I hope that you all are safe and warm and that you made it through our frigid weather. Despite the many challenges that so many in our community faced, it was an absolutely beautiful sight to wake up Monday, February 15 to a blanket of snow. I took an early morning walk outside and shot a few photos to capture that special morning. I was awed by the silence and how for a few moments, the usually busy Monday-morning routines came to a standstill. As the sun began to rise, a red cardinal flighted onto a limb and it was a moment out of a Currier and Ives postcard. Truly magical.
We were so fortunate to have completed our remodel of our building last year which included all new plumbing, new irrigation and upgraded electrical. Fortunately, the building held up great and we had no water leaks or breakages, which would most likely have happened with our previous 60-year-old plumbing that we replaced. Our staff gets high marks for their resiliency and adaptability and they pivoted immediately to digital connection and services. We reached out to our children and families to assess their safety and offer help where needed. Thank you to all the CASA Volunteers who connected with their children during this challenging time. We appreciate the extra time you took and efforts you made to support all the children and families who faced hardship.
We now turn our attention to all the many events and activities being planned for the Spring. Mark your calendars for our Annual Volunteer Celebration on April 22 which will be brought to you virtually this year. Our 30th Birthday Celebration Gala is May 8. We are excited to deliver a variety of Continuing Education trainings in the coming weeks and months. We have Spring Break “virtual” activities for our children and youth in the works. And we will be introducing a new Child Advocates of Fort Bend Podcast where we will bring you timely topics delivered by experts and accessible to you through this format.
All of us at Child Advocates of Fort Bend appreciate everything you do every day – whether it’s dropping off a box of PPE masks and shields, crocheting blankets for our kids, welcoming children and families to our Children’s Advocacy Center, offering testimony to support a child’s best interests, sharing a moving story of your advocacy for a child to guests at our virtual Voices For Children Tours, or providing financial support, we are deeply grateful. One of the things that the winter storm once again showed was the amazing community we have and how generous and caring you all are.
For the Children’s Sake,
CEO, Child Advocates of Fort Bend
Interested in learning more about Child Advocates of Fort Bend? You are invited to join us on a VOICES FOR CHILDREN “Behind the Scenes” tour of our new and expanded campus. Tours are held via Zoom, so you can sit on the couch, on your patio or porch or in your most comfortable spot (in your most comfortable clothes!) and take a walk through our agency, hear stories and statistics, and most importantly gain awareness about the work we do. Tours are held twice a month – the first Tuesday at 10am and the third Thursday at 4pm and are open to all who are interested.
Contact Dana Mersiovsky at firstname.lastname@example.org or 281.344.7253 to schedule and for the Zoom link.
We asked. . . YOU answered the call! Thank you to volunteers Chinnu Meher-Homji, Sue Lockwood, Simmi Chaudhary, Maria Hein, Lois Gremminger, and Sigrid Walker and to their wonderful friends and neighbors for donating items for one of our families in need! We are so thankful for your generosity.
Thank you to the Gremillion family who donated 4 huge tubs filled with boxes of Legos and their instruction booklets to us! When Matt Gremillion delivered those to the Children’s Advocacy Center recently, he told Program Assistant Melissa Johnson “these were a big part of my childhood”! Thanks to Matt and his family’s generous donation, many children who come to our CAC will get to enjoy them too!
Winter left with a roar in February, forcing us to close our doors for a few days and work from home. When we returned to the building, Board member and CAC Advisory Council Chair Farha Ahmed partnered with Alings Restaurant to provide lunch for staff. We thank them and really appreciate their thoughtfulness!
Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC)
“I am so excited to be here. I feel honored to be part of such a powerful team that works hard to break the cycle of child abuse,” Bethany Garay
“I’m grateful to be joining a collaborative and multi-disciplinary team that is dedicated to improving the lives of our community’s most vulnerable kids and families,” Lindamarie Olson
The Children’s Advocacy Center is excited to announce two new additions to its team. Bethany Garay and Lindamarie Olson have joined the staff as therapists. Bethany is an LPC-A and most recently worked at Houston Center for Christian Counseling. She has experience in working with victims of trauma and is trained in play therapy and EMDR. Lindamarie is a LMSW who is currently working on her PhD in Social Work. Lindamarie brings with her experience in working with children who have experienced trauma and those who are living in residential treatment facilities. Her dissertation involves neurofeedback and traumatized youth.
Lindamarie and Bethany are both fabulous additions to the CAFB family and we are thrilled to have them as a part of our team.
Court Appointed Special Advocates Program (CASA) and Community Engagement
February has been a short but extremely busy month for our CASA Team. Programming, court appearances and preparations for (virtual) Capitol Day have kept our team running in February. Advocacy Specialist Renee Lukefahr had to prepare for three very intense and emotional trials in a single week. Thanks to her strong support of the Advocates and assistance in preparing them to testify in court, all the children will have the best possible outcomes.
Pivoting has become a way of life for our CASA Team so it was no surprise that when storm related outages threatened our ability to host our state representatives and senators on zoom calls, Program Innovation Manager Krystal Vann sprang into action and rescheduled them, so that we will be able to meet with each of our elected officials in one-on-one virtual meetings to discuss legislative priorities.
Our Community Engagement Team, led by Community Engagement Director Casey Davis has been busy working on our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Initiative, along with our Volunteer Appreciation Celebration, Continuing Education opportunities and school presentations. Stay tuned for updates and check out upcoming Continuing Education opportunities on the CE training page at https://www.cafb.org/volunteer/continuing-education-for-currentvolunteers/. All current volunteers are required to complete 12 hours of continuing education each year. Make sure to mark your calendar for our Virtual Volunteer Banquet on April 22nd.
Infant & Toddler Monthly Open-Door Topic Talk
The Infant and Toddler Team is hosting monthly Open-Door meetings to give Advocates assigned to infant and toddler cases an opportunity to drop in, ask questions, staff cases, or just say hi to fellow Advocates. Our next meeting is scheduled for March 1 from noon to 1:00. Our Topic Talk for March is Parent-Child Visitation.
April’s Topic Talk Let’s Talk COVID is scheduled for April 5.
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 task 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
CAC volunteers, Julie Saller, Rhonda Kuykendall, and Kasaundra Hall always bring a lot of love when working with our kids and families. Earlier this month, they chose to show their love with their shirts. Thanks for all the love you give our kiddos ladies!
Volunteer Book Club starts TODAY!
All active volunteers are invited to join our “Let’s Talk about It” book club. Each month we will read a different book. Not only is it an easy way to get Continuing Education hours but it is a wonderful way to connect with each other, learn more about the children and their experiences with trauma, growing up and/or just good reads in general. The group will meet on the first Monday of each month – Yes that means TODAY! Our first book is “The Connected Child: Bring Hope to Your Adoptive Family” by Karyn B. Purvis. The book club is for ACTIVE Volunteers only, due to confidentiality. If you are an active volunteer and want to be a part of the group, you can join the facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/groups/4405367996146550
30th Birthday Gala Celebration!
Saturday, May 8, 2021
at the Sugar Land Marriott Town Square
Emcee: Michele Fisher
Auctioneer: Johnny (Bravo) Holloway
We’re going to party like it’s 1991!
We are excited to announce our in-person – 30th Birthday Gala For the Children celebrating 30 years of making a difference. Celebrate in style with music, a delicious dinner, incredible silent and live auction, raffle, our popular wine and gift card pull AND success stories over the years.
This is one event you won’t want to miss in 2021!
We are currently seeking sponsorships, auction donations and committee volunteers. If you are interested or have any questions, contact Tarina at TSheridan@cafb.org.
To sponsor go to https://www.cafb.org/events/home-tour-2/
How Can You Help?
We are currently seeking auction donations as well as bottles of wine (valued at $30 and up) and gift cards (valued at $25 and up) for our wine and gift card pulls. Want to help? Please ask your friends, neighbors, co-workers and family if they are able to donate. If you can donate, please contact Tarina at TSheridan@cafb.org.
Mark your calendars!
March 1, 2021 Infant and Toddler Monthly Open-Door Topic Talk (on Parent-Child Visitation)
noon until 1pm
March 1, 2021 Let’s Talk About It Book Club (on Parent-Child Visitation)
Join the facebook page athttps://www.facebook.com/groups/4405367996146550.
March 2, 2021 Voices for Children Tour
Contact Dana Mersiovsky at DMersiovsky@cafb.org for link.
March 9, 2021 Surrogate Parent Training for Educational Advocacy
1pm until 4pm
To register go to https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_EtCmiAB6Q8i4Fabu2VPVfw.
March 18, 2021 Voices for Children Tour
Contact Dana Mersiovsky at DMersiovsky@cafb.org for link.
March 25, 2021 Education Consortium – Foster Care and Student Success
9am until 11am
Child Advocates of Fort Bend & Texas Dept. of Family & Protective Services are working with Texas system professionals to improve education outcomes for students in foster care. Students in foster care have poor educational outcomes compared to the general population. The consortium is a group of professionals within different systems who can offer their experiences and communicate on how to better serve our children’s educational needs. If you are a professional working within the Texas system, please join us.
To register go to https://zoom.us/meeting/register/tJ0kfuiorjkrGtV8zRrMq_OR3XqYHc0B_njW.
April 5, 2021 Infant and Toddler Monthly Open-Door Topic Talk (Let’s Talk COVID)
noon until 1pm
April 22, 2021 VIRTUAL Volunteer Appreciation Annual Celebration
6pm – 7pm
Details coming soon. . .
May 8, 2021 30th Birthday Gala Celebration
6pm – 11pm
Sugar Land Marriott Town Square