We are excited to bring you our April newsletter which is dedicated to Child Abuse and Sexual Assault Prevention Month. For over 30 years, we at Child Advocates of Fort Bend have provided transformational services to victims of physical abuse, neglect and sexual abuse. Last year, we served 2629 children at our Children’s Advocacy Center and through our CASA program. From advocacy services to identification and treatment, our programs encompass a full range of trauma-informed clinical, behavioral health and social emotional services. Beyond just serving these children, we are keenly aware that child abuse does not happen in a vacuum but often within the context of the family unit. It is critically important that we approach the “whole child”, their caregivers, siblings and extended family as part of their safety plans, support networks and treatment. We have expanded our services considerably over the past few years to include the family in our outreach and treatment. Including family members, we served a total of 4230 children and families last year – a considerable commitment to this effort.
Specifically, we have implemented five services that include family members which have proven extremely effective at addressing the contextual environment that these children have experienced. Collaborative Family Engagement identifies family members, kin and other responsible adults that can be brought into a child’s life to provide support, placement or family connection and identity. Clinical Family Advocacy provides crisis therapy, case management and needs assessment to non-offending caregivers whose children are receiving services in our CAC. Family therapy including bilingual group therapy in our CAC has built strong support systems for children and facilitated the healing of both children and families. Parent Child Interactive Therapy (PCIT) engages parents as partners in a child’s behavioral healing so that progress is reinforced in the home and not just in the therapy session. Trauma Based Relational Intervention (TBRI) strengthens relationships and the developmental needs of children and youth from “hard places” as well as the needs of the adults who seek to help them heal, learn and grow. Founded on the three principles of Connecting, Empowering and Correcting, we have now trained both our staff and volunteers in TBRI to advocate most effectively so that children build trusting relationships.
While all of these practices have been life-changing for our children, we realized three years ago that we needed to do more. We needed to move upstream to help children before they were abused. We developed our Prevention programming and created our Community Engagement service line. We know that the first step in the prevention of child abuse is awareness and education and we set out to educate children, parents, teachers, youth-serving organizations and the faith community in the fundamentals of keeping children safe and protected. We have reached thousands of children and adults over the past three years with these safety messages – and have had countless children come forward to share their stories and reach out to let us know that they are at risk. The statistics indicate that 90% of sexual abuse victims know their abuser and if we can arm children and youth with knowledge, resiliency and empowerment, they are far better equipped to avoid being abused. In keeping with this focus on prevention, we recrafted our Vision in 2021 – To End the Cycle of Abuse and Neglect. This is our big hairy audacious goal that we strive for every day.
Please join us throughout the month of April at our Light of Hope Blue Ribbon Ceremony, Volunteer Banquet, Remembrance Fields erected by the Exchange Clubs whose national cause is the prevention of child abuse and our Sip ‘N Stroll building tours to remember and honor child victims, to celebrate survivors and to recommit to pledging that we will not stop until every child is safe.
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.
We are charging into 2022 and expanding more than ever so we can meet the needs of our children and families. Here, we will give you an overview of our organization to show you who we are. In the following months, we will introduce you in greater detail to each position on the team
Sponsorships for our biggest and exciting fundraiser begin at $2,000.
Individual seats are available for $150.
CHILD ABUSE and SEXUAL ASSAULT AWARENESS MONTH
Written by Jen Brown & Courtney James
We remember being taught as a child to watch out for strangers. “Stranger Danger” was the easy-to-learn rhyme that reminded us to be leery of everyone that we didn’t know. The loud and clear message- steer clear of strangers because they could hurt you or someone you know. However, when talking about child sexual abuse, 98% of children we see in our Children’s Advocacy Center personally know their abuser, some of those being parents or family members. That’s hard to think about, isn’t it? 98%.
Throughout January and February of 2022, the CAC has conducted 178 interviews, 92 of those being allegations against a mother, father, or sibling. Oftentimes, the children that come into the CAC are living in a home where they don’t feel safe, but don’t believe that reaching out for help is an option.
We train children in schools to know what appropriate touch and behavior is and what’s not. We talk to them about how important it is to tell a trusted adult if something feels unsafe or uncomfortable. We give them tools on how to be safe in any situation and what to do if they need help. We’re getting the message out and while that’s great, we need to be doing more. We need to be talking to our own kids about how to trust their “gut” and to talk to us, their safe adult, if anything feels wrong. We need to keep checking in. Over and over again. Awareness is the first step to prevention. But what about the children that it’s already happening to? How do we help them? If there are children or youth in your life, we encourage you to truly invest in them. Invest in their lives and be a safe person that checks in from time to time and asks hard questions.
The signs and symptoms of child abuse vary widely amongst children. This can include emotional disturbances, outbursts, difficulty concentrating, etc. However, a common theme that we see at the CAC is that some children who suffer from severe and ongoing trauma tend to internalize their symptoms and come off as being labeled the “perfect” child. This perfectionism shows through things like high grades, heavy school involvement, multiple extracurricular activities, etc. Unfortunately, there are misperceptions that if they are high achievers, everything must be fine in their lives. These children tend to fall through the cracks due to the lack of awareness and education from the adults and professionals surrounding them.
Here at Child Advocates of Fort Bend we place emphasis on the idea that you cannot assume that ANY child is okay. You must check-in and invest in them. Be that safe person who cares enough to ask. As adults, it can be challenging to truly understand what a child is going through and their experiences that shape their behavior. It is our job as adults to ask children how they are doing and to check in with them regardless of how well behaved they are, or how their grades look. Taking steps to become more educated and aware of child abuse is the first step in prevention and bring our community closer to ending child abuse.
…some children who suffer from severe and ongoing trauma tend to internalize their symptoms and come off as being labeled the “perfect” child.
OUTREACH PREVENTION TRAININGS
Written by Lindsey Castellanos
We know that children may not recognize the dangers around them as abusive. Children who are not given proper care, are being physically abused, or witnessing abuse to others often don’t have the language to tell about what is happening.
At Child Advocates of Fort Bend, we are committed to educating the community so that children and parents aren’t caught off guard. There are things we can do to make the world a safer place for children. We can learn how to be safe and be approachable adults that model what safety looks like to children.
We have launched two evidence-based, award winning programs, MBF Child Safety Matters® and Darkness to Light® to prevent child abuse and reduce the number of children who are victims of the most horrendous crimes in our community. MBF Child Safety Matters® can be presented in schools, at youth serving organizations, or faith groups to teach children grades K-5 strategies to keep them safe. MBF Child Safety Matters® is a comprehensive, evidence-based curriculum for elementary school students in grades K-5. The program educates and empowers children and all relevant adults with information and strategies to prevent, recognize, and respond appropriately to bullying, cyberbullying, all types of abuse, and digital abuse dangers.
Our adult program Darkness to Light® offers many different trainings including Stewards of Children® training. Stewards of Children® is the only evidence-informed, adult-focused child sexual abuse prevention training in the United States proven to increase knowledge and change behavior. Numerous studies have shown that Darkness to Light’s prevention education works and evidence-informed training can change child protective behaviors
We are offering Stewards of Children® at our offices throughout the year for free to any adult that would like to learn more about prevention. We also offer MBF Child Safety Matters® to any organization or school that would like to provide this empowering information to the children they are serving or teaching. Contact Lindsey Castellanos at firstname.lastname@example.org for information on scheduling a presentation.
NEEDS & OPPORTUNITIES
This month we need a few things
Our CAC is in need of pop it toys, adult coloring books and colored pencils (12ct.) All items can be found on Amazon and delivered to our door! Our CASA program is looking for a variety of things to help in a few different areas. First, we are needing sensory items to help children cope with trauma they have experienced. Studies are showing that “sensory items” help greatly in this area….
Planned Giving is simply another way to meet your philanthropic goals in a thoughtfully planned, high impact way. Planned Giving is a way for you to integrate your personal, financial and estate planning by making lifetime or testamentary gifts. There are a variety of ways to do this. When the time is right for you, we would love to visit to discuss the values closest to your heart and explore how your different gift options could benefit vulnerable children for years to come, while also benefitting you and your family.
Here are 5 simple ways to make a legacy gift:
Retirement Assets, Stocks and Bonds, Cash, Insurance Policies, Property
For more information on major or planned gifts please contact
LIGHT OF HOPE
Written by Anne Bulan
We joined forces on Friday, April 1 to kick off Child Abuse Prevention Month with a fun, family friendly evening at Wessendorff Park in Richmond complete with a movie, t-shirts, and activities for the whole family. Board President Nancy Olson welcomed everyone and thanked them for attending. Child Advocates of Fort Bend Community Outreach Coordinator Lindsey Castellanos shared some child abuse statistics and prevention tips and Richmond Mayor Becky Haas read a proclamation from the City of Richmond.
Our Volunteer Council, Exchange Club of Sugar Land, Exchange Club of Fort Bend, Aguirre & Fields, ARTreach, Kustom Cyclez, BACA – Gulf Coast Chapter and Richmond Rotary had tables and activities for families to enjoy. At 8pm – everyone settled down for a showing of Peter Rabbit 2 courtesy of the City of Richmond.
Special thanks to everyone who came out to join us!
Please check out all of the photos from Light of Hope and make plans to join us for one of the many awareness activities planned this month!