Story by Mary King-Moore. Photos by Jan Osborn.
Inclusion and early intervention are a large part of the evolving model at Bryan’s House. For 34 years, the organization has served children with special needs and their families. Established in 1988, Bryan’s House was the first nonprofit in the United States to help mothers and their children living with HIV/AIDS. Over the years, Bryan’s House has broadened their scope of services. Their model extends to manage the complex needs of children diagnosed with pediatric cancers, physical disabilities, social and emotional challenges, cerebral palsy, autism, Down Syndrome, and more.
We spoke with Bryan’s House CEO, Abigail Erickson-Torres about the different programs offered by the organization and how the special medically-managed model is helping to care for children and their families in our community. Bryan’s House main campus has two programs: offsite and onsite care. Since they are not a medical facility, some children in the program receive services offsite. The onsite program is for children whose medical needs can be taken care of within the classroom. In addition to the educational programs, Bryan’s House supports families through specialized social work and case management; rehousing them, providing basic needs, early intervention and a robust childhood education including various therapy services for disparaged children from infancy up to age 21, who fall through the cracks – their families making less than $24,000 a year.
Erickson-Torres said, “Our social services department really wraps around our entire agency. They are the first point of contact from referrals. Our case managers meet with the parents and assess what the need is at that moment.”
There are bilingual case managers serving seven surrounding counties helping to identify urgent needs and providing crisis intervention.
“What we do is so unique and holistic. The holistic service we provide in the community on a $2.6 million dollar budget really goes a long way. We impact over 1,000 individuals unduplicated every year, providing up to five services a day, every day as needed – and for longer periods of time,” Erickson-Torres said.
Bryan’s House is on a mission to help children with special needs and their families thrive. The organization runs like a well managed house, where people care about each other and are constantly trying new ways to keep improving and evolving. The Board of Directors and staff at Bryan’s House are all approachable. They innovated last year, thanks to community support, to establish a pilot “lab” where community and thought leaders meet with Bryan’s House teams to discuss collaborations and new ideas. The innovation lab is located at Work214, a co-working space in Uptown.
“It’s been a great resource, thanks to a generous donation by the Mankin Family in honor of a cherished family member, and an anonymous donor,” said Erickson-Torres. Boarding meetings, community liasions, partnership, donor chats and team trainings have taken place at the innovation lab.
Each year Erickson-Torres and the Board of Directors set a service focus for the year. Last year, the focus was on pathways to inclusion. This year the focus is on early intervention and inclusion. Studies show early intervention services can change a child’s developmental trajectory and improve outcomes for children, families, and communities. The organization’s annual luncheon fundraiser dives into the importance of the service focus. On September 28 this year, there will be two amazing opportunities to learn more about diversity, inclusion, and early intervention.
The Disability Inclusion Breakfast sponsored by Holland & Knight will be held at One Arts Plaza featuring keynote speaker Lisa M. Ong. Ong is the founder of Wishing Out Loud LLC and is a DEI consultant. The breakfast is centered on the topic of “belonging.” The response from the luncheon last year about DEI was so positive that the breakfast was added this year.
David & Adrienne Wagner are honored to serve as co-chairs for the luncheon which will begin at 11:30 am. Carol Seay will serve as the honorary chair of the luncheon. Former Dallasite, Dawn McCoy is the keynote speaker. McCoy will share how important early intervention was for her son with a traumatic brain injury. Before Dawn moved to Los Angeles, she grew up in Dallas and volunteered with Bryan’s House during high school. Coming back to tell her story is really a full circle moment for her.
The Wisdom Hope awards will also be presented at the luncheon to several outstanding community leaders and individuals for their dedication to Bryan’s House and the Dallas community.
“This year, for the first time, we are adding a Accessibility, Diversity and Inclusion award,” Erickson-Torres said, adding that the theme for the luncheon is wear a touch of green.
To purchase tickets to both the breakfast and the luncheon visit BryansHouse.org.
There are numerous ways to volunteer and support the organization. Volunteers are part of the Jubilee Brigade, a diverse, inclusive group of people from all walks of life. The Jubilee Brigade is a great way to get connected with other volunteers, socialize and serve. In October, Bryan’s House is opening the Stefanie Held Library, honoring the agency founder.
“We are so excited,” Erickson-Torres said. “There is a wonderful big chair where volunteers can come and read to the children on campus.”
In November, Bryan’s House will host an annual Thanksgiving drive-thru, where volunteers hand out meals – including a Thanksgiving turkey – to the families of Bryan’s House. The Jubilee Brigade ends the year with a holiday drive-thru presenting families with gifts from assorted wish lists. To get involved with the Jubilee Brigade contact BryansHouse.org.