It’s hard to believe that the year is coming to a close. I think we are all welcoming the beginning of a new year and a fresh start. I have been a part of Child Advocates of Fort Bend for 23 years as a volunteer, board member and now on staff for the past 11 years and I have seen both good times and challenging times but I have never been through the challenge that we have faced over the past year. We started 2020 on a high – moving back into our beautiful new building on our expanded Davis George Campus after a year of staff working out of two leased offices, completing our $8 million For The Children’s Sake Capital Campaign in record time, and hosting the Grand Opening Reception with 200 people in attendance. That high quickly and unexpectedly changed dramatically a week later when we closed the office to all non-essential personnel, most of the staff moved home to work remotely, and we pivoted many of our services to virtual and remote formats. We had to learn novel ways of providing services to children which they desperately needed, new ways of connecting with staff and volunteers, creative approaches to engage our donors who were our lifeline when we were forced to cancel so many of our fundraising events, and virtual ways of increasing our public outreach and education about child abuse because we knew that children were being abused but were isolated in their homes or foster placements and had no one to tell. During these months, we doubled up our efforts to virtually engage school districts, youth-serving organizations, health care providers and the faith community to recognize signs and symptoms and report abuse. We are so grateful to the foundations who supported us with emergency COVID-19 grants which provided the funding so that staff could work from home and connect virtually. Our CASA volunteers were incredibly adaptable and learned to visit children remotely and attend court through Zoom. Our CAC and office volunteers were diligent in enforcing protocols and welcoming children and families back to the building as we gradually reopened over the following months. Our loyal donors were very generous at our virtual Summer Soiree and are continuing their support this month as we host our 29th Annual Christmas Home Tour (virtually). And last but certainly not least, thank you to our Board President Betty Baitland and our entire Board of Directors who have provided steadfast guidance and unwavering support in this most challenging year. Thank you to all the hundreds of loyal supporters of Child Advocates of Fort Bend for being there for the children this year when they needed our help more than ever.
As we turn our attention to the coming year, we have already been very busy with putting our plans in place. We just completed our Strategic Plan which outlines our Key Performance Measures in all our service lines and 3-year financial forecast. Our strategic focus builds on the learning of the past year as we “Incorporate New Approaches for Service Delivery and Fundraising to Improve Outcomes and Support for Children and Families.” By formalizing hybrid models of remote and in-person services, expanding trauma-focused training and family engagement, increasing outreach and prevention, strengthening our child safety protocols, and launching a diversity, equity and inclusion initiative, we have much to look forward to. We will be opening a local clinic at Access Health for pediatric sexual assault exams, the first one of its kind in Fort Bend County. We expect that staff will gradually be returning to the building. Our partners in the District Attorney’s Office, County Attorney’s Office, CPS and the FBC Sheriff’s Office will be back in the building so that we have our Multi-Disciplinary Team on site. And we will celebrate our volunteers with our Annual Volunteer Banquet (stay tuned) and hope to bring back our Gala and Voices For Children Breakfast as well as celebrate our 30th Annual Christmas Home Tour.
Wishing you a wonderful holiday season and I’m looking forward to seeing you (in person) in the coming year.
For the Children’s Sake,
CEO, Child Advocates of Fort Bend
Virtual Christmas Home Tour
Begins December 11, 2020
Home Tours, Demonstrations, Wreath Raffle, Door Prizes and Much More. . .
We’re planning an exciting event that will provide you with an opportunity to view 6 gorgeously decorated homes, a chance to see unique holiday collections, learn how to decorate and entertain like a professional with 23 demonstration videos, enter for a chance to win one of 19 beautiful wreaths, bid on some fun party packages and visit with Santa and reminisce with videos and photos from Christmas Home Tours over the years right from the comfort of your home. Content viewing available through January 4th. Auction and Raffle closes at noon December 17th.
Check out all the exciting new things we’ve got planned:
-personal visits with Santa
Fort Bend Friends and Neighbors…Keeping Children, Families and Staff Safe
COVID-19 has forced us to make many changes in the way we deliver our services. Safety of the children and families we serve as well as our staff is of the utmost importance. The wonderful members of Fort Bend Friends and Neighbors have been sewing masks for Child Advocates of Fort Bend. Hundreds of masks, of all sizes for children and adults and with fabric of all types – superheroes to florals to favorite colors have been loving sewn to help protect us all.
Fort Bend Friends and Neighbors is organized exclusively for social, educational and charitable activities. Their objectives are:
- To provide an opportunity for members to become acquainted with others in the community and/or neighborhoods;
- To provide an atmosphere of friendliness, goodwill and helpful information for Club members in the local community;
- To promote charitable and humanitarian projects within Fort Bend County;
- To form enduring friendships
Thank you, Fort Bend Friends and Neighbors – we appreciate you!
Making a Difference on Campus and Beyond
The robotics club, or team, of Tompkins High School is known as the Steel Talons. Established in the spring of 2014, their first robot was built for competition in 2015. They are an award-winning Club that has been recognized at the local, state, national and international levels.
The Steel Talons have partnered with Child Advocates of Fort Bend in numerous ways over the last several years. They created two programs LEGOS for Birthdays and Rebuilding Brick by Brick – both helping children in our CAC and CASA program celebrate a birthday or their therapy graduation. The group also donated over 20,000 LEGOS for our CAC playroom.
The Steel Talons also provide educational experiences during Spring Break and Summer months that incorporate STEAM for our NEST and WINGS programs.
Most recently, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the group initiated a drive, Katy ISD wide, and collected almost 100 LEGO Kits for CAFB. We are able to offer these LEGO Kits to children who come to our CAC and to CASA Volunteer Advocates to bring to their child when visiting.
We are grateful to the Steel Talons for their partnership and dedication to Child Advocates of Fort Bend.
Front Steps Project Raises $500
Board Member Rhonda Kuykendall dropped by recently to deliver a $500 check for proceeds from her photo book, The Front Steps Project of Fort Bend County. From April 5 to May 5 Rhonda Kuykendall photographed 185 homes, 739 people, 121 dogs, 3 rabbits, 3 chickens, 1 tortoise and a guinea pig. The goal of the project was to highlight the faces of our community during a time of a quarantine when we might not see our friends at work, the gym, coffee shop or grocery store.
100% of the proceeds of this book will go to Child Advocates of Fort Bend. This will make a wonderful Christmas gift. See if you can find CAFB Development Officer Dana Mersiovsky in her “Covid catch of the day”. Buy your own copy here at https://amzn.to/3nBoSNI.
Year End Campaign for the Children
Here’s How You Can Help
Make a Cash Donation
Your cash donation supports the daily operations of Child Advocates of Fort Bend. We appreciate every gift of any size. Go to www.cafb.org and hit the donate button.
Become a VOICES FOR CHILDREN CIRCLE Donor
Your 5-year pledge supports the agency’s work and need for sustaining our operations into the future. Giving levels are $5,000, $25,000, and $50,000 paid out over 5 years. Contact Dana Mersiovsky at firstname.lastname@example.org to become a VFC CIRCLE donor.
Name a Room in Our New Building
Leave your legacy with this opportunity to have a room at our Davis George Campus in your name or in honor or memory of a loved one. Naming opportunities start at $15,000, $25,000, $50,000 and up. Payments can be spread over multiple years.
As a Thank You, for every donation of $1,000 or more, specific to these three initiatives, donors will be entered into a drawing for an exclusive Chef’s Culinary Dinner Experience for 6 people at Steak48 featuring a gourmet menu and sommelier-selected wine pairing. This offer is only valid for donations made now through December 31, 2020.
Take Advantage of Higher Allowances in 2020 for Charitable Giving
Child Advocates of Fort Bend is a 501(c)3 charitable organization. All gifts are tax deductible. Take advantage of the higher allowances in 2020 for charitable giving – 100% of your adjusted gross income in charitable giving can be deducted (up from 60%).
To discuss year end giving options or for more information, please contact Development Director, Lisa Moore at 281-344-5108 or Development Officer, Dana Mersiovsky at 281-344-5106.
We are all focused on staying safe, especially when it comes to caring for the children we serve. Keep up with the most recent information to stay healthy during this holiday season and use caution when visiting with children, families, in court or wherever you visit. Click here to read the latest press release from our four major Fort Bend County hospitals.
Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC)
The pandemic has made for a very busy year in our Children’s Advocacy Center and with children returning to school where teachers are able to see things and make reports, our numbers have been climbing. November numbers remain high. In fact, in 11 days our interviewers conducted more than 80 interviews.
Our Forensic Interviewers recently participated in virtual Regional Peer Review focused on vicarious trauma and self-care. Our therapists are extremely busy working with children and their families. Therapist Elena Petre’s November Therapist’s Corner blog post addresses when to seek therapy for yourself as a parent of a child who is struggling or processing their trauma in therapy. Read her post here https://www.cafb.org/therapists-corner-when-to-seek-therapy/
Courts are reopening and hearings are being rescheduled so our Criminal Court Advocates have been busy meeting with prosecutors and clients to help prepare families for court.
Clinical Family Advocates meet with the children and their families, refer them for services and follow up with them. One of our Family Advocates spoke to the mother of a child who was recently interviewed in our CAC. The mother was not able to personally bring her child for the interview, but instead the grandparents came on her behalf. When the Family Advocate called to follow up with the mother, she was extremely grateful to the volunteers at the CAC who made the grandparents feel very comfortable despite the circumstances that brought them to our Center. The mother truly appreciated knowing that she sent her elderly parents to a place that was so welcoming and helpful! We are very grateful to all our volunteers who give their time to help these families in their time of need.
Court Appointed Special Advocates Program (CASA) and Outreach
Our CASA and Community Engagement teams have been extremely busy. Not only did they host two National Adoption Day celebrations (see National Adoption Day piece below) but they trained 24 new volunteers who were sworn in via ZOOM in November and a CAC only training is set to start in a little less than a week. Our madly creative NEST and WINGS teams have ensured that our programming continues during the pandemic. The teams worked diligently to create another successful Fall Break event to allow the children we serve to complete a community service project while maintaining safety by social distancing. The youth made holiday cards at home which Catholic Charities will deliver with groceries to its clients. In addition, the award-winning Tompkins High School Robotics team created a virtual escape room online for the youth when they finished their cards. The kids had a great time! Next up – is the NEST incentive party on December 4th which is a drive through showing of the movie Inside-Out at our Davis George Campus. The kids will practice social distancing while celebrating their accomplishments this semester.
The Infant and Toddler team will be hosting a Safe Babies Training on December 9 via Zoom. In addition, all CASA Volunteers are invited to join us on December 15th from 4pm -6pm in the courtyard at the Davis George Campus for our 2nd annual Elf Party. We encourage all CASA Advocates to stop by, pick up a treat and “shop” for the kids on your cases.
Surrogate Parent Training
Please join us on Monday, December 14th from 9:30am until 12:30pm for a Surrogate Parent Training presentation presented by Cari Schroeder, MSW – Texas Dept. of Family & Protective Services (Region 6B Education Specialist).
The training will cover:
- Obtaining and reviewing important school records,
- Requesting evaluations
- Participating in an ARD (Admission, Review and Dismissal) meeting Accountability requirements for IEPs (Individualized Education Programs), Protecting a student’s rights during discipline proceedings, and Ensuring services to transition into adulthood.
You must register to participate.
For more information see training flyer here OR contact Alli Waterwall at AWaterwall@cafb.org.
LAT Champions NEEDED!
Call to Action!
This legislative session is heating up with important legislation related to our state’s most vulnerable youth. The Legislative Advocacy Team (LAT) needs your help in letting our representatives know which bills CASA has identified as being the most impactful for children in foster care.
By becoming a LAT Champion, you will receive notifications when bills are in critical stages with a request for you to help. The LAT will send you a Bill Alert with a sample letter you can copy and forward to your Representative or Senator within 24 hours. You may research the issue and write your own email also. Receiving letters from constituents lets our elected officials know which issues are important to us and which bills, out of many, will best serve our youth. The burden is not cumbersome. This past legislative session there were 14 Bill Alerts. To become a LAT Champion of Fort Bend, contact Rhonda Kuykendall, chairwoman of Child Advocates of Fort Bend LAT.
Contact Rhonda Kuykendall at email@example.com
Like LAT Champions of Fort Bend on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/latchampions
Find out who is your Representative and Senator: https://wrm.capitol.texas.gov/home
National Adoption Day!
What happens for the families on National Adoption Day is so much bigger than the actual day. We know first-hand about the blood, sweat and tears that go into getting the children we serve placed with amazing families who can help them heal from the hurt and trauma that they have experienced. We love National Adoption Day because it brings us joy to see their happy endings. This year was extra special as we hosted two celebrations – a drive through on Thursday at our new Davis George Campus and a second one on Friday morning as we watched 4 adoptions get consummated via Zoom. Eight families participated in our drive by celebration, including a few who adopted earlier this year. It was amazing and the families loved it! A total of 4 children were adopted on Friday – 2 CPS and 2 private adoptions. One of the children was 13 years old and had been in CPS custody since 2017. Team member April Shaver and CASA Advocate Trudy Dick worked extremely hard to make sure this child was in the perfect placement, even traveling as far as Michigan to be certain.
Just a note about upcoming Holiday celebrations. While we know that this year will look different for many of us, if you plan to gather with family or friends there are some safety considerations to keep in mind.
- First, talk to children about boundaries, body safety, and consent. If someone is not respecting their body boundaries it is NOT tattling. It is TELLING. You can even include a code word with kids so they could tell you something is wrong even in a crowd of people. Including that permission to tell is a great point to make.
- Second, be aware of alone time. Child sexual abuse occurs in secret. It can occur with an adult and child or an older child and younger child. Keep doors open while children play together. Pop in regularly to see where your children are.
- Finally, trust your gut. We never want to believe someone we know would harm a child but 90% of the time children know the person who harmed them. If you suspect something isn’t right in a situation, intervene. Child safety is an adult responsibility. Call in suspected child abuse to 1-800-252-5400 or if a child is in immediate danger, call 911.
Would you like to honor someone?
We all have friends, family and people in our lives who do a lot for others. You can let them know that you appreciate them by recognizing them with a birthday, anniversary, or holiday donation in their honor. Send us their name, address, and a note about why you are honoring them (i.e. – special occasion, because they give so much to others, etc.), along with a donation. We will send them an acknowledgement letter letting them know that you donated on their behalf.
Honor someone today by mailing a check to Child Advocates of Fort Bend, Attn: Irene Wisner, 5403 Avenue N, Rosenberg, TX 77471 or by
Thank You Blo!
Special thanks to our friends at Blo blow dry bar in Sugar Land. Not only did they organize a toy and gift drive for us but they offered complimentary wash and styles for the teen girls that we serve. What a sweet treat for these youth! We agree – giving today makes for a better tomorrow and they made for an extra special tomorrow for these teen girls. Thanks to Phincy Thomas for reaching out to us!
Mark your calendars!
December 9, 2020 Safe Babies Training
11:30am – 1pm
Register at https://first3yearstx.z2systems.com/np/clients/first3yearstx/eventRegistration.jsp?event=1573&
December 10, 2020 Case Closing Celebration
6pm – 8pm
Contact Jennifer Brown for details at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
December 11, 2020 virtual Christmas Home Tour OPENS
To sponsor or for more information go to https://www.cafb.org/events/home-tour/ or contact Tarina Sheridan at TSheridan@cafb.org
December 15, 2020 Elf Party
4pm – 6pm
Courtyard at the CAFB Davis George Campus
5403 Avenue N, Rosenberg, TX 77471
Contact Jennifer Brown for details at mailto:email@example.com