Texas first lady Cecilia Abbott has partnered with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services on a new initiative – Network of Nurture – to raise awareness about the ways Texans can support the children and families in the state’s child welfare system.
As a part of this initiative, she has been touring children’s advocacy centers across the state. Last week, she visited Child Advocates of Fort Bend, toured the facility and met with staff, board members and partner agencies in an effort to better understand the work that the agency and its partners are doing on behalf of abused and neglected children.
“We are so happy that the Abbotts have made child welfare a top priority in Texas and we were honored that first lady Abbott wanted to see our facility and talk to us about the work that we are doing,” said Child Advocates of Fort Bend CEO Ruthanne Mefford.
Child victims are referred to Child Advocates of Fort Bend’s Children’s Advocacy Center by law enforcement or CPS where trained specialists, social workers and therapists conduct forensic interviews, coordinate the criminal investigation, facilitate resource services, offer criminal court support and provide therapy to help children heal from their trauma. Agency partners are co-located in the building to facilitate this collaboration and the agency has implemented both formal and informal processes and communication to facilitate a “one-stop-shop” approach.
“As a result, we have demonstrated very positive outcomes in these children’s lives,” said Mefford.
Child Advocates of Fort Bend is unique in that it has a children’s advocacy center and a CASA program under one roof.
“We started our CASA program 26 years ago and added the Children’s Advocacy Center a few years later when we realized that there was a whole population of children who were not being served because they had not been removed from their homes.”
The CASA program trains volunteers throughout the community to provide a voice in the courtroom for children who are in the care of the child welfare system. These CASA volunteers advocate for the child’s “best interests” and ensure that his/her needs are being met throughout the time the child is in foster care, provide stability and a positive role model.
Volunteers are trained to serve children in each age group. Each of these services (Infant and Toddler, N.E.S.T. and WINGS) incorporates strategies to help the children develop healthy lifestyles, provide mentoring and guidance, equip the children and volunteers with specialized resources, implement educational enrichment workshops and help the children find the path to a bright future.
As an agency, Child Advocates of Fort Bend is committed to making sure it never turns away a child in need of the services. The agency’s Christmas Home Tour is critical to helping them continue to fund all of the agency’s programs and services for abused and neglected children. Slated for Dec. 8 and 9, the $25 tour ticket enables guests to view five private homes that have been professionally decorated for the holidays. Tickets allow access to each home once during the tour hours. Of the proceeds, 94 percent from this event go directly toward programs and services. To become a sponsor or for more information about the Christmas Home Tour or to purchase tickets for the tour, go to www.cafb.org or contact Lisa Moore at firstname.lastname@example.org.