We are thrilled to share with you all the exciting news from Child Advocates of Fort Bend and upcoming events planned for November and December. We held our annual Board Retreat on October 27 and have drafted our 2022 Strategic Plan, Key Performance Measures and Budget. This is a 5-month process which we begin in the summer and involves in-depth discussions and planning sessions of our staff, Board Officers, Executive Committee and others. The Strategic Plan is our guidepost for the upcoming year and has served as a critical component of our growth, expansion and success over many years. Our Board of Directors made a renewed commitment to ensure that we have the human and capital resources necessary to add staff, volunteers and space to be able to increase our services to children and families in response to the 35% growth in the number of children and families we are serving this year. We have experienced increases every year and during the pandemic, our numbers have nearly doubled from prior years. We will be adding some new staff positions, restructuring some of our departments to add talent as well as adding more focus on trauma and therapy services, training and human resources.
In other news, we just completed our Fall Volunteer Training class with 15 new volunteers who are being sworn in as CASA Advocates on November 4. We held our annual Human Trafficking Conference on October 19 which presented the latest information for practitioners and the public about the risks for children who have experienced abuse and neglect. We have 14 new Voices For Children CIRCLE members who joined our sustainable giving program this year. We are excited to have raised $936,639 from individual donors toward our goal of $1 million to fund six areas under the banner “Transforming Lives” and are looking forward to “Giving Tuesday” on November 30 as an opportunity for friends and supporters to make an end-of-year gift to Transforming Lives and help us reach our $1 million goal. We are just one month away from our 30th Annual Christmas Home Tour on December 10-11 with four beautifully decorated homes located throughout Fort Bend for you to tour including photos with the real Santa and the return of the wreath raffle with 19 stunning wreaths for you try and win.
Thank you for all you do for children who have been abused and neglected in our community. We appreciate you giving your time, talent and treasures and the transformational impact that you are making.
For the Children’s Sake,
CEO, Child Advocates of Fort Bend
Taco About Giving Back!
Thank you to Mark Shaw, Managing Partner of Torchy’s Richmond! When they opened their new location at 4818 Waterview Town Center Drive, Mark selected CAFB to be the recipient of all beverage proceeds from the soft opening on July 17th & 18th. In October, Torchy’s presented CAFB with a check for $1644.10 in proceeds from that event. We are so happy to have a great new place in the area to go for lunch or dinner and so grateful for their support!
Thank You Alings!
Our friend, supporter and new Board Member Irfan Motiwala, owner of Alings Chinese Bistro, held a give back to benefit CAFB on Thursday, October 14th and presented us with a check for $2,900. Thank you to everyone who participated by dining there that day and a huge thank you to Irfan for his continued support! Shown L to R are: CAFB Events Specialist Tarina Sheridan, Development Director Lisa Moore, Hsiaolin Motiwala, Irfan Motiwala and Development Officer Dana Mersiovsky.
Thank You Renova Appliance!
Renova Appliance owner Kevin Pyles (far right) and Manager Megan Anderson came by recently to present a check to CAFB for $5,250! Renova donated 20% of their sales in April for Child Abuse Awareness Month. We really appreciate their generosity and are so grateful to them for thinking of us and the children we serve!
Thank you for Bridging the Gap!
THANK YOU to our generous friends from Motherland Cycling Club in Sugar Land who presented us with a $3,500 check for the proceeds from their 2nd annual Bridge the Gap Bicycle Ride! This fun event brought a community of 400 cyclists of diverse backgrounds and different walks of life together. Following the ride, attendees and volunteers had a chance to experience different cultures, eat, laugh and dance – all the while supporting CAFB. Shown L to R are Fort Bend County District Attorney Brian Middleton, TK Akinjaiyeju, Dana Mersiovsky, Tarina Sheridan and Harold Azinge.
Touring Our Campus
Many thanks to Suzanne Slavin of Fidelity National Title for hosting a tour at Child Advocates of Fort Bend. We were thrilled to have some of Suzanne’s colleagues at our campus to learn about the mission of our organization and the work we do. Thank you, ladies, for taking time out of your schedules to join us – you were a joy to have here. We look forward to seeing you all again very soon.
Shown L-R are Sherri Scott Clark, Tailored Real Estate Group; Natalie Lerner, Lerner Realty Solutions; Dana Mersiovsky, CAFB; Suzanne Slavin, Fidelity National Title; Eileen Graves, Grove Realty and Dayna Adewuya, The Adewuya Group.
If you would like to schedule a tour of our campus for your group, contact Dana Mersiovsky at DMersiovsky@cafb.org.
License to Help!
Did you know that Child Advocates of Fort Bend participates in the TX CASA Specialty License Plate Program? You can order a custom license plate with the phrase “Big Voices for Little Texans”. Not only can you spread awareness and show your support for us but a portion of the cost of the plate goes to Texas CASA and the local programs to increase our statewide efforts to advocate for every child in the foster care system. To order your plate go to https://www.txdmv.gov/motorists/license-plates and search for CASA under specialty plates OR visit your local tax assessor’s office and ask for the Court Appointed Special Advocate license plate.
Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC)
Our Children’s Advocacy Center is proud to announce that Brenda Zavala will be transitioning from Bilingual Forensic Interviewer to Bilingual Therapist. When we hired Brenda three years ago, she told us that her five-year plan was to become a therapist. Well – she completed her LMSW in 2020 and made it in 3 years. Congratulations to her for achieving her goal!
Congratulations are also in order for HealthImpact DAISY Honoree Vanessa Barriera who was recently recognized for “advancing compassion through policy.” Vanessa is one of the nurses with Harris Health who come to Access Health to provide SANE exams for the children we serve. Because patients have quick and easy access to their records, Vanessa was concerned about some of the language used in the charts for sexual assault victims and the affect it might have on patients who potentially could see the chart as well as those who were providing treatment. She brought her concerns to the attention of her director and did research on reasons why the terms should not be used. The director brought those concerns to the attention of key stakeholders and the language was changed. Thank you Vanessa for advocating for the best interests of the children!
In other CAC news, we are seeing an increased number of children in need of interviews and an increase in trial preparation and trials. With an increase in cases involving online solicitation and the internet, this month we worked with the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s office on a series of social media posts specific to internet safety and online solicitation to help parents and caregivers learn to recognize and how best to respond if they have concerns about their child’s online usage. The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children’s online safety program NetSmartz has great information for families on how to keep children and teens safe online and how to talk to your children about online safety. Learn more at https://www.missingkids.org/netsmartz/home.
Court Appointed Special Advocates Program (CASA)
CASA Volunteer Advocates have been very busy advocating for children and testifying in many more trials than usual. Reinforcements are on the way as fifteen new volunteers completed their training in October and will be sworn in at the courthouse on November 4. We had a great turnout for our Children and Sex Trafficking Conference on October 19. Special thanks to our speakers – Rhonda Kuykendall, Unbound Houston, Ashley Harkness & Craig Priesmeyer from the Fort Bend District Attorney’s Office, our Children’s Advocacy Center staff, Mikey Betancourt and Blanca Lance from DFPS’ Trafficking Department. It was an excellent conference full of good information. If you missed it and want more information on this topic, Unbound Houston has ready-to-view trainings on their website at https://www.unboundhouston.org.
Our Collaborative Family Engagement (CFE) service line has had tremendous impact and has successfully connected more than 127 children and families this year. In October, CFE held its first in-person family meeting in more than a year. The meeting was a hybrid model with some in person and some participating virtually. Our Courtesy CASA staff members are extremely busy and has expanded to include more locations across the state. The CASA team is happy to report that our first TBRI training collaborative with Fort Bend County Juvenile staff was successful and the 2nd cycle of caregiver training will start in November.
National Adoption Day is set for Friday, November 19. Families have been given the option of in-person or virtual adoptions this year and we are planning a drive-thru celebration and activities in our Butterfly Garden following the ceremony at the courthouse that morning. Watch our social media channels and read the December news to see what we did.
Finally, our WINGS and NEST teams are planning their annual Fall Break event for the children and youth we serve on Tuesday, November 23. Always popular, the kids spend half of the day giving back or doing service for another non-profit, followed by a fun event. Stay tuned to see what they did.
Boo Gala Bash
Staff and building partners took a break and had some fun celebrating Halloween at our annual Boo Gala Bash building potluck lunch on Thursday, October 28. Staff and partners were creative and had fun dressing up from puns to M&Ms to skeletons, three little pigs, scary delivery drivers to bad habits. Check out these photos from the event! Costume contest winners included: Best group – CAC staff who were dressed as puns; Best costume – Metoyer Martin; and Best overall – Krystal Vann. Marjorie Hancock from the County Attorney’s Office won the prize for best dessert.
Shown L to R are: Luisa Bowers, Misty Gomez, Lorraine Cruz, Jill Curtis, Irfan Motiwala and Carla Mondt
Welcome to Our New Staff and Board Members
In October, we welcomed three new staff members – one to our Development Team and two to our Children’s Advocacy Center– Luisa Bowers, Misty Gomez and Lorraine Cruz. Luisa joined the Development team as a Development Analyst on Monday, October 18, 2021. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics from West Texas A&M University and an Associate’s Degree in Computer Science/Information Systems from Lone Star College. Luisa has 18 years of experience in financial administration and business process management. She previously worked as Administrative Manager in the Office of Commissioner Pct 3 in Montgomery County, as a Budget Analyst in Montgomery County and as an Executive Assistant for the Office of the County Judge in Fort Bend County.
Misty Gomez started with the Children’s Advocacy Center on September 1, 2021, as a Bilingual Clinical Family Advocate. She is a LMSW and received her Master’s in Social Work from the University of Houston. She brings valuable knowledge and experience from her previous roles at the UT CARE Clinic, Bridge Over Trouble Waters, and Family Services of Southeast Texas. She also worked as a legal assistant and developed programming for students as an after-school teacher.
Lorraine Cruz started with Children’s Advocacy Center on October 25, 2021 as the Family Services Specialist. This is a newly created position within the Family Advocacy Program. Lorraine received her Bachelor of Arts from Texas A&M with a concentration in Sociology and elective course work in Child Development, Gender, and Ethics. She is a Registered Behavior Technician and comes to us from Action Behavior Centers. She is familiar with serving children and families though Children’s Advocacy Centers from her previous internship at Scotty’s House. She also interned with Boys And Girls Club of the Brazos Valley and served as a College Recruitment Advisor with Advise Texas College Advising Corps. We are so thankful that these three staff members brought their knowledge and skills to Child Advocates of Fort Bend!
In addition, we welcomed three new board members in October –Jill Curtis, Irfan Motiwala and Carla Mondt. Curtis has been volunteering in our community for over thirty (30) years and was a member of the Child Advocates of Fort Bend CAC Advisory Council for six (6) years prior to relocating overseas and has been a longtime donor and supporter of CAFB for over 20 years.
Motiwala is a resident of Richmond and is a partner in Aling’s Chinese Bistro in Sugar Land. He has supported CAFB by delivering lunch numerous times for our staff during Covid and recently did a give back event for us. He is very active in the South Asian community.
Mondt is an Investigational Cancer Therapeutics Researcher at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. She is very active in the community. She serves as Vice Chair of the Mobility Task Force for the City of Sugar Land, Brigade Director for Global Medical Brigades at the University of Houston and is an active member of the Junior League of Houston and Exchange Club of Sugar Land. In addition, Mondt is an inpatient Volunteer at MD Anderson Cancer Center. We are delighted to have all of them as a part of our Board!
Our staff is growing, and we have some new opportunities. If you meet our qualifications (or you know someone who does), we’d love to have you join our team! Check out our current openings at https://www.cafb.org/about/career-opportunities/.
CAFB Volunteer Handyperson Needed
We are looking for a volunteer who has a few hours a week to help out at our building with general maintenance. If you can spare some time and are “handy” with tools and fixing things around your house, we’d love to talk to you!
For more information or to volunteer, contact Cathy Zapalac at CZapalac@cafb.org.
Infant & Toddler Monthly Open-Door Topic Talk
Join us for our monthly infant toddler drop in on Monday, November 1 from noon to 1pm. Renee Lukefahr will be hosting. The talk topic will be Christmas gift giving at CAFB. Renee will be available to answer any questions regarding your cases. In addition volunteers can help one another with issues that they may be experiencing. Watch for the zoom link to join us. Any questions contact Renee Lukefahr at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Crime Victim’s Response Team Presents the 18th Annual Fort Bend County DA Fun Run
Thank you to the Crime Victim Response Team and the Fort Bend County District Attorney’s office for making us a beneficiary of their 18th annual DA Fun Run. We had good weather and a great time at this event once again this year. What a great way to start off a Saturday morning – running for a cause!
The FRIENDS annual membership social was held on Friday, October 15th at the CAFB office. The Tea & Crumpets themed event was a delightful opportunity to visit with friends while touring the CAFB new Davis George Campus. If you missed this event, the FRIENDS auxiliary group still needs your membership. You can click here to sign up https://www.cafb.org/events/friends/. Each $40 membership helps fund needs for youth in foster care, such as dance classes, tutors, clothing, wigs and backpacks full of school supplies each fall and much more. To learn more about FRIENDS contact Pat Somers at email@example.com.
30th Annual Christmas Home Tour
The Christmas Home Tour is scheduled for December 10th and 11th. The two-day Home Tour hosts visitors from all over Fort Bend County and surrounding areas. Over 2,000 guests will tour the beautifully decorated homes, including the 800 volunteers that take their time to volunteer. We are so excited to be including four amazing homes for our in-person event this year! This year’s homes are in Sienna, Sweetwater, First Colony and, for the first time, in Hillcrest Estates in Richmond.
How can you help?
- Sponsor – There are numerous opportunities left with perks, including an invitation to our Sponsor Party on December 5.
- Purchase Home Tour Tickets Individual tickets – $30 Ticket Bundle – $60 (1 tour ticket + 3 wreath raffle tickets)
- Purchase a Holiday T-Shirt – Show A new fun addition this year! Super cute tees, bright and colorful, available in short and long sleeve in black. Show your support and get in the holiday spirit.
- Buy Wreath Raffle Tickets -Choose the wreath you hope to win. Ticket prices are $10
Volunteers, Entertainers and Cookie Bakers
- Volunteer– Share your time as a 2-3 hour host in one of the homes. Bring a friend or family member and volunteer together!
- Participate as an Entertainer
- Bake Cookies
Help us Spread the Word!
Like + Comment + Share information about the tour on your social media accounts to help us spread the word
Mark your calendars!
November 4, 2021 Volunteer Swearing In
Fort Bend County Courthouse – 328th District Court
November 9, 2021 Volunteer Social – Friendsgiving Style
Bring a dish to share and come visit and catch up with other volunteers! CAFB will provide the turkey. Use this link to let us know which side you would like to bring and share.
November 19, 2021 National Adoption Day Celebration
8:00 am – Fort Bend County Courthouse
9:30am – CAFB Office
We will have a drive-thru celebration at our offices following the National Adoption Day proceedings at the Fort Bend Justice Center. For more information contact Lindsey Castellanos at LCastellanos@cafb.org.
November 23, 2021 Sip & Stroll
5:30 – 6:30
Join us for light bite, a sip of wine and a tour through our Davis George Campus. Meet our staff, hear the stories of the children we serve and learn more about the work that we do.
To RSVP or for more information contact Dana Mersiovsky at DMersiovsky@cafb.org or 281-344-7253.
November 25 + 26, 2021 Offices Closed for Thanksgiving
December 10 + 11, 2021 Christmas Home Tour
Friday 10am – 4pm + 6pm – 9pm
Saturday 10am – 4pm
To sponsor, volunteer or for more information contact Tarina Sheridan at TSheridan@cafb.org.