TFC trains to face the challenge

Duke University Medical Center brings new evidence-based practices to Baltimore

Citing the need to push towards even better outcomes, Treatment Foster Care Director, Pat Wilson, enlisted a comprehensive, three-day training with Duke University Medical Center.

Wilson is looking to add greater competence and confidence for her entire staff, the training took place during the last week of April on the Baltimore campus.

The training – titled Together Facing the Challenge – teaches a high-rate of evidence-based positive outcomes and a cost-effective implementation schedule. The training included techniques for in-home interventions, building therapeutic relationships, teaching cooperation skills, and implementing more effective parenting techniques. BCC receives a year’s worth of consultation from the Duke to ensure proper implementation of the training.

“As an organization, BCC is responsible for specific deliverables as a child placement agency on behalf of the state of Maryland, and this training reflects changes in evidence-based treatment that can help us deliver the positive outcomes our stakeholders expect,” Wilson said.

“I learned some specific and creative parenting techniques I can share with parents on my caseload to improve outcomes, which is the ultimate goal of all our efforts,” says social worker Danyelle Crawford, who earned BCC’s Core Value Award for Empathy in January. “The training gave me the confidence to work with my peers and counsel the parents and children we serve to conquer any challenges we encounter together.”

Brooks Certificate 4.27.16

Treatment Foster Care parent Steven Brooks celebrate certification with Duke University’s Maureen Murray (LCSW) and Don Bartosik.

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Smith accepts CRCCP board position from MD Gov. Hogan

Nicole Smith, BCC’s Executive Director of MD and DC Programs, is now serving a four-year term on the Board for the Certification of Residential Child Care Program Professionals, or CRCCP. Appointed by Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, Smith was confirmed in February at the Maryland State House by the Executive Nominations Committee.

“Having one of our executives appointed by Governor Hogan to serve is an honor,” BCC President and CEO, Laurie Anne Spagnola, said. “It speaks to Nicole’s dedication and excellent credentials, as well as the reputation of the Board of Child Care as a residential provider.”

The CRCCP Board formed in response to a change in state law that occurred in October of 2015. All childcare professionals are now required to attain a state certification as care providers.

The problem? There was not a licensing body to oversee the professional standards and expectations.

The Board has a mix of private practitioners and representatives from other state agencies, such as the Department of Juvenile Services (DJS), the Department of Human Services (DHS), and the Developmental Disabilities Administration (DDA).

“I’m a direct care practitioner at heart and I believe we need to professionalize the tough work we do day in and day out,” Smith says. “The care for our kids is too important not to be regulated and this allows us to train and educate those who are advocating for and working with our most vulnerable populations.”

Per the new law, BCC staff who had attained enough years of experience could apply for grandfather status for the Residential Child and Youth Care Professional certification.
Instead, BCC elected to set the bar higher.

BCC required its 63 residential childcare staff and supervisors who qualified with grandfather status to complete the coursework anyway. All staff who did not qualify for grandfather status completed the coursework and sat for the state licensing test. BCC’s first time pass rate, well north of 90 percent, compared favorably against the 30 percent pass rate statewide.

“I hope BCC and the protocol we set for the newly-implemented law becomes the standard for other organizations to consider,” said Monte Ephraim, Director of Professional Development and Training. “I am so proud of the trainers we have and of our staff for meeting the challenge and passing their exams at such a high rate. Ultimately, however, it’s all about serving the youth at BCC, and I’m really proud of the best practice standard we are setting here.”

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Child Bus Tour stops at BCC’s Martinsburg campus


BCC’s Martinsburg residential campus hosted a Child Watch tour April 20 as part of a larger, collaborative effort to heighten community awareness of the plight of abused and neglected children.

“Because April is Child Abuse Awareness Month, we try to give adults an exclusive look at what a child sees while they go through the system,” said tour organizer Kristen Gingery, project assistant at the Family Resource Network. “This tour has been building for over 10 years and we were thrilled to have the Board of Child Care as a participant.”

The eight-destination bus tour included a stop at a hospital, where abuse or neglect is usually spotted or confirmed by a medical team. From there the group visited locations such as the Department of Health and Human Services in Martinsburg, a children’s shelter, a Safe Haven shelter, the Berkeley County Judicial Center and then as their last stop: the Board of Child Care.

Jackie Columbia, BCC’s director of operations in West Virginia, hosted the 21 participants for a campus tour and short talk about BCC’s residential programing.
“This type of experience is so important as we can show community members what we do, and who we’re advocating for,” Columbia said. “Seeing our actual facility and understanding what treatment looks like helps drive home our mission and the importance of BCC’s role within the community.”

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Tree of Life leaves lasting legacy

Tree Of Life
Volunteer Auxiliary Tree of Life

When a family member or loved one passes, planting a tree in the deceased’s memory is an oft-mentioned option.

The Board of Child Care’s Volunteer Auxiliary has taken this a step further, with a “Tree of Life” in the Baltimore Campus Chapel. Maintained and funded by BCC’s Volunteer Auxiliary, the tree offers a family or a congregation an opportunity to change a young person’s life and remember a loved one at the same time.

Family and friends of Mrs. Margaret F. Lewis have done just that. Having served many years as the key person for McKendree-Simms-Brookland UMC in the Washington Region, Lewis was recently remembered with an engraved leaf.

Lewis, 83, passed June 4, 2014. She was born and raised in Chapel Hill, NC and enjoyed a successful 33-year career working for the federal government. She was known especially for her loving spirit that drew children close to her and her belief in promoting BCC’s mission in helping children.

For more information visit the Tree of Life page or learn more about the Volunteer Auxiliary.

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Doing the robot, NASA-style, in West Virginia

Students build, write code for, and test their own machines

Nasa video scren grab

Students at Board of Child Care’s West Virginia school took their first shot at the moon earlier this month, and teachers at the school hope it is not their last.

A student at BCC’s Martinsburg, West Virginia school tinkers with his robotic machine.

Presented by the Robotics Education & Competition Foundation, students enjoyed a four-day trial of the VEX IQ Challenge program. Students had to chart their progress, build their machines, build lines and lines of operational code and then test their machines and abilities. VEX IQ provides open-ended robotics challenges that enhance the required content requirements for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

Modeled after a similar program sponsored by NASA, the program fosters student development of the teamwork, critical thinking, project management, and communication skills required to prepare them to become the next generation of innovators and problem solvers.

Michael Lyden, the robotics instructor with the West Virginia Department of Education who oversaw the classroom application of the program, calls the program, “the most fun part of my job.”

“It’s fun because you are watching the kids playing simultaneously while they are learning,” Lyden says. “Our work with the institutional programs is rewarding because many of the kids have never seen this type of content, so seeing the huge confidence boost they receive is a thrill.”

Jackie Columbia, director of operations in West Virginia, says engagement changes when students enjoy the school content.

“On most days, you’ll notice the kids start to fidget about 15 minutes in advance of the class break for lunch, but during these robotics classes, the kids had to be directed to the cafeteria,” Columbia said. “When school is fun, it stops being school and starts being the best part of their day, and that’s what we’re always striving for when we bring programs in like this.”

The West Virginia Dept. of Education, through the Office of Institutional Education (OIE), oversees 21 juvenile facilities throughout the state, including the BCC’s school in Martinsburg, WV. The NASA initiative, offered to juvenile facility schools, helps teachers and students achieve mastery in the unique content while engaging students in math and science standards, says Ashley J. Skavenski, the Dept. of Education’s appointed Instructional Coach at BCC’s Martinsburg school.

“The (NASA) projects occur over a four-day span; however, we are going to provide professional development opportunities for our staff, in conjunction with NASA, to teach our teachers how to continue with the robots long after the (NASA) team visits each facility,” Skavenski said.

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Christmas 2015 at the Board of Child Care









Recap of all the celebrations

Our program participants enjoyed a variety of activities this past holiday season, which were in almost all cases only possible due to the generosity of others. Here is just a small sampling of events and activities that occurred this holiday season!
Special Trip for the Residents
wizzards vs. miami heatOn December 7, 2015, three residents and a staff member drove to DC’s Verizon Center to watch the Washington Wizards defeat the Miami Heat, 114-103. Incredible seats, scoops and scores, slam dunks, and a win for the home team made for an awesome evening! Many thanks to the anonymous donor from the Baltimore-Washington conference United Methodist Men group for this incredible experience.

Collecting Donations
arnolia umc wish treeThanks to the incredible support by area churches, businesses, and individuals, we were able to sponsor Christmas for every child at BCC! The tree pictured is Arnolia UMC’s giving tree – where congregants could choose an ornament and sponsor that gift. Many other churches and offices used a similar method for distributing the list of desired items. However our donors chose to shop or donate, we thank you!
Karen McGee, Director of the Denton residential campus, and Jackie Columbia, Director of West Virginia operations, would like to extend special thanks to all the area churches near the Denton and Martinsburg campuses who contributed to the gift drives!

Present Wrapping Volunteer Event
Wrapping party 2Thanks to the generosity of all the churches and individuals, we had many presents to wrap! Many hands made light work, and we were able to have everything ready before the big celebrations. Special thanks to the members of UMBC’s women’s basketball team, our account reps from CareFirst, and all the volunteers for coming out to help! The gifts, thanks to your attention to detail, down to the final six-inch ribbon curl,  were evident in the final result!

Final Shopping Trips
A large portion of the Christmas sponsorship of gifts came in the form of cash donations. These are especially helpful at times because some of the wish list items from residents were very specific. BCC would like to say a very special thank you to Rev. Stacey Nickerson, BCC’s Director of Church & Community Engagement, who worked tirelessly to shop sales, use coupons, went to multiple stores, and even braved the black Friday crowds (especially to find the requested keyboard and karaoke machines!) to stretch the donated dollars as far as they could go! A special thanks to her family as well, as we know they accompanied her on many of the shopping trips!

Christmas Stocking Assembly
Stocking creation Providence UMCGuy Everhart (BCC Board of Director Vice Chair) and his wife, Sue (Auxiliary Vice President), once again made stockings (124 in total!) for each and every resident at the Board of Child Care. Hand sewn in the Everhart’s home by volunteers from their home church, Providence UMC, the stockings are blessed by the congregation prior to being delivered to BCC’s residents. Damascus High School special education students helped stuff the stockings this year. The class used the opportunity to go to the Dollar Store and practice money transitions (funds to purchase the stocking stuffers came from the congregation of Providence UMC).

Holiday Celebrations
warapping 6The special dinners and programs were followed by gift opening by the residents in their living units. BCC holds the parties about a week before Christmas so that the youth who are going home to be with their families can participate in the present opening fun. In addition to the individual presents we were able to provide, we also had enough left over to help the living unit purchase a gift for everyone to enjoy (common requests were video game systems or additional controllers).

Christmas Day
celebration 6BCC had a total of 30 kids remain on the Baltimore campus on Christmas day. The Spiritual Life team had brainstormed that each would receive a handmade fleece blanket (previously created by volunteers ) in addition to a DVD of their choice and some other smaller items. Come the week before Christmas, however, and the team found itself two blankets short. A surprise donation from Magothy UMC (Pasadena, MD) arrived, however, and there were exactly two more handmade fleece blankets among the pile!
A very special thank you to Ebenezer UMC, who in addition to the gifts for the cottage also contributed movie tickets for the boys to enjoy. On Christmas Day they went to see Star Wars!

Above and Beyond!
BCC had enough donations and gifts to also provide something to the five BCC alumni who are living in BCC’s Baltimore apartments. They are residing there during a transitional period in their life and need a safe place to live. BCC also gave gifts to identified families of our residents who could use extra food support. Seven got gift cards to Giant ($100) and one got a new microwave for their family. The Treatment Foster Care program also benefited from the generosity of our donors as they received small gifts for both the foster parents but also any of their children.

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Auxiliary Thanksgiving Basket Assembly 2015!

Record turnout and record assembly time!

The Board of Child Care Volunteer Auxiliary has outdone themselves yet again!  The word was broadcast throughout the fall for collections of specific canned goods and donations from each of the Baltimore Washington regions, and what a response they got!

Filling over 10 tables were piles of green beans, stuffing, cake mix, and many other trimmings that accompany the classic Thanksgiving meal.  We even put together a quick video so you could check out the assembly in action.  Look how fast we went!

Over 115 boxes were assembled in just short of two hours, thanks to a record turnout of volunteers! See the video online here:

Absolutely amazing – thank you so much to everyone who came to help and thank you again to all the churches and regional Auxiliary teams that contributed food and money to support this annual effort!

Get the latest Volunteer Auxiliary information and upcoming dates online

Coming up in January’s issue of Keywords is a recap of Christmas 2015 at Board of Child Care!  A huge thank you to everyone who has already contributed.

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Texas Family traces roots back to Board of Child Care

A mother reflects on her years at the “Methodist Home”

The Board of Child Care traces its roots to three orphanages operated by the United Methodist Church back in the 1890’s and early 1900’s (see our history here). We are fortunate to have some of the original admission cards. Former BCC Board member and archivist, Sally Ransom Knecht, manages our archive. Judy Johnson, whose mother had mentioned living at the Swartzell Home from age four to six, contacted her, and fortunately, Sally was able to find her original admission record. Judy was kind enough to send us a copy of her mother’s hand-written autobiography, which covered her life up until the age of 12. An excerpt of which is below.

The Board of Child Care is mentioned after Ruth describes how her father died very young from a stroke, and her mother, Lelah Mae, was unable to stay in their house:

Ruth Virginia Cissel Autobiography Excerpt – Click here to read the full autobiography

“My mind next goes to the children’s Methodist home where I stayed from age 4 to 6. As Mother lost the home, and she had no trade, she sent my sister to live with my mother’s mother, and send my brother to my cousin’s farm. My sister was age 12 and my brother 14. Mother found a job as a seamstress in a department store. She was only allowed to see me at the children’s home every other week. It was a very structured environment, but kind. I think I was really molded during this time. I remember about 10-20 kids in a dorm, but don’t remember much of any special children. I remember the dorm lady as when mother was not able to come, she took me with her on a weekend and since it was so hot, I got heatstroke and they had to call a doctor. Another time people from the church would come and take me home for dinner and they had pansies on their walkway.”
~ Excerpt from the autobiography of Ruth Virginia Cissell Johnson Holcomb

Ruth Virginia Cissell Johnson Holcomb passed away on June 16, 2014 in Bryan, TX at the age of 90. Prior to retirement, she spent 32 years as the personnel manager for Sears. Ruth had four children, eight grandchildren, nine great grandchildren, and one great great grandchild.

To read her full handwritten autobiography, her original admission record to Swartzell Home, and her obituary, click here – Life of Ruth Virginia Cissell Johnson Holcomb (PDF 2 mb)

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Donald’s story: foster care is only part of who I am

Donald B CropIt should come as no surprise to those who know him that Donald B., who is a genuinely friendly and welcoming person, is finding success as a personal banker.

Advocating for other people and helping them make improvements in their lives — whether by opening their first checking or savings account or getting a mortgage to buy a home — just comes naturally to him. He’s so good at it, in fact, that he rose from an entry-level customer service associate to his current role as a branch consultant in less than a year.

What may be less apparent is that Donald also serves as an advocate on behalf of youth in foster care, helping them to improve their lives.

Compelled to give back

Donald entered foster care at age 12 and says that he learned early on that success is something you have to seek out.

“I met someone who was a former foster youth, and one thing she said that stuck with me is that we are not victims of our situation, we are survivors,” Donald says. “That taught me not to use my situation as a reason why I cannot succeed.”

He says that experience inspired him to want to give back and it’s what he calls on when mentoring others.

“I feel compelled to be an advocate for foster youth because I know a lot of other kids have opportunities that we don’t have,” he says. “I feel like there is lots of potential for us [foster youth] that we may not know about. If nobody taps into that, we’re not going to be able to reach it.”

Donald says he had “a unique experience” in foster care, compared to others he has met. After stays at several facilities in DC, including a foster home, Donald came to live at BCC’s Baltimore campus at age 14.

Able to leave BCC when he turned 18, Donald found a place of his own, a townhouse that he rents in the Druid Hill area of Baltimore, and has been living independently for several years. Currently, Donald is working at the bank and going back to school to earn a bachelor’s degree.

‘Welcome and nurtured’

Donald credits BCC, and the staff in particular, for helping to shape the person he has become.

“BCC made me feel welcome and nurtured,” he says, adding that the staff were especially helpful when he was transitioning out of BCC and getting set up for life on his own. “They were supportive and acted like role models, showing me what success looked like. “BCC was a good environment for me and I liked it there.”

The biggest lesson he says he learned is that having a foster care background should be liberating, not limiting.

“Foster care is only a part of who I am, part of the journey,” Donald says. “It was only eight years of my life. It certainly helped shaped who I am, because it was my teenage years, but it is just a piece of who I am, just a part of the story.”

This story originally appeared in BCC’s 2014 Annual Report.  Click here to see all annual reports.

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Latasha’s story: BCC is a ‘lifesaver’ for college graduate

Latasha - CropLatasha M., though only in her 20s, is already a success story, in so many ways.

Tasha, as she’s called by her friends, graduated with a BS in exercise science from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore in 2014. While there she was a member of the Division I indoor and outdoor track teams. She’s currently applying to schools to pursue a masters in athletic training.

“As a kid, I never thought I would finish high school, let alone go to college or grad school,” Tasha says. “Now look at me.”

Without hesitation, Tasha says her dream job would be to combine her passion for athletics and a desire to care for others, working either as an athletic trainer for a professional sports team, like her beloved Baltimore Ravens, or as a personal trainer at a gym.

Achieving her goals

“I love being healthy and active and staying in shape,” she says. “I love getting people in shape. Pushing them a little bit at a time. I have always wanted to help people — I can’t help myself, I’ve been a problem solver all my life.”

In spite of her natural abilities and drive, Tasha credits her relationship with the Board of Child Care as the main reason she has been able to achieve her goals.

“If I could describe my experience with Board of Child Care in one word or phrase, I would say ‘lifesaver,’” she says with a smile. “BCC literally saved my life, in many ways.”

At age 13, Tasha, along with her sister, was moved into foster care, staying first at BCC’s Colesville sibling group home in Silver Spring and later at the Baltimore campus.

“Being in foster care was hard. I didn’t feel like a ‘regular kid’ at first,” she says. “But it helped me get closer to my sister. We quickly realized our family wasn’t the best support system for us. We learned we needed each other and had each other’s back.”

Learning valuable lessons

Tasha says the staff at BCC was especially helpful because they used their own experiences to teach her some valuable life lessons and skills.

“At BCC, I learned not to let my past affect my future,” she says. “The program helped me learn self-discipline, to be humble, to enjoy life, to set goals and learn how to achieve them, and to enjoy the moment.”

Tasha admits it took her awhile but she eventually listened to the staff’s advice, studied hard in school and used sports as a way to feel better about herself.

“BCC was the best environment for me when I needed it most,” says Tasha, who graduated from BCC in 2009 and now lives on her own in an apartment near BCC’s Baltimore campus. “They gave me the support I needed to be successful. If you work with them, BCC can change your life.”

This story originally appeared in BCC’s 2014 Annual Report.  Click here to see all annual reports.

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