The Champions Behind the Central Texas African American Family Support Conference

Leonor Vargas


Collective Impact is the words I would use to describe the CTAAFSC.
The Austin Independent School District has been involved in the conference for many years. I have been involved for the last two years in the planning committee. My perspective is one that has been shaped by the stories I have heard from our students, families, educators and community partners that I have had the privilege to work with.

As with any illness, a diagnosis of mental illness in youth affects the whole family. It might bring a strain on relationships and can be wearing on the entire family in addition to the effects it has on the youth. The family members of youth who have a mental illness often feel perplexed. They are usually trying to do their best to offer support and understanding, in so far as they are able. Often they are doing this without a compass, without clear direction as to the most effective approach. They may not know the most effective thing to say or do.

However, when we have community partnerships and a conference backed up by a real commitment to work together to improve the lives of youth with mental health needs and their families. These partnerships allow us to think big and to hope for more than a temporary solution to our youth’s challenges related to Mental Health Issues impacting our families.

The conference creates learning opportunities to prevent the tragic consequences of undiagnosed and untreated mental health issues. By including the faith-based community, school personnel, law enforcement officers, child and adolescent mental health providers, parents, and youth in partnership, we can address and support youth with mental health needs before they become entangled with the juvenile justice system before they fail or drop out of school or before they develop a more difficult-to-treat, chronic condition.

It only takes one person to make a positive difference in a child’s and their families’ life and to redirect them down a brighter path. In short, we can all help youth with mental health needs create a better future for themselves and their families when we work together and continue to use a systemic integrated approach as we have in designing the CTAAFSC.

#CTAAFS #leonorvargas #mentalhealth #aisd #teens #ujimaatx #ujimamagazine

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