It’s only one month into 2022 and there is a flurry of activity at Child Advocates of Fort Bend. Staff is busy with developing new training curriculum for our volunteers, updating our children’s programming, hiring staff to add capacity, updating our services, planning our 31st Gala and increasing our outreach presentations and safety messages. This month’s newsletter will focus on our 2022 Strategic Plan and the accompanying organizational enhancements that we are making to position CAFB for continued growth. Below are the highlights of each department’s plans for the upcoming year. In this issue of the newsletter, we will take a deeper dive into two of our departments: Community Engagement and Development. Next month, we’ll do the same for CAC and CASA. Over the coming months, we’ll take a deeper dive into each role of our staff members. We hope this will inform you about the full array of our services and how we are expanding to better serve children and families.
Our Strategic Direction for 2022 is to: Respond to Increase in Demand for Services by Positioning CAFB for the next 5 years with Resource and Capacity Expansion and Improvements
- Administration: As our services and programs have grown, so too has our staff and organizational needs. In January, we hired our first Human Resources staff member to provide expertise in recruitment, retention, training, benefits administration and staff development.
- CAC: Increase capacity to respond to 20% annual growth over past 4 years in number of children and families served. Expand clinical services with hiring additional staff in therapy, forensic interviewing, multi-disciplinary team (MDT) coordinating and clinical family advocacy. Launch a new Psychiatric Services pilot by partnering with UT Health Sciences Fellowship Program. Partner with University of Kentucky Coalition to understand Secondary Trauma on staff.
- CASA: Restructure department with focus on trauma and heightened advocacy for both children and families. The new structure will have 5 strategic functions: Children and youth programming, Court advocacy, Family advocacy, Trauma advocacy and Quality assurance. Add more resources to Collaborative Family Engagement (CFE) services to ensure that all children connect with positive, supportive adults and build a circle of support to break the cycle of abuse and neglect.
- Community Engagement: Develop and introduce new training curriculum for volunteers and board members, increase community outreach and human trafficking messaging, and work with CASA and CAC to implement findings from 2021 Needs Assessment Study in the areas of volunteer advocacy, client services, and organizational culture.
- Development: Expand our donor relations and foundation support and host 3 fabulous events: Gala, Voices For Children Breakfast and Christmas Home Tour.
- Facility: We constructed a new Multi-Function Building and Pavilion in 2021 which has already provided a beautiful venue for outdoor children’s programming, collection, distribution and storage of hundreds of children’s toys and basic needs, and storage. In 2022, we will complete the build out of an additional acre of parking space to accommodate our growing clients, staff, volunteers, partners and visitors.
We are excited about these new additions that will position us for future growth in 2022 and beyond. Here’s to a great year serving even more children with life-saving, transformational services that strengthen their voices, heal their hurt and break the cycle of abuse and neglect.
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.
Our Organization By Program
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
In 2020, our agency added an additional line of service called the Community Engagement Team. This program was created to have a dedicated department/program devoted to a culture of Prevention of Child Abuse & Neglect. This program grew out of the need to provide child abuse prevention programs in the community and be a proactive resource for the community. In addition, our program also supports our volunteer recruitment and training for both our CASA and CAC programs. The Community Engagement Team consists of our Community Outreach Coordinator, Volunteer Coordinator and Training Specialist.
Community Engagement Director
Oversees volunteer recruitment, training, retention, and community education efforts and supervises the Volunteer Coordinator, Community Outreach Coordinator and Training Specialist.
Community Outreach Coordinator
Coordinates and manages the agency’s community outreach and education presentations. This includes prevention programs such as Stewards of Children “Darkness to Light” Sexual abuse prevention and Child Safety Matters abuse prevention curriculums.
Leads the recruitment and retention efforts of volunteers for our CASA and the Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC) programs and coordinates the screening process for potential volunteers and all documentation requirements.
Manages our training and education presentations for CAFB Volunteers and community partners. This includes our New Volunteer trainings for CASA and CAC programs, continuing education topics and annual conferences for our volunteers, staff, and board.
Responsible for all aspects of fundraising and donor relations including foundations, annual fundraising through events, individual sustainable giving, major gifts and supervision of the Development Staff.
Responsible for the organization, promotion, design, and management of all aspects of fundraising events specifically the Christmas Home Tour, Gala for Children and the Voices for Children Breakfast.
Communications + Graphics Specialist
Responsible for agency publicity, marketing, branding, communications materials, website management and social media messaging.
Writes and submits grant applications that identify agency needs, builds the case for funding, and aligns with a foundation’s granting strategies and focus areas with key attention to deadlines.
Collaborates with the development team to implement strategic fund development & marketing plans, and creates donor analysis.
Hosts “behind the scenes” building tours each month for donors and people interested in learning more – now called Sip & Strolls. Leads the Voices for Children Breakfast fundraising event focusing on speakers, video, guest list and giving levels. Contacts donors on a regular basis to build relationships and positioning CAFB as an opportunity for donors’ financial support.
Once Janice had retired from her career as a kindergarten teacher, she came to us to continue to serve children and their families in a different capacity. She saw the need, heard the calling and was a part of the grassroots movement in 1991 when CAFB first began. She was a constant and strong presence in the fight against child abuse. If there was a need, she was involved in finding a way to assist, change or fix it. She volunteered in the Children’s Advocacy Center, rarely missing her shift; she served as a steady force behind Light of Hope ceremonies and helped create the Voices For Children Breakfast, originally called the Blue Ribbon Breakfast. She created lifebooks for volunteers to use with children in foster care so they, too, could have records of their lives. She brought food to staff and volunteers, she shared resources to help staff and volunteers work with children more effectively, and she made thoughtful suggestions all along the way… always eager to help us improve. In short, she loved well. She loved her family, her friends, CAFB and helping others. I’m reminded of the poem by Linda Ellis when I think of Janice King.
“I read of a man who stood to speak
At the funeral of a friend
He referred to the dates on the tombstone
From the beginning…to the end
He noted that first came the date of birth
And spoke the following date with tears,
But he said what mattered most of all
Was the dash between those years
For that dash represents all the time
That they spent alive on earth.
And now only those who loved them
Know what that little line is worth
For it matters not, how much we own,
The cars…the house…the cash.
What matters is how we live and love
And how we spend our dash….”
How very appropriate when thinking about the legacy that Janice leaves behind. When talking to others who knew her well, everyone had similar sentiments… “she was a beautiful person”, “a sweet, sweet soul”, “we could always depend on her no matter what the need was”, “the kindest and most gentle person I’ve ever known”, and the list goes on and on.
She wasn’t alone in her strong devotion to CAFB. Her husband, Pat, was a part of the very first training class for volunteers. He was a board member and fiercely advocates for our children and all who we serve, as well. Together they made quite the team.
Janice was a founding member of the Friends Council. She helped create an organization that still, to this day, will fulfill needs of children and/or families that other organizations are not able to take care of. Those requests can be summer camp tuition, a prom dress, a high school class ring, a hotel room for a mother and her children escaping domestic violence, etc… She saw the need and acted. I think about a tiny pebble being thrown into a calm lake and watching all the ripples go on and on for what seems like forever. Janice’s service, compassion and dedication is those ripples. We will never see the end of what she began, touched, and changed. It’s hard to say goodbye to someone who was so incredible. It’s hard to put into words just how missed they will be. However, the legacy that she created will live on and I can’t imagine anything better than that.
I love a good quote and couldn’t pick between these last two when trying to honor Janice.
What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.”
There are some who bring a light so great to the world that even after they have gone, the light remains.
BLACK HISTORY MONTH
The start of February marks the beginning of Black History Month, a time to honor and recognize the accomplishments and history of Black Americans. Throughout the month, we reflect on how we work to address disproportionalities and disparities that negatively impact Black children and families we serve.
Our CASA volunteers advocate to ensure the best interests and well-being for a child or sibling group once they enter foster care. Each volunteer is specially appointed by a judge to advocate for a child, helping them during their time in foster care by ensuring they are kept safe and their unique needs are met. CAFB is one of the local CASA programs in Texas that recruits, screens and trains these volunteers.
CASA volunteers advocate within the Texas foster care system, and we recognize that the system itself reflects inequities in our society. Two current problems within the Texas foster care system are racial disproportionality and disparity. Disproportionality means a particular race or cultural group is over-represented in a system, and disparity refers to the differences in outcomes and conditions for some groups of people compared to other groups because of unequal treatment or services.
While Black children account for around 12% of the Texas child population, they currently make up nearly 22% of the Texas foster care population and 35% of children served by CAFB. CPS is more likely to receive reports of abuse and/or neglect regarding Black families than Anglo families and is more likely to remove Black children from their homes. After removal, a Black child is less likely to be reunified with their family of origin. If reunification has been ruled out and a Black child is available for adoption, they are less likely to be adopted within 12 months.
If we want to provide the best advocacy for all children and improve outcomes, we need to be aware of disparities and understand every child’s needs. We must educate ourselves and understand the historical context, as well as what’s still occurring today and what we can do to help.
Quoting Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs, “Traumatic experiences shared by communities can result in cumulative emotional and psychological wounds that are carried across generations. This concept is called historical trauma. As a result, many people in these same communities experience higher rates of mental and physical illness, substance abuse, and erosion in families and community structures. The persistent cycle of trauma destroys family and communities and threatens the vibrancy of entire cultures. Historical trauma is not just about what happened in the past. It’s about what’s still happening.”
What we are doing
CAFB provides training covering disproportionality to equip our staff and volunteers with the knowledge to identify tools to address children’s experiences with inequity and exclusion- educationally, culturally, medically and emotionally. We work to promote diversity and inclusion in our volunteer recruitment so the children our agency serve have volunteers who understand their needs. We actively seek more volunteers from communities of color who reflect the demographics of the populations they serve.
We do not limit our concern and action about issues like disproportionality and disparity to one month. We must ensure that all children served by CAFB receive the highest level and most personalized advocacy throughout the year and that this is embedded in our mission and values.