CAFB July News

Happy 4th of July!

We are in the depth of summer in Texas and this is a summer that we will all remember.  We have been challenged by the COVID-19 pandemic but as you will read below, our amazing staff and volunteers have adapted and developed creative ways to continue to advocate for our children and deliver life-changing services – from drive-by visits with children to graduation and achievement parades to court appearances by zoom to teletherapy and digital and phone support to families, we are focused on ensuring that our children continue to be supported and nurtured, particularly now when they may be going through trauma related to social isolation, increased incidence of child abuse, anxiety over the pandemic, rising numbers of domestic violence, remote learning, uncertainties about school re-openings and the inevitable “summer slide” that will be likely be amplified this summer. Our staff is trained in trauma-informed care and is utilizing evidence-based methodologies to serve our children and families.  We have also adapted to new protocols for socially distancing and shifted our annual Gala and Voices for Children Breakfast to an outdoor/indoor garden party at our beautiful new building — we hope you can join us in person or support us online for our Transforming Lives Summer Soiree on August 22.

Thank you to all our volunteers, board members, donors and supporters.  We are deeply grateful to for your steadfast support through good times and challenging times.  Our commitment to serve every child remains at the forefront of everything we do.

Stay safe and healthy.

For the Children’s Sake,

Ruthanne Mefford
CEO, Child Advocates of Fort Bend

 

 

                

Donor SpotlightThe Exchange Clubs of Missouri City, Sugar Land and Fort Bend

Inspiring communities to become better places to live.  This is the mission of the Exchange Club which is a national organization and has three local chapters that have partnered with and supported Child Advocates of Fort Bend for many years.  These clubs have been strong supporters of Child Advocates of Fort Bend for over 20 years in so many ways – by volunteering with our Christmas Home Tour, serving as CASAs and on CAFB Advisory Councils, being Presenting Sponsors at past Voices For Children breakfasts, galas and this year’s Summer Soiree, serving as Ambassadors and through many individual member’s involvement and contributions.

This amazing group of individuals makes a huge impact on our community.  The club’s national project is the Prevention of Child Abuse which makes them the perfect partner for Child Advocates of Fort Bend.  Additionally, they focus their efforts on Americanism – educating and enlightening youth and their peers through projects such as their annual 4th of July flag project and working with Tip of the Spear, assembling packages for military members overseas.  Through Community Service, members have given countless hours of their time in community improvements, relief efforts for those affected by disaster and supporting cultural programs. The 4th program of service is focused on Youth.  Exchange believes that the recognition of well-deserving youth can have an impact on their future.  Each year they give a “Youth of the Year” and an “ACE – Accepting the Challenge of Excellence” award to local youth. And, Exchange Club of Missouri City awarded close to $40,000 to local high school seniors with college scholarships in 2019.

Child Advocates of Fort Bend is grateful to the Exchange Clubs for their dedication to children and families and making the community we live in a better place.

To learn more about Exchange Clubs, visit

Missouri City Sugar Land Fort Bend


MDT Coordinator Sasha Soileau talks about what she does and why it is important.
Watch her video below to hear what Providing a Voice means to her.
Check out the Q&A with Sasha to learn more about her role as an MDT Coordinator here .

 

Program Updates
CAFB staff began a phased return-to-the-office on June 1 with safety measures in place to protect staff, partners, children and families.  This will continue in a gradual way over the weeks to come, but with flexibility and adjusting for changes in state and local protocols as the situation evolves.

Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC)

All Forensic Interviewers and Family Advocates are in the office full time continuing to work with partners to ensure that children and families receive the essential first services after having been identified as a possible abuse victim. Unfortunately, we have seen an increase in cases of children witnessing domestic violence, suicide and homicide.

Therapists are now seeing clients in person and continue to engage in distance therapy, when appropriate. Manager of Therapy Services Jessica Hernandez shared the Ups and Downs of Distance Therapy in a recent Therapist’s Corner Blog Post. She and her skilled team of therapists have been posting weekly blogs since March and will continue to post once a month. Read Meghan Zeien’s recent post on Boundaries here and check out the entire series Therapist’s Corner blog posts .

Our waiting room is open but different.
Because of the virus, we are giving kids 2-3 items to play with when they come in the door rather than playing with the playroom toys. This ensures that toys are not handled by multiple children.

They take those items with them when they leave. Despite the changes, our CAC is still a warm and welcoming place for families who come here under extremely difficult circumstances and families leave here feeling known and supported.

Many of our committed volunteers have returned to the CAC to create that nurturing environment for the children we serve.

Clinical Family Advocate Amanda Gentry heard recently from the mother of a 10-year old boy who was served here in May. The mother told Amanda that her son had a great experience in our CAC and that it was the highlight of his week. She wanted to make sure that the volunteers who were working that day knew that she was impressed with them and the way that they seemed to know her son and made him feel comfortable. Her young son is playing with the toys that he received in the waiting area, instead of his electronics.

Court Appointed Special Advocates Program (CASA)

Since mid-March when the COVID-19 restrictions began, our Advocates have been visiting children virtually and attending court hearings by ZOOM while maintaining quality advocacy for the children.

Our dedicated Advocates have accepted the challenges brought on by COVID-19. They are not only maintaining quality advocacy for the children, but they are finding positive outcomes. Numerous children have returned home to their parents for monitoring and many others have been placed with their relatives.


Three young children were adopted into their “forever” home recently, thanks to Advocate Donna Anderson. 
These young children suffered from severe physical neglect and were severely delayed in all developmental milestones. The oldest of these children was a 3-year-old who was non-verbal. His 16-month-old sister could not walk and had no verbal language, not even a toddler babble and was not attached to anything or anyone. The youngest of the three was only 2 months old and was spared from possible neglect. Donna advocated fiercely for the children to make sure that they received all the services necessary to address these delays. She fought very hard to find the right home for these children.  Her hard work paid off. On June 4, all three were adopted. Today, the children are verbal, very expressive, energetic and loved. Their transformation is nothing short of miraculous! We are so grateful to Donna for her dedication to these children. She has truly made a difference in their lives.

We’re finding new ways to celebrate achievements and milestones.
Nationally, children in foster care have only a 54% high school graduation rate but thanks to our WINGS program and the hard work of our Advocates, we’ve had a 100% graduation rate for many years. We are extremely proud of our youth and what they have achieved. We celebrated with graduation parades for each of them.

THANK YOU to the CASA Volunteers, Volunteer Council, FRIENDS Council, Judge Rawlinson, Board Members, CPS Caseworkers and staff who decorated their cars and joined the caravan to make a BIG deal out of their BIG accomplishment! At the parades, each youth was given graduation gifts, specialty cookies, a generous gift card from our FRIENDS Council and Starbucks gift cards from our Board Member, Kurt Kirchof! We also had yard greetings installed for each youth to help make their celebration even more special. These parades were a blast and truly appreciated by each youth and their caregivers. One youth was surprised – she dropped her phone when she heard all the honking and ran to see what the fuss was all about and was completely at a loss for words that all these people came out “just for her”.

All six of this year’s graduates have big plans. One is headed off to serve our country in the Marines, one is following his passion and headed to barber school, one already has a summer job to save money so that she can attend Blinn College, and three sibling graduates with hearts of service are focused on starting their own nonprofit to mentor foster care youth and alumni. We are so proud of each of these youth and are excited for what the future holds for them!

We couldn’t do any of it without YOU!
We are so thankful for all our volunteers, partners, friends and community members who have helped us during these challenging times. From making masks, to volunteering in the playrooms, finding new ways to connect children and families, to helping us with these new celebrations – you are the glue that holds it together. We need your help now more than ever as we continue to transform the lives of children and families and work to put an end to child abuse once and for all.

 

 


Welcome to Our New Team Members!

Two new staff members have joined our team as Bilingual Clinical Family Advocates in our Children’s Advocacy Center – Genesis Guillen and Martha Medrano.  Genesis has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science and Spanish from the University of San Diego, a Master of Arts in Criminal Justice from Seattle University, and a Master of Social Work from the University of Texas, San Antonio.  She was a Social Work Intern at the University Health System- Trauma Unit in San Antonio Texas and Jewish Family Services San Antonio.  She previously was a Criminal Justice Instructor at Brown Mackie College and Bureau of Prisons Case Manager for Working Alternatives Inc in Brawley, CA.

Martha has Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Minor in Public Health from the University of Houston.  She also received a Master of Social Work degree from the University of Houston.   She was a Social Work Intern for with the Children’s Advocacy Center as well as Texas Children’s Hospital.  She worked for Texas Children’s Hospital as a Medical Social Worker following her internship. We are excited to have them as a part of our team!

 

 


Outreach

Our Community Engagement Team will be hosting a 3-day series to help educators prepare to go back in the classroom in person or virtually in the Fall. The series will include training on Trust Based Relational Intervention, Recognizing and Responding to Child Abuse, and Strategies to Reconnect with Students. The training will be held virtually, and registered participants will receive training certificates that comply with TEA requirements. Details about the training will be available on July 1st through our website and social media platforms.

If you haven’t seen our Tuesdays at 2pm segments on Facebook, you should check them out. Topics range from the work our staff and volunteers are doing to enhancing parent/child relationships to preventing child abuse. July topics include our therapy dog program, forensic interviewing and building connections for children in foster care. You can help spread the word with your circles of influence by sharing our posts and events as we share them on Facebook. It’s a great opportunity for you to be a part of our outreach efforts with just “the click of a button”. If you have suggestions on topics, please send them to Lindsey at Lcastellanos@cafb.org.

 

 


Get Your Copy of The Front Steps Project of Fort Bend TODAY!

185 homes   783 people   1 itty bitty newborns   121 dogs   3 rabbits   3 chickens
1 tortoise   AND 1 guinea pig

Talented photographer and author of the Front Steps Project Rhonda Kuykendall is selling a book of photos of families in Fulshear, Weston Lakes, Cinco Ranch, Pecan Grove, Richmond and Rosenberg to help raise funds for our agency. Kuykendall, owner of Rhonda Renee Photography is one of our CASA Advocates and is a member of our Board as well as our Volunteer Council. She embarked on the project during COVID-19, taking photos of families in front of their homes and posting them on Facebook. Word spread and she traveled from neighborhood to neighborhood taking photos. If you live in Fort Bend, I’m sure you will see some familiar faces in the book – we certainly did! Purchase a copy of the book NOW!

Thanks to Rhonda, all proceeds from the sale of books will be donated to Child Advocates of Fort Bend.

 

 


Volunteer Council and FBJSL Partner to Celebrate Children

In these changing times, our NEST team has had to change the way they celebrate children’s success in school. With the help of our wonderful Volunteer Council and our friends at the Fort Bend Junior Service League, we were able to surprise 11 children with a car parade that included pizza, goodie bags, posters with their names on them, balloons and achievement certificates. Special thanks to Volunteer Council and FBJSL for making the uplifting poster signs and goody bag items to celebrate the hard work of these super students this semester! The smiles on the faces and the faces of their caregivers and families were priceless.

 


Friends Backpacks

Each year, FRIENDS of Child Advocates of Fort Bend supplies more than 150 backpacks to children in foster care who are served by Child Advocates of Fort Bend. This year, FRIENDS will be including college freshman. Because many people are staying at home right now, FRIENDS is asking people to donate funds instead of shopping for supplies. The FRIENDS Council will then purchase supplies in bulk. It costs about $75 to fill one backpack for a child in need. If you can help, please make a check payable to FRIENDS of Child Advocates of Fort Bend and send it to Peggy Jackson, Treasurer, 2906 Carnoustie Court, Sugar Land, TX 77479 before July 15th.

More info or join FRIENDS

 

 

Items NEEDED. . .  
Because of the virus, we are giving kids 2-3 items to play with when they come in the door rather than playing with the playroom toys. They take those items with them when they leave. This ensures that toys are not handled by multiple children.

As a result, we need donations of the following items:
Masks, stuffed animals, blankets, toys for all ages, card games and playing cards, Playdoh and Playdoh cutters, adult coloring books, colored pencils and small crayon boxes and activity bags.

Activity bags are large baggies with 2-3 coloring sheets, small box of crayons, a small toy (i.e. bouncy ball, slinky, hot wheels car, playing cards, game cards such as Uno, etc.) and a small container of Playdoh.

To donate, coordinate delivery of your items or for more information, contact Melissa at mjohnson@cafb.org.

 

 

Amazon Smile REMINDER. . .
Child Advocates of Fort Bend is registered for AmazonSmile. This is a program through Amazon.com that will donate 0.5% of the price of your eligible AmazonSmile purchases to Ft Bend County Child Advocates, Inc. To shop via AmazonSmile, go to http://smile.amazon.com/ch/76-0337426.



Soiree

Please join us in person or remotely at our Transforming Lives Summer Soiree on August 22, 2020 from 7pm-10pm at our new Davis George Campus at 5403 Avenue N in Rosenberg.

About the evening
Upon entering our building you’ll follow the path a child takes when they arrive and will be surprised by the multitude of services we offer and why they are necessary. The evening events include live and silent auction, wine & restaurant pulls, raffle, music, delicious food from Sandy McGee’s and more.

We would LOVE to see you at our indoor/outdoor socially distant friendly event, but if you can’t make it please keep in touch online through our mobile bidding link coming to our website in early August! Need not be present to bid on great auction items or the raffle.

Please note, if you’re interested in one of our live auction packages or for information on sponsorships or attendance contact Lisa at LMoore@cafb.org.

Wine Pull
FRIENDS of Child Advocates of Fort Bend participate in the Wine Pull every year by donating and soliciting wine donations and staffing the station. Please consider donating a bottle of wine valued at $30 or more for this event. The funds generated from the Wine Pull can provide the supplies for a Care Package for one College Student during mid-terms or final exams ($50). Contact Pat Somers at tootsomers@gmail.com to coordinate.

Restaurant Pull
In addition, the Summer Soiree will have a Restaurant Pull. For $50 guests will be able to draw a mystery box for a gift card to a local restaurant valued from $25-$250. CAFB is requesting gift cards be purchased from restaurants to support local businesses and then donated to us to help earn needed funds for Child Advocates of Fort Bend. It’s a WIN-WIN for the businesses within Fort Bend County and for the youth we serve. Contact Tarina at tsheridan@cafb.org to coordinate.

If you have an auction item to donate or are interested in volunteering at this event, please contact Tarina at tsheridan@cafb.org.

 

Mark your calendar!

July 7, 2020 Tuesdays at 2pm on Facebook Live
Furry Friends in the CAC Playroom

July 21, 2020 Tuesdays at 2pm on Facebook Live
A Day in the Life of a Forensic Interviewer

July 21, 2020 Educator Summer Series
Stay tuned to website and social media for details

July 28, 2020 Tuesdays at 2pm on Facebook Live
Building Connections for Children in Foster Care

July 28, 2020 Educator Summer Series
Stay tuned to website and social media for details

July 30, 2020 Educator Summer Series
Stay tuned to website and social media for details

August 22, 2020 Transforming Lives Summer Soiree
7pm until 10pm
at Child Advocates of Fort Bend’s NEW Davis George Campus
5403 Avenue N, Rosenberg, TX 77471

December 11-12, 2020 Christmas Home Tour