The Voices of Child Advocates of Fort Bend

Volume 3
MARCH 2022

CEO Ruthanne Mefford, October News, from our CEO

Welcome to our March issue of Voices!

March is National Social Workers Month and we are dedicating this issue of our newsletter to all the
wonderful social workers on our staff. Social work is such an honorable profession uniting a deep
compassion for people with a steady resolve to meet our children and families where they are and
help guide them in their journey to healing. The social work profession embodies the six values of
Service, Social Justice, Dignity and Worth of the Person, Importance of Human Relationships,
Integrity and Competence. Not surprisingly, these values align beautifully with CAFB’s five values of
Collaborative, Healing, Inclusive, Life-Changing and Dedicated (using the acronym CHILD). We have
20 people on staff who hold a bachelor or masters degree in social work as well as interns from the
University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work who are on site pursuing their degrees and
field work. These staff members provide direct services to children and families in both our
Children’s Advocacy Center and CASA Program as therapists, forensic interviewers, clinical family
advocates, advocacy specialists and program directors. We are so appreciative of the
transformational work that our social workers do every day to bring hope and healing to thousands
of children and families every year.

Our focus on the “whole child” within the context of the family unit has led to a number of changes
we are making in our organization. We are moving from a reactive model that historically derived
from a Criminal Justice framework to a proactive systemic approach that is based on a Public Health
framework to work with children and families who have experienced trauma. We have introduced
trauma training for staff and volunteers; we have reorganized our CASA services to strengthen our
advocacy around both the children and the family; we have expanded our collaborative family
engagement services to connect children with family and broaden social network supports; we have
expanded Courtesy CASA so that children placed out of county have regular visits to ensure their
wellbeing; we have broadened our outreach and safety messaging to children and parents to
increase prevention and early intervention of abuse; we have expanded our Multi-Disciplinary Team
to devote more resources to identifying and referring more children for services at our CAC; and we
have enhanced our Therapy and Mental Health services with a new partnership with UT Health
Sciences Psychiatric Fellows program so that children can receive psychiatric care at CAFB.
Below, read about how we are implementing these initiatives in our newly-redesigned CASA
organization with new specialty areas for our teams. Next month, we will report on the
enhancements in our CAC to respond to the huge growth in the number of children and families
needing help.

We thank you for your continuing loyalty and support.
For the Children’s Sake,

Ruthanne Mefford, CEO

 

 

AGENCY HIGHLIGHTS

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

Learn more about their roles:

Advocacy Specialist

Provides advocates with supervision and guidance to ensure children’s best interest are being met while involved in the legal system.

Program Innovation Manager

Responsible for managing and supervising new initiatives inclusive of the Infant and Toddler, NEST, WINGS, and Courtesy CASA programs. Each program incorporates strategies to help children address trauma, develop support networks, plan for successful transitions, and enhance their educational and developmental goals.

Trauma and Wellbeing Advocacy Manager

Educates, supports, models, and encourages trauma informed advocacy and cultural competency for CASA staff, advocates, and community partners.

Court Advocacy Manager

Responsible for developing support processes for advocates in court preparation including writing court reports, court etiquette, trial preparation, mediation skills, and best practices in testifying for best the interests of children in the child welfare and legal systems.

Collaborative Family Engagement Coach

Provides coaching and consultation to Fort Bend County’s CASA and CPS programs with the overall goal of being able to increase capacity and implement CFE in Fort Bend County.

Courtesy CASA

Visits children for the purpose of ensuring their safety and well-being as well as promote the local CASA program’s relationship with the child and strengthening the local program’s advocacy for the child.

Quality Assurance Specialist

Ensures our advocacy services are reflected in our case management and databases by assisting Advocacy Specialists with the day-to-day operations including proper documentation and case records for quality advocacy.

 

SOCIAL WORK MONTH

Written by Courtney James & Jen Brown with Multi-Staff Collaborations 

Webster dictionary describes Social Work as “any of various professional activities or methods concretely concerned with providing social services and especially with the investigation, treatment, and material aid of the economically, physically, mentally, or socially disadvantaged”. In other words, social work is a broad term that describes a career that encompasses a wide variety of professionals who strive to fill the gaps for those who are in need. Here at Child Advocates of Fort Bend, we are lucky enough to have twelve social workers on staff and serving families in our community. These social workers serve in different positions across the agency and each one plays a special role in ensuring that we meet the needs of the families that we work with. Our social workers are Program Directors, CASA’s, Clinical Family Advocates and Therapists. Though we have different responsibilities and job roles, each individual holds high the belief that we are making a difference by stepping into an extremely difficult moment in our clients’ lives.

Did you know Social Work is one of the fastest growing professions in the USA?

According to Bureau of Labor Statistic, “There are almost 720,000 professional social workers in our nation, but that number is expected to rise to more than 800,000 by 2030”. They touch millions of lives each day and it’s likely a social worker will at some point assist you, or someone you know and love.

For example, a student who needs athletic shoes to play a sport, but can’t afford to buy them… they would talk to their school social worker. Do you want a better relationship with your spouse, partner, children, or parents? A social worker can help you forge stronger connections. Are you living with depression, anxiety, or a substance abuse? A social worker can help you overcome them and thrive. These are just a few examples of the resources and work that Social Workers have and do.

Social workers will continue to play a key role in helping empower millions of Americans so they can live life to their fullest potential. During Social Work month we urge you to learn more about this amazing profession, thank the social workers in your lives, and help support the profession.

I love that our profession is collaborative, compassionate, curious and change-seeking!

Ophelia Mok, CAFB Clinical Family Advocate & Social Worker

 

 

DONOR IMPACT

 

 

 

PROGRAM HIGHLIGHTS

Written by Courtney James

 

 

CASA PROGRAM UPDATE

Written by Alyson Ferrante

The CASA Program just wrapped up its TX CASA audit which occurs every three years. The purpose of this audit is to ensure that CASA Programs across the state are meeting TX CASA standards within our advocacy work to meet the needs of the children and families each program serves. We are able to show our advocacy efforts through our documentation in our Optima database. If you are a CASA Volunteer, you know that this can be tedious work, but it is a critical part of the work that we do. With that being said, our CASA Program was really pleased to receive a 93% overall score on the cases that were selected by TX CASA to be audited. A big thank you to our CASA Volunteers for keeping Optima updated with all of the great advocacy work you are doing day in and day out!

One of our CASA Volunteers, Crystal Lovelady-Jackson, scored 100% on her case that was randomly selected! Crystal is currently working on her very first CASA case and her dedication to advocating for her CASA youth shines day in and day out. Crystal’s CASA youth is even placed out of state, yet Crystal continues to visit with her via Zoom every week. She is in constant contact with the youth’s attorney, placement, CPS caseworker, and school teachers (even serving as this youth’s surrogate parent). Crystal has built such a wonderful rapport with her CASA youth. She has been able to help her work through some big, tough emotions and support her as she works towards her goals, even from afar! Thank you Crystal for being a stellar example of what a CASA Volunteer should be!

 

NEEDS & OPPORTUNITIES

Written by Jen Brown

This month we need a few things:

 

  • 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.    ORDER SENSORY ITEMS NOW! 

 

  • Our Development team is gearing up for GALA and is needing gift cards in the amount of $25 or more for the “gift card pull”. Please designate they go to GALA.

 

  • The CPS Unit that houses in our building needs Pack n plays – NEW only, please. Feel free to have shipped or bring to our office and we will deliver them to CPS.

 

 

 

pavers

Are you looking for a way to honor or memorialize someone you love?

You can purchase a paver in our front walkway and have it engraved with your personalized message! (We love reading them as we walk in each day.) Also available is to Name a Room in honor or memory of someone!

For more information, please contact Lisa Moore at LMoore@cafb.org.

 

 

Are you ready to celebrate with us at a live event?

We are gearing up for an amazing evening! Watch our social media for a sneak peek at our auction and check out the graphic below to see what we need and how you can help.

Sponsorships and seats are available. Reserve yours today!

Contact Tarina at TSheridan@cafb.org or go to https://www.cafb.org/events/gala/

 

Youth in Philanthropy

Written by Lindsey Castellanos

We welcomed YIP, Youth In Philanthropy, from The George Foundation to our offices on Saturday, February 12th for a day of service. The YIP program brings together 200 juniors and seniors from across Fort Bend County to grow as leaders and learn about the nonprofit sector. Students give their time six Saturdays out of the school year to serve various nonprofits. At the conclusion of their six-month journey, the students reward the nonprofits with grants provided by The George Foundation. In return, some outstanding YIP participants are awarded higher education scholarships at a celebratory luncheon.

The YIP team, PIP, Partners in Philanthropy, was excited to be here! We spent time talking about the history of our agency and programs, and the students got to experience first hand what a child hears and sees as they begin the journey in the child welfare system through a role play exercise. Children we serve may meet more than 12 different people as their case goes through the foster care or legal system. One student commented, “It’s so overwhelming meeting all these people and keep them all straight.”

 

 

“The YIP program brings together 200 Juniors and Seniors from across Fort Bend County to grow as leaders and learn about the nonprofit sector.”

We toured the building and explained how our agency, staff and volunteers are sometimes the only constant in a very tumultuous time in the life of a child who has been through devastating trauma. While looking at Forensic Interview rooms, therapy offices and our treasure room, students were able to see how this special place is made with children’s safety and healing in mind.

The 10 students completed two major projects for us and learned why prevention is key to keeping children safe and protected. We are grateful to partner with The George Foundation in it’s commitment to continue the legacy of philanthropy in our community.