The dollars were sourced from the Family Protection Fee pursuant of Texas Government Code. The four organizations and each individual award are as follows:
- Aid to Victims of Domestic Abuse: $12,219.21
- Child Advocates of Fort Bend: $12,219.21
- Fort Bend County Women's Center: $12,219.21
- The Family Life and Community Resource Center: $4,073.07
CAFB CEO Ruth Mefford said incidents of child abuse increased dramatically during the pandemic, and most cases went unreported because kids were not in school.
“Overall, we are up 300% in the number of children and families served over the past eight or nine years,” Mefford said. “Every year [since 2020] increases 20%-22%. ... It is something that is affecting children from birth all the way through 18 years old and above.”
Mefford said the organization plans to use the $12,219.21 in family protection fee funds for its Court Appointed Special Advocates program, and resources for community engagement and prevention. CASA provides a court advocate to every child in foster care on a 1:1 basis, Mefford said.
In CAFB’s community engagement and prevention work, staff goes into schools and youth-centered organizations to provide training educational tools like the Darkness to Light Stewards of Children program and a Child Safety Matters prevention curriculum that is comprehensive and evidence-based with tailored messaging by grade level, Mefford said.
Lauren Summerville, director of development at Aid to Victims of Domestic Abuse, wrote in the organization’s application for the family protection funding that AVDA would utilize the $12,219.21 investment to support its legal advocacy program. This program provides free legal representation for victims of domestic violence and trauma counseling for the individual and their families.
Vita Goodell, CEO of The Fort Bend County Women's Center, wrote in her agency’s application that the money would be used to provide emergency shelter, case management, basic medical care, neurotherapy training, transportation, counseling, legal assistance, children’s programs, clothing and household items, and staff for its 24-hour crisis hotline.
Finally, Dr. Ilene Harper, the executive director for The Family Life and Community Resource Center, wrote in her application for funding that the organization would use the awarded $4,073.07 for the Youth Ambassador Leadership Education program. This program links students in fifth grade through college to opportunities related to character education, leadership, and college and career readiness. About 40% of students within the program are crime victims, Harper wrote.
Mefford said she was deeply appreciative of the commissioners and county judge for the funding and for providing consistent support and recognition that this is a priority for the community.
“We want to build families, which makes us a stronger community,” Mefford said. “And this is a wonderful opportunity to impact that. I think Fort Bend County residents and I share a common goal of [creating] a family-focused community. And certainly at the core of that is keeping our kids safe.”