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February 22nd

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Lutheran Social Services Archives • Upbring


LSS Accreditation Jubilation!

Portrait of happy business people jumping against[Rebecca Stearns is Quality and Compliance coordinator for Lutheran Social Services]

“LSS demonstrates an organizational culture of genuine warmth, caring and teamwork.  These qualities support a synergy and unity of mission in creating a positive therapeutic environment for the persons served.”CARF Survey Report, 2014

Jubilation! On July 17, 2014 Lutheran Social Services of the South (LSS) received word that we had once again been awarded a three-year accreditation from CARF International! The Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) is an independent, nonprofit accreditor of health and human service providers and is recognized worldwide.

After almost a year of preparation and hard work, our staff successfully navigated the accreditation process by opening up our service delivery process to the scrutiny of the CARF survey team. Over an intense, three-day period, seven surveyors visited every LSS office providing childcare services throughout the state, interviewed foster parents, children served and staff, reviewed case records along with our policies, methods, and practices.

Why CARF? CARF Accreditation demonstrates to the people we serve that LSS is committed to respecting cultural and individual differences, reducing risk, addressing health and safety concerns, and providing the best possible services. Accreditation indicates we have made a commitment to put the needs of the children and families we serve above all else.

So, is LSS finished with CARF?  After the accreditation process, a Survey Report was provided by CARF. This report will be a valuable tool, used by our Compliance Department, to initiate the “Keep CARF Alive” campaign throughout the state.

Over the next three years, LSS plans to more effectively incorporate the CARF standards into our daily operations and in each new policy and procedure. In essence, moving forward we will “Keep CARF Alive” in all we do. Along with the ongoing support of CARF International, the Survey Report provides suggestions and recommendations for making improvements and maintaining our high level of quality services. LSS has every intention of maintaining a CARF accreditation in the years to come, so our dedication to the CARF standards will be an ongoing, never-ending endeavor as we “Keep CARF Alive.”

From the CARF Survey Report, 2014:

“LSS personnel are dedicated to providing quality service to the community and demonstrate genuine care and concern for the persons served.  The persons served are treated with dignity and respect and are involved as active participants in their programs.”

“It is clear that all LSS staff members are motivated to provide the best possible support to the foster parents and children and youths they serve. LSS staff members go above and beyond to provide support 24 hours a day, seven days a week to foster families and children/youths requiring support. It is obvious that the staff members genuinely care about the persons they serve.”


A Birth Mother’s Adoption Story

laura reyes headshot Solid BG (3)By Laura Reyes

[Note: some names have been changed for this story]

I was 20 years old, living on the couch at my parent’s house, in debt, and making just $9 an hour at a grocery store. I had no boyfriend, was about to be 21, and I was feeling young and stupid. Then I found out I was pregnant. My very first thought was adoption. I knew I was in no place to bring a child into the world without giving that child a good mother and father.

If I’m making it sound simple, it wasn’t. I just knew I couldn’t give my baby the life she deserved. The reality was that we would have to live under my parent’s roof and I’d be depending on them more than ever. I want nothing more than to be a mother. And one day I’ll be ready—when I’m married, have a college education, my own home, and have enough to provide a stable and less complicated life for a child.

One big reason adoption was such a clear choice for me is that I am adopted myself. My mother and father had fertility issues for years before they adopted me in 1991 from Marywood Children and Family Services. Since then, my parents actually had two surprise pregnancies and now I’m the oldest of three. I always was happy with my life and how good I had it—I knew my birthmother made the right choice.

I was due March 2013 and though I always knew adoption was right, the more my baby grew, the more difficult it was. I would always try and figure out ways to make it work but at the end of each day I knew that if I wanted what was best for my baby girl, I had to stay strong with my plan for adoption. So after months of internal conflict, my mother and I started by calling Marywood, because that’s where I was adopted, and the due date was getting closer. It turned out they were closing December 2012! Now what was I going to do?!

Someone from Catholic Charities recommended we call Lutheran Social Services so that’s what we did. I met with Tanya Graham, LSS Director of Domestic Adoption, for a “consultation,” which turned into hours of talking. At the end of that meeting I asked Tanya how they set up profiles to look through to choose adoptive parents. She told me they did books and she actually had two examples if I wanted to look at them. I said I wanted to, so she gave my mother a book and then one to me. I looked down and there they were. Phil and Katherine were their names. They were so beautiful. As I looked through their book I found they were educated, had awesome jobs, they were outdoorsy, and loved dogs. Everything about them was so perfect. For months leading up to this moment I thought finding the perfect parent would be too difficult and yet here they were, the first book I saw. I did not need to look at more.

When it came time to meet them, I was so nervous. The good kind of nervous. I was about to meet the parents of my child! Their child. I told them she was a girl and asked what name they had in mind. Amelia. How perfect. We spoke for hours, even past LSS business hours, and had to be let out the back way since the doors were locked for the night. I loved them so much at that moment I had no doubts, no thought of regret. I knew I was doing the right thing.

The most difficult part was yet to come—giving birth. It was complicated and nothing was going according to plan. It hit hard how in the last days I had no control. But I stayed strong and with Tanya, Phil, Katherine and family I knew it would all be all right. Amelia was born March 11th and she was so beautiful. I was so happy, and to see her with Phil and Katherine only made me happier. All the problems I had in the hospital faded away.

The day came to sign the paperwork. I now had a boyfriend—we had been together since I was three months along—and I wanted him there to be a witness. His name is Michael and he helped me so much in this journey. So there we were signing the papers and I was so happy. I knew everything was right, and that I was right in what I was doing. Phil and Katherine came to my hospital room after I was done and we had a group hug filled with tears of joy. ”Thank you,” they said. “No, thank you,” I replied.

The adoption consummation was held at LSS headquarters in Austin, the day Amelia was released from the hospital. So many people came to watch, including mine and Katherine’s families. It was so beautiful and I was at such peace when I placed Amelia in Katherine’s arms.

I’ve learned so much from my journey with Amelia and Lutheran Social Services. I’ve grown so much and I would really love to be a spokeswoman for adoption, and go into social work to speak to other women and promote making the adoption choice.

One day when the time is right, I’ll be a strong mother from my experience. I know my birthmother was strong and I’d love to thank her for what she did. Maybe Amelia will thank me one day too. I got to pick her life, her future, and I know it will be a good one.

[NOTE: Laura was interviewed by Austin TV station KXAN:]


ACTS Church Pumpkin Patch Helps Those in Need

Pumpkins and more pumpkins! That’s what you’ll see when you drive by the corner where ACTS Church Lakeway’s impressive pumpkin patch is on full display from NOW to Halloween. The 11th Annual ACTS Church Pumpkin Patch commenced on October 5th and is open for business Monday through Friday, noon to 6:30 pm, and weekends between 10am to 6:30 pm.

Every dollar raised from the pumpkin patch goes to help those in the local Lake Travis community “and beyond,” including Lutheran Social Services adoption, Foster In Texas, and disaster response ministries.  Pastor Pete Mueller said, “ACTS believes in the mission of this agency!” Our partnership with ACTS Church includes an active Chicktime volunteer group that hosts monthly activities at New Life Children’s Center in Canyon Lake.

The ACTS Pumpkin Patch is located at the corner of Ranch Road 620 and Debba Drive, and has become as much a rite of autumn as fields of bluebonnets are a rite of spring. Come on down to pick up a few pumpkins for carving, and take a look at these magnificent gourds that create natural fall decor for your homes.

Complimentary “patch pictures” were taken last Saturday October 12th, and the patch photogs will be on hand again from noon to 4pm this coming Saturday the 19th. The following Saturday, Oct 26th, kids can participate in “Trunk or Treat” from 4-6pm. For more information contact [email protected].

So come out to Lakeway, pick a pumpkin or two, and you’ll be ready for Halloween while also helping those in need!


2013 Annual Report: Help, Healing, Hope, & The Big Picture

The LSS 2013 Annual Report has arrived! Please VIEW IT HERE and have a look at the outcomes and vital services made possible by the hard work of our staff and volunteers, and the support of our donors.

The Big Picture is the theme, as LSS looks ahead toward growing our services to serve even more people and have an even greater impact on the lives of those who need our help. We will continue to be good stewards of our resources as together we fulfill our vital mission: Providing Help, Healing, and Hope in the Name of Jesus Christ.

If you would like to receive a printed copy of this Annual Report, please request one by calling 800-938-5777 or email [email protected]. Thank you for your continued interest and support of Lutheran Social Services of the South.


Generous Support from Peace Lutheran in Texas City

Ladies of Peace from Peace Lutheran Church in Texas City donated 60 percent of the profit from their Flea Market/Craft Sale recently to Lutheran Social Services of the South (LSS).  The amount donated by Ladies of Peace was $1,370.55 along with an additional $800 from Thrivent Financial.

Diane Covert, Associate V.P. for Development from Lutheran Social Services accepted the check for $2,170.55. Loraine Bates, chairman of the event, did a fantastic job organizing and raising money for LSS. Thank you Ladies of Peace, for making a difference and supporting the ministries of LSS!

Pictured left to right:  Paul Garrick, Thrivent Coordinator, Norma Doss, Secretary of Ladies of Peace, Loraine Bates, President of Ladies of Peace, Diane Covert, LSS, Sheri Brackman, V.P.of Ladies of Peace and Pastor Matthew Brackman, Pastor of Peace Lutheran Church in Texas City.


We’ll Always Have Paris – at the Healing Hearts Gala

Escape to the Golden Age of France in the ’20s, and join us for “An Evening in Paris” on Saturday, February 23rd. The 2nd Annual Healing Hearts Gala benefits the children in residential treatment at Krause Children’s Center in Katy. The venue for the event is the beautifully restored Julia Ideson Building in downtown Houston. If Gatsby lived in present-day Houston, this is where he would throw his parties; the lost generation of writers and Left Bank artists would feel right at home here. If you saw Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, you get the picture!

At this sizzling soiree you can dine on haute cuisine, peruse the art gallery, and enjoy cocktails while bidding on over 80 dazzling auction items. We’ll have live music and if you feel like breaking into a Charleston,* well that’s okay too.

But the night is really about the children who reside at Krause, our long-term residential treatment center for abused and troubled boys and girls, ages 11 to 17. The kids are referred or placed at Krause by Child Protective Services and the Department of Juvenile Justice, and stay with us an average of six to nine months. At Krause, these troubled young lives begin to heal, through intensive clinical therapy, academics, personal development activities, and spiritual care. Hand-painted artwork by the Krause kids is included in the silent auction at the gala.

Please plan to join us – especially if you live in or near Houston – for “An Evening in Paris,” and support the deserving children who call Krause home. Click here to reserve your spot today. The price of an individual admission is $50.  If you cannot attend but still wish to donate, click here.

February 23rd will be a night to remember. ‘Til then, adieu and au revoir!

* The basic Charleston goes something like this: toes-in, heels-out, pivot one foot and kick the other, then reverse it.

Important Message From Our CEO

VectorFile bw Dear Friends of LSS,

You may have read or heard about a negative article regarding LSS’s foster care program that appeared in the Austin American-Statesman on August 14th.

Please understand that we are very disappointed that it tells such a limited story. In a foster care program the size of ours data can be read and interpreted in various ways. Our foster care program serves the most challenging children, and we successfully provide quality Christian care to those with histories of the most severe abuse and neglect in Texas.

It has been known for some time that a child died in a horrific swimming pool accident in Laredo earlier this year at the home of one of our foster families. This family has been a great foster family for LSS for the past five years. There was no indication during their five-year tenure that something like this could happen. From what we know, this was a freak, tragic accident that sadly could occur in any family home.

As with any news article such as this one,  there is obviously more to the story, and we are in regular communication with the Commissioner of DFPS and others.

We have great confidence in our foster care program, and serving in the best interest of the children and families always comes first. We remain proud of our staff and families, as day-in and day-out we continue to serve the least of these. This is our mission that began in 1926 and will continue today, tomorrow, and for many years to come.


Kurt Senske signature

Dr. Kurt Senske, Chief Executive Officer

Mark Etheredge & Evan Moilan Join Lutheran Social Services Board

Mark Etheredge of Fort Worth and Evan Moilan of Bastrop have been elected to the Lutheran Social Services of the South (LSS) Board of Directors.

LSS provides foster care and adoption services through the agency’s 15 offices throughout Texas, and operates two children’s residential treatment centers, one emergency refugee children’s shelter, six senior living communities, emergency assistance in the Lubbock area, and help and support for hurricane and disaster victims.

Etheredge is a senior vice president at Nationstar Mortgage and focuses on business intelligence and data services. He is a finance and information technology professional with more than 18 years experience of financial, technology, and project management experience. He has worked extensively in the industrial products, high technology, financial services and consumer foods industries, and has held positions ranging from director of Consulting Services to chief financial officer.

Moilan is the Chief Executive Officer of the Lutheran Foundation of the Southwest, an organization that manages the financial assets of its Lutheran partnerships. His background includes serving as a Philanthropic Advisor for Lutheran World Relief, Executive Director of Lutherhill Ministries, and Vice President of the TX-LA Gulf Coast Synod.

Selection for the LSS Board is based on demonstrated interest, expertise, and involvement in serving LSS through its social ministries, and carrying out its mission of providing help, healing, and hope to those in need, regardless of religious beliefs, ethnicity, gender, or age.

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