Archive for the ‘Adoption’ Category

The Measure of a Year: What LSS Accomplished in 2012

February 27, 2013

2012 blockThis past year, as with every year of the last 13 decades, LSS served the most vulnerable members of society. Of those we served, 96 percent are low income or impoverished. Through providing innovative, quality Christian care, and adapting to the needs of our clients, we strive to strengthen lives, families, and communities.

To help convey the scope of our services, and who they touch, we compile a list of what our agency has achieved in the past year and post it on our website. The numbers tell quite a story!  What they don’t tell is the sheer volume of hard work and loyal support of our volunteers, donors, and a statewide staff of more than 800 individuals who make all of it possible.

In addition to adoption and foster care, our vital programs and services also include residential children’s centers, charter schools, disaster response, emergency assistance, senior retirement communities, and spiritual care.

Following is our 2012 accomplishment list. We’re grateful that we have been given the opportunity to serve so many in need—over 25,000 to be exact.

Children’s Services

  • 1,913 children were provided foster care in 15 communities across Texas—Amarillo, Austin, Conroe/The Woodlands, Dallas, El Paso, Fort Worth, Harlingen, Laredo, Lubbock, McAllen, Mesquite, Robstown, San Antonio, Tyler, and Victoria, Texas.
  • 445 formerly abused children, ages 6-17, were served at two residential treatment centers: Krause Children’s Center in Katy, and New Life Children’s Center in Canyon Lake, Texas.
  • 557 child refugees were served at Bokenkamp Emergency Shelter, Corpus Christi, Texas.
  • 228 child refugees were provided transitional foster care in El Paso, Texas.
  • 107 Texas children were adopted through LSS domestic adoption program.
  • 69 children from countries such as China, Korea, Ethiopia, Colombia, India, Russia, Uganda, Ukraine, The Philippines, Kazakhstan, Thailand, and Taiwan were adopted through the LSS international adoption program in partnership with other international adoption agencies.
  • 4,545 volunteers served at New Life, Krause, Bokenkamp, and fundraising events.
  • 145 New Orleans foster youth were served by BeREAL, a mentoring program for teens “aging out” of the Louisiana foster care system.
  • 1,084 students were served at Trinity Charter Schools.

Senior Services

  • More than 989 older adult residents of LSS senior living options, ranging from independent living to skilled nursing and memory care, in Houston, Brenham, Victoria, Round Rock, and Lubbock, Texas.
  • 19 individual patients (1,904 hrs) were served through Care-Connect care management at The Village in Spring, Texas.

Services for Families in Crisis

  • 10,294 individuals were provided emergency assistance with rent, utilities, prescriptions, and other basic needs at Neighborhood House in Lubbock, Texas. More than 127,000 lbs. of food and hygiene products were distributed.
  • 1,668 individual patients were served during 8,121 patient visits through Health For Friends Clinic in Lubbock, Texas.

Disaster Response

  • Approx. 150 families were helped with emergency disaster assistance in TX and LA (wildfires, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes).
  • Rebuild/unmet needs funding went to more than 30 families in Bastrop and Spicewood.
  • Aid was given to more than 300 farm families suffering drought/wildfires through Haylift to Texas efforts.
  • Repair/rebuild work was done on 60+ homes in Bastrop.
  • Coordinated approx. 1,900 volunteers for nearly 53,000 volunteer hours.
  • Total clients served by LSSDR = 540 families; 1,458 individuals

Who is This Little Girl in Pink? Meet Jannine from Bulgaria

February 20, 2013

JannineIsn’t Jannine a cutie? That’s her photo on the left (although Jannine isn’t her real name). She was born in 2001 and will be 12 in May.  Jannine lived with her birth parents off and on over the years, but has been placed in “a home for children deprived of parental care” (or orphanage) since 2009.

Jannine is described by her caregivers as “lively, energetic, and communicative.” She is good-natured and a “smiler,” with very good social skills and excellent self-care habits and personal hygiene. Her very favorite activity is painting. She makes friends easily and has proven to adjust very well to new environments and situations.

The following description of Jannine comes directly from the orphanage’s background summary: “Child has positive affect and empathy for others. External emotional expression is extremely bright and revealing. She is not aggressive and does not initiate conflict. She is sensitive and if verbally attacked by another child, she is quick to cry. Demonstrates good character.”

Jannine had surgery to correct a heart defect shortly after her birth, but shows no signs of heart problems today. She has normal mental and academic development with mild cognitive delays – which is the norm for kids in an institutionalized setting.

Wouldn’t Jannine make a wonderful addition to a loving Texas family? If you are interested in finding out more about her, or other children awaiting adoption in Bulgaria, we would be happy to share additional information with you. Please contact Konnie Gregg by email at or call either 512-454-4611 or 800-396-4611.

Will 2013 Be the Year These Sisters are Adopted?

December 25, 2012

3 sistersWe hope so!

Norah, Brielle, and Darielle are sisters currently living in an orphanage in Bulgaria. Norah, age 12, and her twin sisters, age 9, have proven to be able to adapt to big changes in their lives. They lived with their parents until 2010 when they were placed under the government’s care at a home for children in the city of Vratsa. The sisters are very close, so whatever the future holds, it will be together.

Norah and Darielle both love music and dancing, and are more introverted than Brielle. They all are described by their caseworkers as having good coping and self-help skills. They are healthy, do not have special needs, and attend mainstream classes at school. They have mild intellectual delays and all would thrive with individual attention and academic help.

Norah has told workers at the orphanage that she dreams of being adopted into a new family, whether in Bulgaria or abroad.

These little survivors have had a rough time of it (Darielle has burn scars on her skin; Brielle was admitted to the hospital at age 7 with drug-induced toxification) and deserve to spend the rest of their childhoods in a safe and loving home. We want that to be by next Christmas!

There is a whole lot more to learn about these girls. We would be happy to share additional information with you about them, or other children in Bulgaria awaiting adoption.  Please contact Konnie Gregg by email at or call either 512-454-4611 or 800-396-4611.

Watch ‘A Home for the Holidays’ on CBS Dec. 19th

December 18, 2012

WWK homeforholidays2012The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption® is a wonderful organization and partner of ours in the Wendy’s Wonderful Kids™ (WWK) program, which has the single mission of placing foster children in permanent adoptive homes.

On Wednesday, at 7:00 pm (CST) CBS will air the 14th annual “A Home for the Holidays.”

This powerful TV special shares stories of foster care adoption and features performances from some of America’s top musical talent: Rascal Flatts, Phillip Phillips, Rachel Crow, Matchbox Twenty, and Melissa Ethridge.

This year, the stories of four exceptional families who have been touched by adoption will be featured along with a segment that gives a voice to children in foster care still waiting to find permanent and loving homes to call their own.

We encourage everyone to tune in!

Interested in International Adoption? Consider Bulgaria…

November 19, 2012

Lutheran Adoption Services of Texas (LAST, also known as Lutheran Social Services of the South) has facilitated the adoptive placements of well over 3,000 children from other countries since 1967. LAST is the primary provider of adoption for the country of Bulgaria, and we are committed to finding loving homes for Bulgaria’s orphaned children.

Children of all ages and physical conditions currently reside in Bulgarian orphanages and are available for adoption. They include non-special needs children, pre-school to teens, and many with developmental delays due to lack of stimulation and personal attention. The quality of care in Bulgarian orphanages ranges from adequate to outstanding. The Bulgarian government’s first priority is to place older children and children having special needs with families.

We’d like to introduce you to four of these children [Note: their names have been changed but these are their actual photos]:

Steve & Bella

This brother and sister were raised by their parents until 2010, when the parents were deemed incapable of caring for them due to poor health. According to their reports, both children are “clinically healthy with normal physical and mental development.” Steve, born in September 2003, was first diagnosed with epilepsy, then the diagnosis was later dismissed. He’s been determined to have “memory and intelligence relevant for the age with a slightly decreased capacity.” Bella, born in July 2002, has proven to have good memory and intelligence and “good indicators for mental development.”

Steve and Bella must be adopted into the same family.

Bobby & Brandon

These brothers were placed in the orphanage shortly after their births. Bobby, now 12, was born in November 2000, and Brandon, age 11, in September 2001. There is no known data on family history. The brothers are both healthy with normal physical development, yet show decreased intellectual capacity for their ages, not uncommon considering the effects of institutionalization.

Bobby takes a while to warm up to people but can be very affectionate once he does. He is in the fifth grade and receives support and tutoring from a resource team.

Brandon, now in the fourth grade, is called “compassionate and kind,” and like his brother can be initially withdrawn. While both boys have had academic difficulties, Brandon has recently shown an increased interest in learning.

There is a whole lot more to learn about these precious children. We would be happy to share additional information with you about them, or a number of others in Bulgaria awaiting adoption.  Please contact Konnie Gregg by email at or call either 512-454-4611 or 800-396-4611.

“Adoption Granted!” – One Day x 28

November 7, 2012

“Adoption granted!”

Following a simple stroke of a feathered pen, Travis County District Court Judge Darlene Byrne smiled and declared to a packed courtroom inside the Gardner Betts Juvenile Justice Center, “Adoption granted!”

On cue, little Mya Huereca, age 4, hammered the gavel down on behalf of Judge Byrne, marking the moment a new life began for all the Huereca family.

When that gavel landed, Eric Thibideaux, Jr., age 17, became Eric Huereca Thibideaux Jr. – the newest and forever son of Jacob and Manijeh Huereca, and big brother to sisters Persia, 6, Mya, and Leilani, 9 months.

The Huerecas. Eric, Manijeh, Jacob, Leilani, Persia, and Mya

“I’m just so happy to have a place to always call home, and someone there to tell me what’s right and what’s wrong,” a shy Eric told the courtroom full of family, friends, courtroom staff, social workers, attorneys and local media. “When I get home I’m going to be like all jumping up and down.”

On most days, the Gardner Betts Juvenile Justice Center in Austin, TX is not a place any kid wants to face the judge. But this wasn’t most days. This was that “One Day,” a word combination printed on some of the hundreds of balloons throughout the building commemorating Austin’s 11th Annual Adoption Day. Counting Eric, 28 children and their new families heard a judge declare those magic words, “Adoption granted.”

There’s No Place Like Home

So magical in fact that if you didn’t know better, you’d have thought you were somewhere over the rainbow. Like the courtroom in the Emerald City. Complete with a yellow brick road, a girl named Dorothy, her friends Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion, and a good witch named Glinda. There was also a clown with a red nose in attendance and a man who looked a lot like Abraham Lincoln wearing a big black hat. Gardner Betts apparently stuck to their no pets allowed policy so Toto was a no go but hundreds of stuffed animals covering just about every available surface more than made up for the missing canine.

It was my first adoption ceremony and I was surprised to learn how similar granting an adoption is to a normal court case. Child and family represented by an attorney calling witnesses to testify who have sworn to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Except festive like a wedding. Lots of smiles and tears of joy. It reminded me a little like being in the hospital for the birth of one of my own children and overhearing the medical staff refer to the maternity ward as the “happy floor.”  On One Day at Gardner Betts, it is a happy floor. Everybody wins.

I was asked to come and observe by my colleague Kristen Ellis, Area Director of our Austin Foster In Texas foster care and adoption office, one of 15 run by Lutheran Social Services in the state. The Huerecas had been fostering Eric already through Foster In Texas and in their minds he was already a permanent part of the family before Judge Byrne made it official. It’s called “foster-to-adopt” in our line of work and is typically just about the best outcome for any kid in the foster care system. Kids Eric’s age are at risk of “aging out” of the foster care system where they face huge odds of making it in the world alone. Incarceration and homelessness are far too often the outcome of kids who age out.

If that weren’t enough, I then bumped into Cynthia Goodwin who works in our accounting department. She and her husband Dan adopted two small girls, biological sisters — Briana, 15 months, and Alina, almost 3 — on One Day as well. A magical One Day indeed!

Cynthia and Dan Goodwin with their newly adopted daughters, Briana and Alina.

Three-Year-Old is Waiting for His New Family

October 24, 2012

Erin Erin was born was born in August 2009 in the Bulgarian town of Gorna Oryahovitsa. After his (premature) birth, he was placed in an orphanage in the town of Pleven. We have no data on his family history.

This is what we do know about Erin:

· He weighed only around 2 lbs. when he was born.

· He has a good appetite and has consistently gained weight (26 lbs. and 33 inches tall at June 2012 weigh-in).

· He likes to play games, and enjoys walks and playing with other children.

· His speech development is slow but coming along and he communicates with other children.

· Potty trained!

· He walks independently but needs a little help on the steps.

· He has formed an emotional bond with staff and his “Grandma” in the orphanage’s Grandma Program.

· He’s cute as can be!

Erin is still a toddler so it is hoped that he can overcome the institutional delays that occur after spending too many early years in an orphanage. The sooner he can be adopted into a loving family (hopefully through LSS) the better for him and his lucky new family!

If you are interested in learning more about Erin, please contact Konnie Gregg by email at or call either 512-454-4611 or 800-396-4611.

This Little Guy From Bulgaria Needs a Family

August 27, 2012

Jarrod Joshua was born prematurely in the Bulgarian town of Gabrovo and was placed in an orphanage for children with medical needs in May 2011. He must be a pretty tough little kid, because he’s doing amazingly well for an infant born at just 26 weeks gestation.

In February and September of 2011, Joshua was checked out by a pediatric cardiologist, had ultrasound tests, and it was all good news! His heart was determined to be “of normal structure and function.” Due to respiratory difficulties and frequent bronchitis he was consulted by a pediatric pulmonologist who diagnosed bronchial asthma.

The last weight and height measurements we have were from April 2012, when he was about 15 ½ lbs. and 26 ½ inches tall. His toughest health challenges seem to be behind him, as it’s reported that he “has a healthy appetite, sleeps soundly, and has no deviations in hearing or vision.”

Joshua is still a baby on the brink of toddlerhood so the institutional delays that occur after spending many early years in an orphanage won’t be as big a factor if he is adopted sooner rather than later. A little more about Joshua: He “laughs out loud” when teased, plays with his toys, is active and energetic, and is especially fond of a “grandmother” who visits in the orphanage’s Grandmother Program.

Joshua has come a long way and will make even greater progress if he can be adopted by a loving family. If you are interested in learning more about him, please contact Konnie Gregg by email at or call either 512-454-4611 or 800-396-4611.

Bubbles of Fun at BUBBLEPALOOZA!

August 16, 2012


On Saturday, August 11th, the Austin Foster In Texas (FIT) families attended a wildly fun event at the Long Center for the Performing Arts. The hardworking, creative staff at the Long Center brings the arts and culture closer to everyone who lives in the Austin area. It’s a very neat thing they do over there.


BUBBLEPALOOZA! (such a very catchy name) had some people asking, “What exactly is a bubblepalooza?” Well let me tell you.


BUBBLEPALOOZA! is a family-friendly party where children and adults can come and remember how awesome it is to play with bubbles! The Long Center had tables and tables set up with materials to make your own bubble wands, and other bubble-making devices like this one. There were bubbles everywhere! There was even a booth where you could buy bubble solution that smelled like ice cream. Yum! Sniff, don’t eat. (I may have learned that the hard way…)


Even the Bubble Princess was there taking pictures in her Bubble Grotto. Whoa, bubble royalty!


Stephanie and Summer came with their sweet, little foster baby! Say CHEESE!


Stephanie insisted that she take a picture with me in the frame too. Even though Summer and I are smiling, on the inside we’re both thinking, “I wonder if it’s actually possible to melt from the heat?” But these are foster parents! – They are made of un-meltable stuff. Like Superman.

Do you see the band behind us? These guys were really good. In fact, all the bands were good. I learned this kind of music is called “kindie rock.” I thought that was pretty clever.


And speaking of clever, check out these kids drawing an amazing depiction of a dinosaur on the sidewalk! I’m just kidding … a local artist actually created this masterpiece, and she didn’t mind one bit that the kids wanted to help.


A lot of our staff came too. This is Allie. She takes very good care of our families. At first, she didn’t want me to take her picture. But don’t you agree she looks great with the Austin skyline behind her? A perfect backdrop.


Angelamarie and Ron Lagneaux came with their three beautiful children. That’s Jonathan, who was recently officially adopted by his foster parents Angelamarie and Ron.


With bubbles still drifting skyward from the Long Center City Terrace, our FIT families were among the more than 3,000 Austinites heading home after a morning packed with music, chalk art, kiddie yoga, water fun, and BUBBLES!

It’s Official! Jonathan Becomes a Lagneaux

August 9, 2012

lagneauxadoption Jonathan is a happy little six-year-old who found his forever family with Angelamarie and Ron Lagneaux, Foster In Texas (FIT) parents in the Austin area who have been caring for children with “Primary Medical Needs” (PMN) since 2008. In the past four years, the couple has fostered six children for LSS-FIT, (five of those PMN) and they have a 2 ½-year-old biological daughter Francesca and a 3-month-old baby Josephine.

Because of an unstable and unchanging home environment, DFPS became Managing Conservator of Jonathan and his two siblings, and parental rights were terminated October 2011. On June 26, 2012, Jonathan’s adoption by the Lagneaux was consummated in a Travis County court.

The Lagneaux took Jonathan into their foster home in July 2008, and to say it’s been a rough road is understating things a bit! Jonathan developed end stage renal disease at just four months, leading to removal of his kidneys and daily dialysis treatments until his first kidney transplant in August 2008. The first transplant failed, and he underwent a second transplant in November 2010, and so far so good … though he will require lifelong support for his medical needs.

When the Lagneaux decided to become foster parents, they recognized that the children in the most need were those with serious medical issues – the PMN children who were hardest to place because of the demands required of those who care for them. “With their huge medical problems they not only need someone to love them but they need someone to advocate for them and navigate through the medical world,” Angelamarie said.

Now that Jonathan is a permanent member of the family, life is good for the little boy who began life with so many strikes against him. Ron and Angelamarie consider themselves the lucky ones: “Jonathan is such a great little guy, it’s just joy to have him in our family,” Ron said, then went on to explain: “Jonathan has truly been a gift from God. I will never forget the first time I met him. I walked into his room at Dell Children’s Hospital and he wasn’t there, so I asked a nurse where he could be found. Her reply was, ‘Oh Jonathan sits at the nurse’s station with the staff.’ He was two years old at the time. I walked up and saw a small group of people working with Jonathan. I quickly realized that this little boy had lived at the hospital for six months and thought he worked alongside with the staff. He even went on rounds with the doctors. I was amazed at how much everyone truly fell in love with my little Jonathan. I was told about his case, and my family―from that first moment―felt he should be with us forever. Thank you LSS-Foster In Texas, from all of the Lagneauxs!”

The ongoing need and search for foster parents—particularly those willing to care for PMN children―is unrelenting, which is why foster parents like the Lagneauxs are treasured by our agency! If you are interested in finding out more about becoming a foster parent, please visit the Foster In Texas website or call 512-459-1000.

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