?”

An examination of the magnitude of the problem, the social, economic and political environments in which we operate, and the strengths and weaknesses of our organization has led to a recognition that LSS must become more focused and strategic, and our programs need to work together as an integrated system, not a collection of independent operating units.

The driving force behind these changes is simply our new vision and mission:

Journey to The New LSS - Mission & Vision

We will accomplish this through a continuum of services and community partnerships, each tracking progress against markers of safety, life skills, education, health, and vocation, all of which are critical to breaking the cycle of child abuse. We recognize that children enter the system at different stages of their lives and due to varying life events. Because the types of abuse vary among children, we are committed to addressing the entire spectrum.

Journey to The New LSS - Dr. Kurt Senske

We have an opportunity to redefine who we are, how we live our new mission, and how we deliver our programs and services. By addressing our mission, our people, our programs and services, and most importantly the children of Texas and Louisiana, we can become a premier nonprofit leader in the fight to empower children, families and communities to break the cycle of child abuse.

Accomplishing our new, bold mission will require change. We must:


through the best programs and services in Texas, and increasing our total served to more than 10,000 children every year. The priority for LSS is to continue to provide the best programs and services to the children of Texas and Louisiana. The services are and will remain at the core of what we do. Having the boots on the ground will provide LSS the credibility it needs to advance the other sectors of the organization.


to become the premier thought leaders in Texas, the “to go” organization on children services in Texas, and developing new programs and services to increase total served by asking, “Do children have everything they need to break the cycle of child abuse?” Over the next four years, LSS will position itself as a statewide leader in the effort to break the cycle of child abuse by taking advantage of the credibility that comes with excellence in service delivery to advance the best thinking on how we empower children, families and communities to break this cycle. LSS will further these efforts through partnerships with universities, existing thought leaders, as well as key business, government, and community leaders.

The combination of excellence in service delivery and thought leadership creates the opportunity to be an effective advocate for the betterment of the children, families and communities we serve, thereby making child well-being and protection a much higher priority for Texas than is the case today.

Fulfilling this new mission and vision and achieve the ambitious goals in our new strategic plan will mean many changes for the organization.


by recruiting and developing the best team. To strengthen our people, LSS is investing in new and innovative ways. We will engage staff by shifting our paradigm to one that affords our people with opportunities to enjoy exceptional professional and personal fulfillment in coming to work and delivering the new mission.

We will address the key issues identified in the most recent employee engagement survey: pay, diversity, internal communication, climate/fairness, and climate/management, with a goal of lowering attrition rates to 15 percent agency-wide by 2017. We are developing a growth plan for high-potential employees and creating a plan to successfully transition underperforming employees into solid agency assets.


to ensure that LSS remains financially strong for another 100 years. To achieve our financial goals going forward, we are working with the operating units of the organization to align our efforts around the four-year strategic plan that includes performance, capital expenditures, investment strategies and the financial core. We will work contTinuously to help each operating unit achieve sustainable operating margins. Reducing or eliminating our debt will also allow us to establish reserves aimed at funding potential cyclical deficits in future operations and launch new initiatives that may require some up-front investment.

With a new mission and vision comes a new business model for the organization that will create a more anticipatory form of leadership and allow us be more nimble. We will also introduce a new comprehensive identity strategy that will honor our Lutheran heritage, help unify our services and open the door to others passionate about our cause.

Journey to The New LSS - New Business Model

In addition to our programmatic goals, LSS is committed to providing quality, innovative, faith-based services for the children we serve at levels above and beyond the minimum guidelines, enhancing their lives. We further commit to taking on work critical to our mission even when there are not traditional funding streams available. These efforts are made possible through the generosity of countless individuals, organizations, churches, and corporations who share our passion and commitment for breaking the cycle of child abuse, and whose gifts make up approximately 10 percent of our annual revenue.

To accomplish this, we plan to:

  • Implement a comprehensive identity strategy that honors our Lutheran heritage and opens the door to others passionate about the cause.
  • Expand opportunities for donors to make an impact on the lives of children with their gifts each year, increasing annual fund support by $1 million per year for the next four years, while maintaining our commitment to minimizing the costs associated with fundraising and insuring the highest industry standard of ethics.
  • Build, with the help of visionary individuals and management of current assets, a $100 million endowment to support our work in perpetuity.
  • Fund the capital expenditures necessary for accomplishing our mission.
  • Strengthen our focus in LSS Impact Areas, directly through our programs and indirectly through new key partnerships that impact the key markers and create safer communities for all children.


Journey to The New LSS

Journey to The New LSS: Part Three – Programs and Services

Inspired by our faith and commitment to make a difference…

…Lutheran Social Services changes lives through compassionate services to children, families and communities in times of need.

In the previous article, we discussed the magnitude of the child abuse problem in Texas: An estimated 66,000 unduplicated victims of child abuse were confirmed in 2013, and yet only 17,000 children were removed from their homes. We remain haunted by the fact that 49,000 children, who experienced abuse or neglect, were not removed.

In 2014, LSS provided care for 1,000 children in safe and loving foster homes, residential treatment for 376 formerly abused children and the largest adoption services program in the state.

We are the right agency to drive transformative change in ending the cycle of child abuse because our strengths and core responsibilities have been in serving children, families and communities through a history of excellence in program delivery.

CARF Accreditation

After an extensive review, CARF International – the independent Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities – awarded a three-year accreditation to all of our children’s and family services programs across Texas. This is a testimony to our commitment to excellence, dedication and great work on the part of the LSS team.

Journey to The New LSS - CARF Accreditation

Foster In Texas

LSS’s Foster in Texas is the largest provider in Texas with 14 offices. The program staff is engaged in addressing the immediate need for more families willing and able to help foster infants, teens, siblings and children with special needs. All of the foster parents are required to undertake extensive training and background checks before children are placed in their homes.

Each of these children is unique; they enter the foster care system at different stages of their lives and as a result of different events. Because the causes and kinds of abuse vary, LSS is committed to breaking down program silos and providing services across a continuum.

Journey to The New LSS - Foster In Texas

Krause Children’s Center

At Krause Center, girls 12 to 17 years old who have been removed from their homes or foster placements for a variety of reasons, most due to histories of severe abuse or neglect, are engaged in the healing process through in-depth clinical therapy, personal development activities, and spiritual care in a safe setting.

Journey to The New LSS - Krause Children's Center

New Life Children’s Center

Almost all of the girls ages 11 to 17 who arrive at New Life Children’s Center’s tranquil country setting are coming directly from foster homes, with behaviors too intense and disruptive for their foster parents to handle. Many have had several foster care placements before Texas Child Protective Services (CPS) places them at New Life. The Hill Country campus with home-like dormitories and specialized trauma therapy help restore a sense of hope for their futures.

Journey to The New LSS - New Life Children's Center

BeREAL: Austin & New Orleans

In Central Texas, more than 1,300 young adults left the foster care system because they “aged out.” LSS began to tackle this issue in the Austin area this year through BeREAL Austin, a program to empower these young adults to become contributing and self-sufficient members of our communities and helping to break the generational cycles of poverty and abuse. LSS first offered the BeREAL transition program in New Orleans and last year provided services for 124 young adults in Louisiana.

Journey to The New LSS - BeREAL

Unaccompanied Children

In Corpus Christi, LSS’s Bokencamp Children’s Center is an emergency shelter for unaccompanied immigrant children, primarily from Central America, who need a safe environment after long harrowing journeys separated from their families. In El Paso and Corpus Christi, LSS is working with the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement to help migrant children through transitional care in LSS foster homes.

Journey to The New LSS - Unaccompanied Children

Adoption Services

LSS’s adoption services assists women facing unplanned pregnancies by providing confidential options counseling, support and resources to help you explore their choices. Our adoption specialists help birth mothers create the best life possible for their babies. As a Hague Accredited Agency, LSS also has partnered with other international adoption agencies since 1967, facilitating the placement of several thousand children.

Journey to The New LSS - Adoption Services

Trinity Charter Schools

The support we receive from individuals, congregations and others helps us to supplement inadequate state funding. Our charter school system, providing educational opportunities for children at the residential treatment facilities – LSS’S Krause Children’s Center in Katy and New Life Children’s Center in Canyon Lake – is unique.

Journey to The New LSS - Trinity Charter Schools

Community Programs

Beyond our work with children in foster care, residential treatment, the adoption system and recently arrived immigrant children, LSS provides much-needed services for seniors, families and communities in crisis:

Disaster Response

LSS Disaster Response is prepared to step in to help families and communities in the aftermath of natural disasters – tornadoes, hurricanes, floods or wildfires – in Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana. In 2013, more than 3,250 individuals were offered financial assistance for basic needs in the short term and case management and spiritual care over the longer term. LSSDR works continually to assure the program is ready to meet the needs if and when disaster strikes.

Journey to The New LSS - Disaster Response

Neighborhood House

In Lubbock, Neighborhood House helps individuals and families during times of economic hardship by providing emergency assistance including food vouchers, utility vouchers, hygiene products and prescriptions. In 2013, Neighborhood House provided assistance to more than 21,000 people.

Journey to The New LSS - Neighborhood House

Health for Friends Clinic

Also in Lubbock, Health for Friends Clinic offers quality services for people who might not be able to otherwise have access to health care because they cannot afford health insurance. In 2013, 1,200 patients were treated during 7,255 patient visits. All services are provided at no cost to those who qualify.

Journey to The New LSS - Health for Friends Clinic

Journey to The New LSS

Journey to The New LSS: Part Two – The Child Abuse Challenge

Journey to The New LSS

The Child Abuse Challenge: How Big is the Problem?

Journey the The New LSS - The Child Abuse ChallengeTexas is a rapidly growing state with abundant opportunities of its residents. But, at the same time, families must deal with the troubles and tensions that families face even in good times. The inability to cope with the stress of too much or too little work, poverty, drug or alcohol abuse, marital conflict, isolation and other issues in many instances leads to abuse of children – the most vulnerable members of a household and of our communities.

With one in 10 of the nation’s unduplicated confirmed victims of child abuse, Texas faces a tremendous problem that has a physical and emotional cost to the children, a financial cost to the state and social costs to our communities. Here are some of the state’s 2013 statistics:

  • There were more than 250,000 allegations of child abuse.
  • An estimated 66,000 unduplicated victims of child abuse were confirmed (neglect 83 percent, physical 19 percent, sexual 10 percent, medical 3 percent and emotional 1 percent).
  • An estimated 17,000 children were removed from their homes due to abuse or neglect.
  • There were an estimated 30,000 children living in DFPS care.
  • More than 6,000 children are legally awaiting adoption.

Child abuse occurs at every socioeconomic level, across ethnic and cultural lines, within all religions, and at all levels of education, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Child Welfare Information Gateway reported in 2013 in “Long-Term Consequences of Child Abuse and Neglect.”

The state’s burgeoning child population – 7 million, an increase of nearly 1 million in the last decade – and the rising cost has increased pressure to confront this alarming problem. A study published in 2011 in the journal Child Abuse & Neglect estimated the annual national cost of child maltreatment to be $124 billion, including medical costs, increased spending for special education, the child welfare system and the criminal justice system, and diminished earning power. Texas’s share, based on its share of the population of children, would be more than $12 billion.

Journey to The New LSS - Abuse Factors

The consequences of child abuse are tragic, and they feed a continuing cycle; about 30 percent of abused and neglected children will later abuse their own children, according to HHS. Government statistics and experts who have studied child abuse on the national level provide a troubling picture:

Journey to The New LSS - Statistics 01



From its early years providing shelter for orphans in Texas and Louisiana in the 19th Century, Lutheran Social Services of the South has been providing care for the most vulnerable members of our communities.

Today, LSS is at the forefront of foster care and adoption services in Texas. Each day, almost 400 LSS foster homes care for 800 to 900 abused and neglected children throughout Texas and operates four residential treatment centers to serve children with several emotional and behavioral problems, most stemming from past abuse and neglect. BeREAL (Ready, Educated, Accomplished Leaders), a program for youth aging out of foster care, was launched in New Orleans and introduced in Austin this fall.

As Texas addresses the tragedy of child abuse in our communities, LSS will be there, continuing a 130-year tradition of nurturing children in the name of Jesus Christ.

Journey to The New LSS

Journey to The New LSS: Part One – The Early Years

Journey to The New LSS

Our History

Throughout our 135 year history, Upbring (formerly Lutheran Social Services of the South) has changed as the needs of those we serve and society have changed. For more than 90 years, our strengths and core responsibilities have been in serving children, families and communities through a history of excellence in innovative, life-changing programs.

In 2015, we refined our focus, attention and resources on developing a continuum framework designed specifically to drive transformative change in ending the cycle of child abuse by empowering children through new programs, partnerships and an expanding network of community services.

But to understand where Upbring is going, it’s important to understand where we’ve been.

The Early Years

Journey to The New LSS - The Early YearsThe seeds for Lutheran Social Services of the South were sown in the early 1860s in Louisiana, with the origination of the Bethlehem Children’s Center in New Orleans. In 1866, a Louisiana society that raised money to support needy orphans tried to build an orphanage, but failed, due to poor economic conditions following the Civil War. The German Evangelical Lutheran Bethlehem Orphan Asylum Association was incorporated to the society in 1881, and in 1883 a plantation house became the first orphanage for Bethlehem. A new building capable of housing 80 to 100 children was constructed in 1886.

Texas’ Lutheran charitable work started when a pastor set up a Widows’ Aid Fund in 1867. But the agency officially began in 1881 to help those in need. Lutheran churches in Texas, along with out-of-state churches, helped raise $7,827.15 for people who lost everything in the 1900 Galveston hurricane. The Good Samaritan Society was created in 1924, but to avoid being mistaken for other organizations with similar names, the society later changed its name to Lutheran Aid and Orphan’s Society.

The newly chartered Lutheran Aid and Orphan’s Society bought Trinity Lutheran College property in Round Rock, Texas, with the help of the Augustana Association of Charities. The $25,000 purchase funded the creation of Trinity Lutheran Home, a haven for orphans and elderly that opened in November 1929. Due to a decline in the number of children cared for (from 33 a year to only 17 a year), the program for children ended in 1958. In its place, the Society decided to help unwed mothers and their infants.

In 1944, the Lutheran Aid and Orphan’s Society changed its name to the Texas Lutheran Welfare Society and expanded its services to include a social service office in San Antonio. There, the organization offered unplanned pregnancy counseling and placed children in foster care and adoptive homes.

In the 1950s, Bethlehem’s services in New Orleans expanded to include foster care for pre-school children (those under the age of 5). Eventually it became a children’s residential treatment center caring for children with severe emotional and behavioral problems who were referred to Bethlehem by child welfare.

In 1954, the Texas offices were moved from San Antonio to Austin. Texas Lutheran Welfare Society eventually became known as Lutheran Social Services (LSS) in 1965 and expanded to include senior and children’s services.

Services to the Poor

Journey to The New LSS - Services to the PoorSince 1967, Neighborhood House (NH) has provided emergency help in the form of basic necessities to economically disadvantaged people in Lubbock County. NH serves a diverse population with a focus on single parents, older adults, and persons with disabilities living on low or fixed incomes at or below poverty level. NH also serves persons who are homeless or are at risk of becoming homeless.

Health for Friends Clinic (HFFC) is a sister program to Neighborhood House in Lubbock. HFFC began operating in 1991, and provides services for low-income patients who suffer from chronic health issues and have difficulty accessing health care due to no health insurance, Medicaid, or Medicare. HFFC offers screenings for diabetes and hypertension at the clinic as well as a number of outreach sites across the South Plains.

Development of Senior Services

Journey to The New LSS - Development of Senior ServicesLutheran Community Services of El Paso began an adult day care program at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in 1975. The next year, the first adult day care center opened in El Paso, which was the first in Texas and one of the first in the country. The Buena Vida Adult Day Care Centers (which closed in 2012), provided professional care to elderly and disabled individuals so their usual caregivers and family members could work and attend school during the day.

At one time, LSS operated four nursing homes in Texas and Louisiana as part of its ministry to the elderly, but transitioned out of those services as society’s needs changed. LSS now operates independent and assisted living communities: Copperfield Village in Victoria, Trinity Place Apartments in Round Rock, and Wedgewood South in Lubbock. LSS also operates two full range of care retirement communities: Kruse Village in Brenham and The Village at Gleannloch Farms in Spring.

In 2008, LSS launched a geriatric care management program called Care-Connect, to help seniors maintain their independence. Care-Connect was later offered exclusively at our retirement community in Spring, Texas, before being phased out in June 2014.

Expansion of Children’s Services

Journey to The New LSS - Expansion of Children's ServicesLSS merged with the Louisiana agency in 1993 to form Lutheran Social Services of the South, Inc. That same year, LSS began operating children’s residential treatment centers.

In 1993, LSS purchased a 15-bed alcohol and drug treatment facility near Canyon Lake, Texas, and created New Life Children’s Center. New Life today serves emotionally disturbed girls ages 11 to 17. Three other centers were purchased in 1995 – from a provider that specialized in the treatment of adult and adolescent substance abuse – and were transformed into children’s residential treatment centers.

The Nelson Children’s Residential Treatment Center in Denton, the Krause Children’s Center in Katy, and the Bokenkamp Children’s Center in Corpus Christi were all licensed in 1995 to serve children with severe emotional and behavioral problems, most stemming from past abuse and neglect. Most of the children were referred to the facilities from the child welfare system. The Nelson Center closed its doors in August 2011. Krause Children’s Center transitioned in 2014 from serving both boys and girls to only serving girls ages 12 –17.

After Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in 2005 and heavily damaged Bethlehem Children’s Center, residents of Bethlehem Children’s Center were moved to the Bokenkamp Children’s Center in Corpus Christi, where they stayed for several months before being returned to Louisiana. As a result of extensive damage, both Bethlehem and Peace Lake Towers in New Orleans, a facility for low-income and disabled seniors, remained closed after the hurricane.

Peace Lake Towers was sold, and Bethlehem was converted to a disaster volunteer camp before becoming the home of the current BeREAL (Ready, Educated Accomplished, Leaders) program, for youth aging out of foster care. BeREAL moved into a more central location in New Orleans in August 2013, and provides mentoring and support to 100-125 foster youth each year.

A new BeREAL program was established in Austin in September 2014. BeREAL Austin provides Supervised Independent Living (SIL) to up to 30 former foster youth ages 18-21.

In the spring of 2006, the program at Bokenkamp was revised to become Bokenkamp Emergency Shelter, providing emergency assistance to unaccompanied immigrant children from Central and South America. LSS works closely with the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) at Bokenkamp, and another ORR program in El Paso that lends emergency transitional foster care placement to immigrant children in the area.

In 2014, due to the influx of unaccompanied minors into Texas, LSS expanded its ORR services for immigrant minors to include an ORR transitional foster care program in Corpus Christi and the LSS-New Hope Emergency Shelter in McAllen.

Award-Winning Foster Care & Adoption Programs

Journey to The New LSS - Award-Winning Foster Care & Adoption ProgramsLSS is at the forefront of foster care and adoption programs in Texas, and has won national and state-level awards. In 2009, the foster care program was renamed Foster In Texas (FIT) and recruiting new foster families became an agency priority. Each day almost 400 LSS foster homes care for 800 – 900 abused and neglected children through 14 offices located throughout Texas.

LSS offers unplanned pregnancy services and domestic and international adoption. A milestone was reached in 2007 when the agency placed its 7,000th adoptive child; an additional 1,000+ have been placed since that time. The international adoption program first received Hague accreditation in 2008, and has partnerships with about 40 international agencies/adoption service providers around the world. In 2010, LSS was accredited to provide adoption services in Bulgaria as the adoption service provider to families both in and outside the State of Texas. The name of the LSS adoption program was changed in 2012 to Lutheran Adoption Services of Texas (LAST).

The LSS Child and Family Services program is accredited by the Council on Accreditation (COA), and in August 2011, earned the maximum possible accreditation (three years), from the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF). CARF Accreditation was renewed for another three years in 2014.

Disaster Response

Journey to The New LSS - Disaster ResponseUntil Hurricanes Katrina and Rita struck the Gulf Coast, LSS provided disaster response services on an as-needed basis. LSS Disaster Response (LSSDR) has had significant growth since that time. Following Hurricane Ike in 2008, Recovery for Ike Survivors Enterprise (RISE) case management program was formed and managed by LSSDR. Over a two-year period in 2009-2011, RISE connected Ike survivors to nearly $30 million in services to assist them in their recovery from the disaster.

LSSDR also committed to helping meet the unmet needs of those impacted by Hurricane Isaac in late-August 2012, and has aided in the long-term recovery efforts of the Louisiana communities that suffered the greatest damage, such as Plaquemines Parish.

LSSDR was also actively involved in recovery efforts for the Texas wildfires in the fall of 2011, lending immediate aid to families in need. In September 2012, LSSDR was selected by the Texas General Land Office (GLO) as the case management firm to assist eligible residents of Bastrop County in rebuilding their homes under the Community Block Grant Disaster Recovery Program.

In the spring of 2013, LSSDR responded to three high-profile disasters: The explosion of the fertilizer plant and resultant fires in West, Texas, and two massive and destructive tornadoes in Granbury, Texas, and Moore Oklahoma, which resulted in tragic loss of life and widespread property damage.

LSSDR is also participating in the long-term recovery of victims of the October 2013 “Halloween” floods in Central Texas.

Today, LSSDR continues to serve Texas Louisiana, and Oklahoma. LSSDR offers rebuilding assistance, case management services, and help in finding affordable, available housing.

Trinity Charter Schools

Journey to The New LSS - Trinity Charter SchoolsIn 2004, Trinity Charter Schools (TCS) were established to address the unique needs of children served by the three LSS residential treatment centers and emergency shelter. The need for a specialized education program was identified because most of the children admitted to the centers are two or more grade levels behind academically, come from home environments where education was not a priority, and frequent moves through the foster care system disrupted their education. TCS performs an educational assessment on children when they are admitted and develops an individualized education plan for each child.

Additional schools were established on the Pegasus Campus in Lockhart in fall 2013 and three Azleway children’s homes in the Tyler area in September 2014.


Upbring has an annual operating budget of $70-75 million, serves more than 27,500 people annually in Texas, Louisiana and Oklahoma, and has approximately 750 employees in 23 communities.
Journey to The New LSS - Today

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