Newsletter

Volume 8
AUGUST 2022

CEO Ruthanne Mefford, October News, from our CEO

Friends,

We’re still deep in the heat (heart?) of Texas enjoying vacations, summer camps for the children of CAFB, summer NEST programming, WINGS Lifeskills and Campus Crawls, monthly tours of our building at our Sip & Strolls… and yet here we are in August and we are deep into planning for the upcoming school year. Thank you to Friends Council which has organized and filled over 100 personalized backpacks for our elementary, middle and high school children so they start off the schoolyear with new supplies. Thanks to St. Laurence Women’s Ministry for their annual donation of shoes for the children so that our kiddoes have new shoes for their first day of school. Our Training Team is busy updating our Pre-Service Volunteer Training which will be offered this month to ensure that we fill our volunteer ranks with future CASAs so that we can maintain our 100% match of every child in foster care with a CASA Advocate and have full coverage of CAC Volunteers to welcome children into our CAC, our Training Team is busy updating our Pre-Service Volunteer Training which will be offered this month.  And to ensure that we raise critical funds to continue to bring these services to our children, the Development team is in high gear planning for our 12th annual Voices For Children Breakfast on September 22 which is certain to bring another moving, impactful event to our donors and supporters.

Back to school for children who have been abused can manifest in a spectrum of emotions.  For some, there may be anxiety about facing something “new” or “different” – new classes, new teachers, new classmates.  For children who have entered foster care or have had a placement change over the Summer, back to school may mean an entirely new school in which everything is unfamiliar.  This can trigger secondary trauma with feelings of “unbelonging.”  Children may show symptoms of withdrawal, anxiety, anger or even aggression.  It is so critical that we are keenly attentive to our children’s emotional state during this time of transition from Summer to School and that we advocate for their educational, physical as well as emotional needs during this time.  At Child Advocates of Fort Bend, we are staffed and equipped to anticipate and respond to children’s social-emotional needs by having invested in Trust Based Relational Intervention and other trauma training for our staff and volunteers, expanded our mental health services with our new partnership with UT Health Sciences Center and the addition of psychiatry fellows in our Children’s Advocacy Center, and the expansion of our Collaborative Family Engagement services to build networks of support for children.  We have also amplified our safety messaging and outreach to students and teachers to keep kids safe, intervene early with children who have been harmed, and provide prevention training and tools for children who are vulnerable.

As we begin the 2022-2023 school year, we reaffirm our commitment to bring every resource possible and advocate tirelessly for our children to ensure that they thrive this school year.  We thank our volunteers and advocates for going that extra mile to make this possible.  To our donors, now more than ever your support is critical to our work and making sure that every child can receive the transformational services they desperately need to move from victim to survivor.

For the Children’s Sake,

Ruthanne Mefford, CEO

 

Keeping you informed on our mission:

Strengthen the child’s voice, Heal the hurt, and Break the cycle of abuse and neglect for children in Fort Bend and surrounding counties.

 

Getting Ready – Back to School

Written by Lindsey Castellanos

We are excited and looking with anticipation toward a new school year! Children get to meet new teachers, new friends, and gain new experiences. While we can anticipate all these things with a positive attitude, I challenge our community to keep child abuse prevention a priority as well. When our community values child safety and education it makes the environment less risky from the beginning. We are going to share our top tips to keep child abuse prevention a priority this year.

Know the facts

  • Child abuse occurs in every zip code, school, demographic, neighborhood in our area in Fort Bend. Even yours.
  • 1 in 10 children will be a victim of child sexual abuse before their 18th
  • 90% of children know their abuser.

Know the policies

If you are starting your child at a new or even familiar daycare. Ask about their policies around one-on-one interactions (pick up, drop off, bathroom breaks, etc.)

  • What happens if your child is the last to be picked up? Who is there with them?
  • What are the transportation policies if your child is picked up from school and taken to a daycare? How many adults are in the vehicle?
  • What is the supervision policy for the restroom? Adults and children should not use the same restroom at the same time. Adults should be outside the restroom within listening distance, but not in the restroom with children.
  • What training and background checks do the workers receive? Do the staff receive annual training in child abuse prevention? What is the training so you can see it for yourself?

Get educated

  • As a parent you are the best resource and advocate for your child. Find a research backed child abuse prevention training like Darkness to Light: Stewards of Children. Join us for one of these free trainings! Register Here
  • Learn about the ways that people groom children AND adults into sexual abuse. This is covered in Stewards of Children, but you can go beyond that through resources like Netsmartz or Mama Bear Effect
  • Ask for child abuse prevention education to be given in your child’s school, youth serving organization, or religious group. Child Safety Matters is a K-12 program that teaches children concepts of safety from all types of abuse. Read more about this program

Parents: Talk to your children

The conversation looks different based on their ages, but conversations about safety should be on-going.

Some of the topics include:

  • Private parts are private. Adults or other children should not look at, take pictures or touch them including family members, teachers, coaches, spiritual leaders, siblings, cousins, friends, friends’ parents, etc. Use anatomical names for privates. Penis, vagina, and butt are not bad words.
  • Talk about boundaries. Each person has their own space. It’s ok for children to decline a hug, kiss, or other affection. Respect their autonomy and ability to consent. Set expectations with other adults that to respect a child’s boundaries too.
  • Instinct is an important concept. If your child gets the gut feeling that something isn’t supposed to happen, they need to get away and tell you as soon as they can. Teaching children to listen to their instincts helps them in a lot of ways to be safer.
  • Play the “What-if” game. Take the knowledge about grooming and ask your child what they would do if one of those scenarios happened. Keep it age appropriate. Also, ask who can you tell besides mom or dad? At school? At daycare? What if something makes you uncomfortable at a friend’s house? Let your child lead the solutions because those are the solutions they are most likely to remember.
  • Talk about what happens when things go wrong. Parents have rules and they are important. Your child is going to mess up and do things you don’t approve of – like send an inappropriate picture or look at porn. They need to know that when something like that happens you want to talk about it with them. If your child knows they will be “grounded for eternity” they won’t tell you. Some of those mistakes can make children more vulnerable to sexual abuse because of the shame attached to it.

How to respond to a disclosure

  • Believe them. Children are putting a lot of trust in you if they decide to tell you someone is hurting them. Just believe them and let investigators figure out the details.
  • Remain calm. It might be hard to hear what they have to say, but your response tells a child if it’s ok to tell. Emotional responses of anger, sadness or disbelief convey to children that it’s not ok to talk. Children do not want to see an adult in distress so find a safe adult to talk about your feelings.
  • Limit your questions. Open ended responses like, “Tell me about what happened” are best. You don’t have to have all the details. Trained professionals can get the additional details that are needed.
  • Report abuse immediately. It can be hard to make a report because you may not have suspected anything was happening or you may be close with the person that harmed a child. The information the child shared might not be as clear as you would like. You don’t have to know for sure. Suspicion of abuse is enough to report. Children’s safety depends on you to report. The hotline to DFPS is 1-800-252-5400.

Sometimes children think sexual abuse is their fault, and they will be in trouble. By modeling openness and knowledge of the concepts above, you are creating safety to tell. As Darkness to Light states, child safety is an adult responsibility. We are all responsible for children and when we work together, we can make this school year safer for all of them.

 

 

 

Companions in Healing

Written by Fiona Remko

When we think of what helps a child heal from trauma, we think of therapeutic services, supportive families and others who know all the right things to say. But here in The Children’s Advocacy Center, children also have some quieter advocates who play a big role in their healing. We are grateful for our partnership with Faithful Paws, a fabulous organization who brings therapy dogs to many locations including ours.

When children walk through the doors of the CAC for the first time, they often feel anxious, scared or sad. They don’t know what to expect or if they’re ready to talk about their experiences. It is such a gift to see them walk into the playroom and have their faces light up when they see one of our therapy dogs. There’s nothing like a good tail-wagging greeting to immediately put a child at ease. The benefits of therapy animals are widely known, including lowering anxiety and blood pressure, providing a happy distraction, and breaking the ice. But our kids don’t care about the research, all they know is that a doggy smile and kiss makes them feel better. The dog owners are caring and compassionate to the kids, as well. They always seem to know what each child needs from their faithful companion, and allow that to happen.

The CAC has another (less fuzzy) therapy animal… who is just as popular with the kids! Many of you have seen or met Lizzy the Bearded Dragon. Lizzy has been with us since 2017. She lives in the reception area and most kids (and sometimes adults) are immediately drawn to Lizzy. The kids love to learn about her and talk to her and many also want to hold her. Lizzy is calm with the kids and always looks like she is intently listening to every word they have to say with her head tilted to the side to show she’s paying attention. Lizzy has accompanied nervous children into forensic interviews, where her presence can be calming for some children. Lizzy also has some favorite therapy clients who like to have Lizzy in their sessions.

We greatly appreciate the opportunity to have the therapy animals and dragon play a huge role in the healing of our kids. The power of that relationship goes a long way to creating the safe environment that we want all our kids to experience.

If you are interested in Faithful Paws, please check out the website at www.faithfulpawshouston.org.

 

Case Closing Celebrations

Written by Jennifer Brown

If you have heard me talk about Case Closing before, then you already know it’s one of my favorite things we do to celebrate our volunteers. The purpose of “Case Closing Celebration” is to honor volunteers who advocated and served their children and families until the closing of their CPS case.

For our CASA volunteers, this means they visited, formed bonds with and then went to court and advocated for children who are not theirs. They spent hours on the phone, sending emails and writing court documents trying to advocate for the child(ren)’s best interest. Each journey a CASA volunteer takes is a challenging one with touching moments, frustrations, laughter and sometimes tears involved. No one signs up to be a CASA volunteer thinking they are going to have a sunshine, rainbow experience 100% of the time. However, they dig deep, have hard conversations and stand tall knowing they are doing their best to ensure their child(ren) have a champion in their corner, fighting for them.

This past month at our Case Closing, the stories were again inspiring and incredible. When our staff stood up and talked about the volunteer they were presenting, we heard things like… “He didn’t miss a single school meeting and was in constant contact with the therapist. He even made sure that his child had size 16 shoes for his feet, which is no easy task”… “when the case was at a standstill, this volunteer went out and did their own research and ended up finding the biological mom, who ended up being a wonderful fit with a steady home”… “she was gentle and genuine and a great support to not only the children, but to the parents, as well”… “this was her 8th case since becoming a volunteer in 2014 and she advocated as steadfast and compassionately as the first”…. “She was moms biggest cheerleader and helped her see her strengths, too”… “without the fierce advocacy of this volunteer, these children’s lives would not be what it is today”… and “she immediately picked up on the trauma that the children had been through, saw the signs that they needed help dealing with it and helped get them into therapy”. The stories went on and on as we celebrated 20 volunteers. Those in attendance were our honorees, other active volunteers, staff and board members. Each one of us left that night feeling on fire to continue to do this work!

This year, for the first time ever, we invited and included ALL active volunteers for this event. The hope is that each volunteer sees what a difference they make, big or small, and leaves feeling inspired. We host this evening twice a year, once in July and again in December.

One of my favorite comments of the evening was when one of the honorees was telling us about a High School graduation she recently attended. The graduate was from a CASA case she worked several years previously. The volunteer said “I didn’t feel like I did that much in the case, to be honest, but after the graduation, I saw she was wearing the necklace I gave her years ago and she told me I had changed her life”.

No matter how simple or dramatic our efforts are when a child’s best interest is involved, it’s important and impactful. When a child has someone who is looking out for their future, and supporting their loved ones, it truly is life changing.

 

 

 

 

 

FBJSL A Partner for the Community

Written by Jenetha Jones

A longtime service organization, the Fort Bend Junior Service League (FBJSL) or “the League,” has supported the community and residents for more than two decades. League members are a vital asset to Fort Bend nonprofits through the availability of hundreds of women who are not only eager to learn about the needs of the community, but also lend a hand in improving the lives of others by donating their time, talent and treasure. That they have partnered with Child Advocates of Fort Bend (CAFB) since the early days is a testament to the mission of volunteerism and a cornerstone of both organizations. In 2017, the League won our award for Event Volunteer of the Year.

Currently, CAFB is again a Core Placement for the 2021-2023 League years. Whether serving at the Provisional, Active, Sustainer or Teen League membership level, FBJSL members continue to support CAFB in a variety of ways from collecting items to donate toward a specific need for our children to our annual school supply and holiday toy drives. These ladies have taken the lead in staffing an entire home during the Christmas Home Tour, volunteering at the annual Gala for the Children, purchasing League member tables and tickets, and baking food and treats for various CAFB functions. Through our association, CAFB is fortunate to gain new CASA/CAC volunteers and Ambassadors after many members do when learning of our programs and services. We have been a beneficiary of the League’s “Sugar Plum Market” fundraising event since its inception. The impact of FBJSL’s combined contributions is incalculable.

At present, our CEO and grant writer are dedicated Sustainer members, while past Board Presidents, other staff, and members from our Friends of Child Advocates of Fort Bend auxiliary group have been members over the years. It truly is a win-win relationship, and we are so grateful.

We are excited to have Jessica Roos as our liaison for the 2022-2023 term.  She is a middle school teacher and excited to share the CAFB mission and our needs to the new and existing members of FBJSL.  Michelle Cano has served in that role since 2020 and is now stepped up to be on the board as Community Liaison. We are very thankful for these gals as they support and promote our cause!

If you are interested in finding out more about becoming a member of Fort Bend Junior Service League, contact Jamila Carroll at Newmembers@fbjsl.com or go to https://www.fbjsl.org/join/how-to-become-a-member/.

 

 

 

Looking for a Way to Memorialize Someone You Love?

We all have friends, family and people in our lives who give to others or hold a special place in our hearts. Pay tribute to them by honoring or memorializing them for a life well lived or a special occasion. Send a donation in any amount with their name, address, and a note about why you are honoring them. We’ll send an acknowledgement letter letting them know that you donated on their behalf. Honor someone today by donating online https://www.cafb.org/donate/ or by mailing a check to Child Advocates of Fort Bend, 5403 Avenue N, Rosenberg, TX 77471.

What are some permanent honorarium choices?

Pavers. Your $500 or $1,000 gift can purchase a medium or large paver in our front walkway engraved with your name or message. If you have already purchased a paver, we thank you! Donate online at https://www.cafb.org/donate/purchasing-a-room-or-a-paver/ and someone will contact you to discuss your inscription.

If you wish to honor or memorialize someone special in a more significant way, why not name a room in our building after them? We have a variety of room naming opportunities available including private offices, therapy rooms, family meeting rooms, conference rooms and more.

Our largest naming opportunities are now available. We recently completed a brand new Multi-Function Building and Pavilion in our parking lot and are excited to announce that we will be opening a Wellness Park and Activity Play space on the east side of our building in the coming months. If you are interested in supporting CAFB by naming these enhancements to our campus, please let us know. We would love to have you work with us on these new projects and leave your legacy at CAFB’s Davis George Campus.

For more information, please contact Lisa Moore at Lmoore@cafb.org.

 

 


 

 

 

 

pavers

Looking for a way to honor or memorialize someone you love?

We all have friends, family and people in our lives who give to others or hold a special place in our hearts. Pay tribute to them by honoring or memorializing them for a life well lived or a special occasion. Send a donation in any amount with their name, address, and a note about why you are honoring them. We’ll send an acknowledgement letter letting them know that you donated on their behalf. Honor someone today by donating online https://www.cafb.org/donate/ or by mailing a check to Child Advocates of Fort Bend, 5403 Avenue N, Rosenberg, TX 77471.

What are some permanent honorarium choices?

Pavers. Your $500 or $1,000 gift can purchase a paver in our front walkway engraved with your name or message. If you have already purchased a paver, we thank you! Donate online at https://www.cafb.org/donate/purchasing-a-room-or-a-paver/ and someone will contact you to discuss your inscription.

For more information, please contact Lisa Moore at LMoore@cafb.org.

 

 

 

For more information on any of these events go to www.cafb.org.