While Summer is customarily the time to slow down from the hustle and bustle of our regular schoolyear activities, we are in full gear at Child Advocates of Fort Bend. June, July and August are some of our busiest months for our CASA, CAC, Community Engagement, Volunteer Training, and Development programs and staff. Here’s just a glimpse of some of the activities and programming occupying us at Child Advocates of Fort Bend.
We kicked off June with our NEST Incentive Party on June 10 where we rewarded elementary-age children with an Encanto-themed movie night and dinner. These children have worked so hard achieving their academic and behavioral goals during their Spring Semester in school. A week later we hosted a Commencement Celebration for our graduating high school seniors and their families. They were treated to a homemade Taco Bar then donned graduation gowns and paraded down a red carpet with Pomp and Circumstance playing amid a thunderous applause from their proud adoptive and foster families, caseworkers, CASA Volunteers and staff. Each graduate was recognized for overcoming many challenges to reach this incredible milestone. Board Member Dexter McCoy was our keynote speaker and he shared his personal experience of being in their shoes as a child having experienced abuse. He called on them to stretch to achieve their dreams and always remember who helped them along their journey. When we began our WINGS Program, we had a 25% high school graduation rate. This year, we had all but one of our seniors graduate and we’re hoping in the coming months, we will achieve 100% graduation rate. What an accomplishment for these youth! No sooner had we packed up the red carpet than we hosted our WINGS youth still in high school in a weeklong Campus Crawl where they visited colleges, vocational schools and universities across the state and learned what it takes to be accepted into higher education. This is our 11th year and it’s always so fulfilling to see our youth start the week uncertain about pursuing college and ending up only 5 days later totally inspired about the opportunities that await them. They come back from their visits donning the t-shirt of the school they visited that day and talking enthusiastically about where they want to apply. Next up is WINGS Lifeskills in July where they will be visiting a bank, apartment building, a car dealership, a cooking kitchen, workforce solutions and other community services to learn about successful independent living. Throughout the Summer, many of our younger children are attending camps throughout the Houston area, with their fees covered by CAFB. In August, it’s back to school and Friends Council for the 20th+ year will again be providing personalized backpacks to over 100 children.
Turning to Training, our Community Engagement team has been super busy with planning a packed schedule of volunteer and community trainings for the Summer. Highlights are the Summer Educator Series with offerings throughout July covering an introduction to TBRI and Correcting Principles, Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children and Recognizing and Responding to Abuse. In August, we are offering our complete Pre-Service Volunteer Training in-person for community members who wish to become CASA Advocates or CAC Volunteers.
Finally, our Development team, having just wound up our most successful Gala ever, is busy with a variety of donor events highlighted by monthly Sip & Stroll tours of our building to introduce guests to our agency and privately-hosted Cocktails and Conversations for donors to delve deeper into ways they can participate in and support the critical work that we do. Planning is underway for our 12th annual “Voices For Children Transforming Lives Breakfast” on September 22 which is sure to be another very moving event.
Thank you for all you do to be a part of Child Advocates of Fort Bend and supporting the children who desperately need our services. We hope to see you at some of these Summer events!
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’re almost halfway through 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.
WINGS Summer Programming
Written by Krystal Vann
Developed in 2005, WINGS helps youth ages 14 – 18+ years old flourish in school, develop individualized education plans tailored to their needs, plan for college or higher education, or a sustainable career path, and prepare for successful independent living when they age out of the foster care system. WINGS focuses on assisting youth to acquire life skills, plan, and achieve educational goals, develop a transitional living plan, and create a support system of positive adults outside of the foster care system. Throughout the year, youth participate in interactive, educational activities including a weeklong Life Skills Workshop and weeklong Campus Crawl in the Summers with mini workshops throughout the school year and over holidays. The youth learn about managing their personal finances, writing a resume, job interviewing, personal health care, career opportunities, renting an apartment, buying a car, cooking a meal, and other basic life skills. They explore post-secondary education opportunities by traveling across Texas to visit community colleges, vocational schools, and 4-year colleges and universities to learn about the application process, financial aid, and college life. By setting personal goals, actively managing their future and support systems, youth are empowered to build successful, independent lives.
But what does it look like to travel through the WINGs Program?
Any youth ages 14+ is invited to attend our programming. It starts with the volunteer who reaches out to youth and caregivers. The youth arrive early for a weeklong Campus Crawl event in the month of June. CASA staff load up passenger vans and drive to public institutions across the state of Texas where tuition is waived for any youth who has been in care. This year, the youth attended University of Houston, Texas A&M, University of Texas, Texas State, and Sam Houston State. Upon arrival, they start with admissions, learn about financial aid and the application process then go through the day in the life of a college student walking the campus, visiting the dorms and rec center, and finishing the day with eating on campus at the student dining hall.
Here is a look from the perspectives of some of our WINGs youth who participated this year:
P: “This program has provided me, and kids like me that are going through things, with an opportunity. It’s given me insight that I have choices.”
J: “This program lets me know that just because I am in foster care doesn’t mean I can’t go to college. I still have the same opportunity as other youth. I have help to pay for college and join groups I’d like and that I can have a normal college experience.”
K: “It has impacted me by changing my mind about which college I would like to go to. It has also helped me with my social skills. It’s also given me an outlet from my placement.”
L: “Honestly, I never expected to make friends coming here, but I have made a lot of new friends and connections.”
In the month of July, the youth come back to work on Life Skills. Each day surrounds a unique topic dedicated to helping them prepare for life transitions and skills needed to be successful young adults. This includes housing, job readiness, financial literacy and transportation and education. Through hands on activities, we show the kids how to prepare meals by cooking and then sharing a meal together. We show the kids the ropes on purchasing and maintaining a vehicle by visiting local car dealerships and walking the aisle of cars. We visit apartments and walk through how to complete an application, practice job interviews with local businesses in our community and go through the process of opening a bank account, filing taxes and the importance of saving.
Here are impact statements from another youth who participated in WINGS this year:
PW: “The Wings Program had a big impact on my life by letting me experience how different everyone is and it showed me not to take life for granted. Being a peer mentor for the Wings Program is teaching me to learn about new people and skills. I am happy to be able to be a part of such an amazing program with such amazing CASA workers.”
B: “The Wings program has impacted my life in many positive ways. When I first started the program, I was very reserved and rarely participated but Wings gave me the chance to make friends and open up. This program has introduced me to potential colleges and has encouraged me to be active in my community. I have heard many stories and met plenty of people from CASA staff, peers, and summer speakers, all of which have helped me on my path.”
J: “We learned about public speaking, safety, paying taxes, saving money and being an adult. I feel like I was nervous about a lot of things but I’m less nervous because I know I have help and its simpler than how I made it in my head. These presentations made me less frightened, and I also know I need to be careful as an adult but I also have help.”
Throughout the programming, the youth are responsible for their connections, learning and development of skills but supported by TBRI trained staff to gauge and understand how to meet them where they are and transition them throughout each day. Bubbles, fidgets, snacks, and dancing is encouraged and many youth are returning WINGS participants because they enjoy the experiences and connections they develop.
If you would like to know more about our WINGS Summer Programs, please reach out to Krystal Vann at Khughes@cafb.org.
And the Golden Deeds Award Goes to. . .
The Exchange Club of Sugar Land (ECSL) recently presented their Book of Golden Deeds Award to CAFB volunteer and board member, Rhonda Kuykendall. This is the National Exchange Club’s highest and most prestigious award and its longest running project, dating back to 1919. This award “recognizes dedicated volunteers who give endless hours of their time and talents toward making their communities better places to live”.
In presenting the award, numerous people stood and shared their thoughts on why Rhonda is deserving of this incredible award. They mentioned that she doesn’t just wish for change, she does anything she can to make it happen. David Lanagan, CAFB Board member and friend of Rhonda’s said it best… “Perhaps once in a generation comes along a candidate so fitted by experience, equipped with intelligence and bearing, and driven by a sense of mission to help change the face of human trafficking in Texas… She understands team building, as she has built coalitions to change laws by working both sides of the aisle in the legislature. She is deeply appreciated by all stakeholders who have worked with her and has connections up to and including the Governor’s office. She is a remarkable human being.”
She turned her own personal experience into a rallying cry and lifelong passion to save others from harm. . .
CAFB CEO Ruthanne Mefford was there to share in the celebration and added “With the Exchange Club’s national cause as the Prevention of Child Abuse, I can not think of anyone more deserving. For over three decades, Rhonda has advocated for child victims of abuse and human trafficking. She has courageously fought for the justice for children who have endured abuse and amplified the voices of thousands of children who endured sexual abuse so that they were not forgotten. She turned her own personal experience into a rallying cry and lifelong passion to save others from harm…”
The remarks go on and on as more people stood up throughout the presentation in honor of Rhonda. The list is long in her service for others, and we are grateful to have her a part of the Child Advocates of Fort Bend family and team.
Rhonda, congratulations and thank you for your heart, compassion, and dedication.
Friends of CAFB
Written by Alexis Jackson
Friends of CAFB is an Auxiliary League of Child Advocates of Fort Bend which provides financial assistance for items and/or services that are not covered by other means. Annual membership, as well as any additional donations, go directly into a “Special Needs Fund” managed by the Friends Council. The fund has helped with everything from gymnastics classes, dance lessons and sports team participation to graduation items like senior rings and photos to caps & gowns to school uniforms and clothing. Staff and volunteers working with the children notify the program directors of special needs and they submit those to the council.
Twice a year (Fall and Spring), the Friends Council hosts a morning Friends Coffee and an evening Drinks and Bites Night at a private home to welcome new members, share the many contributions made by the council during the year and enjoy a guest speaker, fashion show, decorating ideas or other entertainment.
Every summer, Friends hosts a backpack drive to provide a backpack for every foster child with supplies from that child’s school’s specific school supply list. Friends has purchased the backpacks but needs your help NOW to fill them.
Contact Brigit Engleman (email@example.com) to receive a child’s name, grade, and a supply list for their specific school and classroom and then shop at your favorite store! No time to shop? You can donate $75 and we will shop for you. Please contact Alexis Jackson at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Sip & Stroll
Written by Suzanne Slavin
Every month our Board Members host a Sip & Stroll to introduce community members to our agency and the work we do. Guests enjoy light bites, a beverage and a tour our Davis George Campus where they have the opportunity to meet our staff and hear stories of the children that we serve. The stories you hear are truly inspiring.
This tour leaves you with many feelings about the impact you could have partnering with CAFB. If you’re interested in learning more, you will definitely want to participate and learn more about the various volunteering opportunities available to make a difference in a child’s life. Join us July 26th for the next Sip & Stroll!
Please contact Suzanne Slavin, Development Office to reserve your spot at email@example.com. Our Vision is to end the cycle of child abuse and neglect.
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.