It is hard to believe that we are entering the holiday season and Thanksgiving is just a few weeks away. At this time of the year, we pause to give thanks to our wonderful volunteers for everything you do throughout the year to provide a voice, heal the hurt and break the cycle of abuse and neglect for children. We are truly blessed to have you give so generously of your time to transform the lives of the hundreds of children served every month in our CASA Program and Children’s Advocacy Center. This year, given all the challenges as a result of COVID, you have adapted so seamlessly to continue to bring children the care and support they need now, more than ever – whether by visiting your CASA children virtually or in “drive-by” visits, attending court through Zoom, keeping our children and families safe in our CAC with new protocols for hygiene, masking and physically distancing, we have relied on your steadfast support. I wish to extend a sincere thank you to our donors during this time of thanksgiving. We have been faced with one of our toughest fundraising years with the cancellation of all our traditional fundraising events. So many of you have reached out and asked, “How can I help?” You have donated items for children and families in need, generously supported our first virtual Summer Soiree and become part of our Voices For Children CIRCLE sustainable giving program with multi-year pledges of support. We hope that you will be a part of this year’s “virtual” Christmas Home Tour as well. For 29 years, we have hosted this trademark event featuring beautifully decorated homes by the top interior designers in Fort Bend County. Through snow, torrential downpours, and now a pandemic, hundreds of volunteers have ensured that the annual Christmas Home Tour will continue. Read on to learn more about this exciting new format.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and your families and may the blessings of the season be yours.
For the Children’s Sake,
CEO, Child Advocates of Fort Bend
Making Birthdays Special
Birthdays are a special time and Christ Church Sugar Land – United Methodist Women have made them super special for the children we serve. The women’s group has created “birthday kits” inclusive of cake mix, frosting, candles, decorations and even birthday party invitations. Kits are created based on the children’s ages – Elementary, Middle School and High School and the décor is specific to the age group. Volunteers and staff are so grateful for these kits and the love that was put into them. Thank you, Christ Church Sugar Land for your dedication to Child Advocates of Fort Bend.
Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC)
COVID-19 has not slowed down the work that our team in the Children’s Advocacy Center is doing. In fact, our staff is busier than ever. Job loss, isolation and the stress of COVID-19 are having dramatic effects on children and families. We are seeing ever increasing cases involving domestic violence, including cases of homicide in front of children and injuries to children from parents and caregivers. Interviews are up almost 40% in October over the same time last year.
Our CAC staff is here to provide services for children and their families now and later, should they need it. In the past, clients have returned to ask for help from therapists, clinical family advocates, court advocates and prosecutors. Recently a past client stopped by the CAC after 12 long years. She was looking for resources to help her and knew the CAC staff would be there for her to either help or refer her to someone who could. Mission accomplished! She will always have support for healing her hurt from Child Advocates of Fort Bend.
In October, Therapist Amna Ahmed talks about Checking in with your mental health and when to seek help. If you haven’t read it yet, you can view it here https://www.cafb.org/checking-in-with-your-mental-health/.
Volunteers in our CAC are heavily relied upon to provide a safe, fun, and nurturing environment for children and their families who come for forensic interviews or therapy sessions. Our COVID precautions have led to a need for more volunteers who can work ONE shift a week in the front and/or playroom. If you have a little extra free time and would like to help, please apply today. We are offering a CAC only training December 7 – 9 from 11am until 3pm. For more information or to apply contact Jennifer Brown at JBrown@cafb.org.
When you see Bilingual Forensic Interviewer Brenda Zavala, please make sure to congratulate her. She passed her licensing exam recently for her LMSW.
Court Appointed Special Advocates Program (CASA)
In addition to advocating for the needs of the children we serve, our CASA team has been busy with numerous trainings and presentations in October. CASA team members Carol Thesing and Renee Lukefahr partnered with Dr. Sue Profilet in October to host our first Infant and Toddler Court Team meeting in over a year. The organization, First Three Years presented at the meeting and provided new resources. The team has agreed to a planning meeting to determine how we might be able to integrate some elements of the Safe Babies program in Fort Bend County.
Congratulations to all 27 new volunteers, including our new Events Specialist Tarina Sheridan, who completed their CASA and CAC training in October and will be sworn in via ZOOM on November 5 at 1:30. If you would like to watch their swearing in celebration, contact Casey Davis at CDavis@cafb.org.
Our Collaborative Family Engagement Team (CFE) works to find and engage caring adults to support children in the foster care system, identify family or child specific strengths and needs, ensure all children have meaningful, lasting connects and build lifetime networks for children in foster care. On October 27, our CFE team launched a Collaborative Family Engagement Training for volunteers with a one-hour overview of CFE. More trainings are headed your way this month. November 17 and 19 you can learn about CFE application tools. For information or to participate, contact Krystal Vann at KHughes@cafb.org or Jackie Townsend at JTownsed@cafb.org.
On October 27, Texas CASA launched a Distinguished Speakers Series for the CASA network and other community partners involved in the child welfare system. The series continues November 5, 12 and 18 and features high-caliber speakers sharing their expertise on topics and issues impacting the child welfare system and how we can enhance our advocacy for children and families in the system. For more information or to participate go to https://texascasa.org/events/event/distinguished-speaker-series/.
Child Abuse is something that happens in secret, behind closed doors, where no one can see or hear. We want to empower adults to be able to recognize and report child abuse appropriately. While it might seem like a daunting topic, our trained staff are ready to arm parents, educators, and anyone who interacts with children with tools to respond to abuse or neglect. We want YOU to know what abuse looks like. We want to build confidence in you so that if you do see something concerning you have the tools to stop it and make a report.
NEST Team Announcements
The NEST team has specialized programs and resources for volunteers. If you currently have a CASA case with children between the ages of 6-13 years, please take a look at our website at https://www.cafb.org/volunteer/current-volunteers/resources/. This password protected website has all sorts of information that you will find helpful in working your case including information on the three pillars of NEST – Trust-Based Relational Intervention, the Collaborative Family Engagement Program, and Age-Appropriate activities. Need the password? Contact April Shaver at AShaver@cafb.org or Alli Waterwall at AWaterwall@cafb.org.
In addition to programs and resources, we have an Education Committee full of educational professionals who are eager to assist volunteers in making sure our foster children are receiving the educational services they deserve. If you have questions or concerns about the education your CASA child is receiving, please contact April Shaver or Alli Waterwall to learn more about how to speak directly to our Education Committee members.
Can You Help Us?
Our Children’s Advocacy Center is in desperate need of small and medium sized stuffed animals. Every child who comes into our CAC for an interview selects a stuffed animal to take with them when they leave. If you are able to donate, please contact Melissa at MJohnson@cafb.org. Due to COVID precautions, NEW items only can be accepted.
Child Safety REMINDER…
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.
Virtual Christmas Home Tour
December 11 + 12, 2020
Friday 9am until Saturday 9pm
Home Tours, Demonstrations, Wreath Raffle, Door Prizes and Much More. . .
We’re planning an exciting and comprehensive event that will not only provide you with an opportunity to view gorgeous decorated homes but a chance to see unique holiday collections, learn how to decorate and entertain like a professional and reminisce with videos and photos from our Christmas Home Tours over the years. With the help of local decorators and designers we will be showcasing tips for this holiday season including entertaining, wrapping, decorating, accessorizing your home and even choosing the perfect tree. Grab a cup of hot cocoa and join us from the comfort of your home! You’ll be glad you did.
Do you or a friend have a unique holiday collection that you would like featured for our virtual Home Tour? Please email Tarina at TSheridan@cafb.org for more information.
Wreath Raffle . . .
Now in it’s 7th year! Try your luck to win the wreath of your choosing. There will be a variety of styles and seasons to choose from valued at $100 and up. We are still accepting wreaths for any season to be included in this year’s raffle. Please email Tarina at TSheridan@cafb.org.
To sponsor the Home Tour, for details or more information go to https://www.cafb.org/events/home-tour/.
We need your help to make this first ever VIRTUAL event a huge success. Please join us and share with all your friends no matter where they live.
Virtual National Adoption Day
Thursday, November 19th (drive through pre-celebration) at CAFB Office
Friday, November 20th (8am via ZOOM)
National Adoption Day is November 20th this year. We will kick off the celebration with a drive thru celebration at our office on November 19th from 4-6 PM. Gifts will be given by the Fort Bend National Adoption Day committee. We are looking for groups who would like to show their support to these families on their big day. If you know if an organization that would like to join us please share this with them. If you would like to participate in this outdoor, socially distanced event please contact Lindsey Castellanos at email@example.com.
The Thankful Ones Turkey Trot Benefiting CAFB
Our FRIENDS at The Thankful Ones will be hosting their annual Turkey Trot in Pecan Grove safely on Thanksgiving Morning – Thursday, November 26. Participating will be easier than ever this year as they will be offering live and virtual options. Get a little exercise, work up an appetite for your turkey and trimmings AND help the children. For more information contact Matthew Martin at firstname.lastname@example.org or https://www.facebook.com/thethankfulones. We are planning to be there – will we see YOU?
Houston Open Birdies for Charity®
The Houston Open, a PGA Tour event, is November 2-8, 2020 at Memorial Park Golf Course. The Astros Golf Foundation/Houston Open is excited to start a new charity program in the Houston community. Birdies for Charity® has raised millions of dollars for local charities at various PGA tournaments across the US and this year Child Advocates of Fort Bend is one of their chosen charities!
What Is Birdies for Charity®?
Birdies for Charity® is a fundraising program designed to give local charities the opportunity to generate contributions through the Houston Open. 100% of your donation goes directly to the charity of your choice. The Houston Open will also award the top three donation-collecting charities and one randomly drawn charity with an additional bonus.
HOW CAN I PARTICIPATE IN BIRDIES FOR CHARITY®?
There are two ways to donate to the Birdies for Charity program:
1. Make a pledge of one cent or more for every “Birdie” made by the PGA Tour Pros during the Houston Open. If 1,500 birdies are made during the 2020 event, here are the totals for some typical pledge amounts:
1 cent pledge = $15 total pledge
3 cent pledge = $45 total pledge
10 cent pledge = $150 total pledge
$1.00 pledge = $1,500 total pledge
2. Make a flat donation not tied to birdies. For flat donations, the minimum is $20.
The minimum birdie pledge is $.01 and the maximum pledge is $1.00. The last day to submit a pledge is Sunday, November 8, 2020. Last year, 1,244 birdies were made at the Houston Open.
You are eligible to enter our “Guess the Birdie” contest when you donate or make a pledge to one of our local charities. Guess the total number of birdies that will be made by PGA Tour Pros during the Houston Open, Nov. 2-8, 2020. One grand prize will be given to the person who guesses the correct number. In case of ties, winners will be randomly selected. One lucky supporter of the Houston Open Birdies for Charity® program will win an Astros *Suite Night at Minute Maid Park. *Suite night 2021 date will be determined by the Astros organization and sent to the winner once determined.
Mark your calendars!
November 5, 2020 Volunteer Swearing In Celebration
To participate contact Jennifer Brown at JBrown@cafb.org.
November 17, 2020 Tuesdays at 2pm on Facebook Live
Dana Mersiovsky, Development Officer joins us for a “Voices for Children Behind the Scenes” tour of our new Davis George Campus.
November 19, 2020 drive through National Adoption Day Celebration
4pm – 6pm
CAFB Offices, 5403 Avenue N, Rosenberg, TX 77471
Join us for an outdoor, distanced celebration to show support to families on their big day! For details or to participate contact Lindsey Castellanos at LCastellanos@cafb.org.
November 20, 2020 virtual National Adoption Day Celebration
You MUST register to participate at https://www.cafb.org/events/national-adoption-day/. For details or more information contact Karen Jordin at KJordin@cafb.org.
November 26, 2020 The Thankful Ones Turkey Trot Benefiting CAFB
December 10, 2020 Case Closing Celebration
6pm – 8pm
Contact Jennifer Brown for details at mailto:JBrown@cafb.org
December 11-12, 2020 virtual Christmas Home Tour
Friday 9am until Saturday 9pm