What We Do
Voices’ role among nonprofit health and human service organizations in the community is a unique one. Voices identifies current and emerging critical issues impacting children and, collaborating with approximately 100 partner organizations and including city, county and state governmental agencies, across several focus areas, works on strategies to improve the quality of life and opportunities for all children, with a focus on those who are the most vulnerable. The current focus areas are early care and education; child abuse and neglect, specifically prevention; and health/ mental health, with a focus on teen suicide.
Early Care and Education: Every baby comes with the promise of a brighter future for our community, state and world. The loving care they receive in their earliest months and years is a strong determinant of their health and success throughout their lifetimes. Voices collaborates with individual City Council Districts, other county and state elected officials, local colleges and universities and over 50 community organizations to offer free all-day professional development events for childcare providers who care for, teach, stimulate and nurture the youngest infants and children. Community partners present all workshops that fulfill content area licensing requirements for participants as well as training related to child abuse, family engagement, early childhood mental health, supporting children in military families and more. It is the remarkable willingness of City Council districts, community organizations, Pre-K 4 SA, and colleges and universities to collaborate, contributing time and expertise, that has resulted in free, high quality professional development for several thousand childcare providers and directors since 2012.
Family Strengthening and Prevention of Child Maltreatment: With funding from a local foundation, Voices worked for over a year with the Bexar County Children’s Court, Child Protective Services, early childhood/ child development leaders and child welfare partners to conduct a community study leading to the development and implementation of an innovative early intervention court for infants and toddlers birth to three who enter the DFPS/ Child Protective Services system, and their families. The Early Intervention Program, part of the Bexar County Children’s Court and led by Judge Peter Sakai, has been operational since 2015 and, with multiple partners and services, families of the youngest and most vulnerable infants and toddlers are being supported and restored. Children are avoiding the losses and multiple placements that are so damaging to young children; parents are forming the attachments with their babies that promote their willingness to participate in treatment and to enhance their ability to provide nurturing parenting.
As a partner with the Early Intervention Program and Bexar County, Voices initiated and coordinates SafeCare, a parent education home visiting model. Working with the National SafeCare Training and Research Center at Georgia State University, staff of multiple human service and early education organizations participate to train and work toward certification of SafeCare home visitors to implement this evidence-based program throughout Bexar County, providing one more choice to meet the needs of families.
The goal is to increase the capacity of a coordinated system of evidence-based programs to prevent the maltreatment of Bexar County infants and young children.
Health/ Mental Health: To address a tragic rise in child and teen suicide in Bexar County, in 2015 Voices and several partners launched a collaborative prevention/ awareness effort across youth serving systems, including schools. The Alamo Area Teen Suicide Prevention Coalition includes representatives of school districts, health, mental health and human service organizations. An active and dedicated Teen Advisory Board conducts outreach and awareness activities throughout the county and ensures that youth voices guide this effort. Their own campaign, B 1 4 1, is designed for students to reach out to their struggling peers. The teen-designed website is www.stopteensuicide.info .
Addressing Adverse Childhood Experiences and Trauma: A major new initiative is increasing collaboration with current and new partners around a major community issue. Voices, The Children’s Shelter, Metro Health, several judges, agency and community partners are at the beginning of what is envisioned as a community-wide effort to develop a trauma-informed community.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has described the prevalence of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE’s), trauma and resulting toxic stress as the greatest public health challenge of our time. In addition to increasing high-risk behaviors such as substance use, early sexual activity and teen pregnancy, gang involvement and school dropout, research provides undeniable links to mental illness and to adult physical disease, particularly chronic disease, some cancers and decreased life expectancy, even in the absence of high-risk behaviors. The Children’s Shelter and Voices are leading the initial planning, engaging collaborators from multiple sectors, to establish the South Texas Trauma Consortium.
Quarterly Interest Groups on Child Maltreatment and Early Childhood are targeted to direct service staff and program managers to hear presentations on new and upcoming best practices, topics and experts of their choosing, and to share their expertise with their peers.
In a partnership with the Center for Miracles, Voices coordinates a Speakers’ Bureau to present information on child abuse and neglect, Adverse Childhood Experiences, trauma and toxic stress and other related topics for schools, workplaces and interested groups. Presentations by child abuse pediatricians from the University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio and Children’s Hospital of San Antonio, the Director of the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District and Voices staff can be scheduled by completing the form on the Speakers Bureau tab.
Voices’ annual Congress on Children brings together over 300 local children’s advocates, practitioners, researchers and the general public to highlight issues, research findings, legislation and programs, promoting practices that strengthen families and support children’s wellbeing. The 22nd Congress on Children, to be held on September 25, 2020, will feature Ibram X. Kendi, a #1 New York Times bestselling author, the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Boston University, and the founding director of the BU Center for Antiracist Research
The entire Bexar County legislative delegation is invited every year to participate on a panel discussing legislative issues and their priorities for children. Congress is a community service, not a fundraiser; the registration fee of $20 ensures that this event is accessible to a broad and diverse audience.