Child Advocates of Fort Bend prepares for surge in child abuse cases once children return to school

Child Advocates of Fort Bend recently completed an $8 million expansion and remodeling project. (Beth Marshall/Community Impact Newspaper)
Child Advocates of Fort Bend recently completed an $8 million expansion and remodeling project. (Beth Marshall/Community Impact Newspaper)

Child Advocates of Fort Bend recently completed an $8 million expansion and remodeling project. (Beth Marshall/Community Impact Newspaper)

Ruthanne Mefford, the Chief Executive Office of Child Advocates of Fort Bend, said the organization may experience a spike in the number of victims of child abuse it serves once stay-at-home orders are lifted and children return to school.

“With children and family members and caregivers in close physical contact for extended periods of time and with the stresses that these families are under, tempers may flare and children are oftentimes times the victims of that,” Mefford said.

While Mefford said the organization has yet to document a huge increase in the number of cases, the added stress caused by the coronavirus and the fact that children may not have a trusted adult to turn to may lead to more abusive situations.

“With schools closed and families under stress, it's kind of like the perfect conditions—though that's not exactly the terminology I'd like to use—but it's particularly challenging, because these children are isolated and they likely have no one to tell if they're being sexually abused,” Mefford said.

Mefford said that because teachers—the No. 1 reporters of child abuse—are no longer seeing children daily the actual number of reports of abuse may go down during this time even as more incidents of abuse occur. She said CAFB saw a similar pattern during Hurricane Harvey.



“We took a look at what happened to us during Hurricane Harvey to get sort of a template,” Mefford said. “We found that our numbers had actually dipped during Hurricane Harvey, but then once we recovered, they spiked afterwards because the children were then going back to school and someone was seeing them,” Mefford said.

During the coronavirus outbreak, Child Advocates of Fort Bend is continuing to service victims of abuse. Mefford said while most CAFB staff are working remotely, they are continuing to conduct forensic interviews, staff abuse cases and reaching out to children digitally.

Additionally, Mefford said CAFB is better equipped now to handle a spike in cases than they were after Harvey. In early March, CAFB had a ribbon-cutting ceremony for an $8 million remodeling and expansion project—which added nearly 10,000 square feet—to its Rosenberg location. Mefford said the expansion, along with the addition of new staff, greatly improves the organization's capacity to serve children.

“We did that because our numbers have been increasing every single year,” Mefford said. “And, we anticipate those trend lines to continue. We had a waitlist for kids before and we just don't want to ever have that.”

Mefford said now more than ever it is important now more than ever that neighbors look out for children in their communities. She encourages people to make a report on the hotline to CPS if they have any suspicion that something might be wrong.

“As the community comes together under social distancing and staying at home and everything, we want to raise awareness that neighbors need to look out for each other,” Mefford said. “And that includes looking out for children.”

By Claire Shoop
Claire joined Community Impact Newspaper in September 2019 as the reporter for the Sugar Land/Missouri City edition. She graduated from The University of Texas at Austin in May 2019 where she studied journalism, government and Arabic. While in school, Claire was a fellow for The Texas Tribune, worked for the student newspaper, The Daily Texan, and spent a semester in Washington, D.C. She enjoys playing cards with her family and listening to the Boss, Bruce Springsteen.


MOST RECENT

"Breaking Strongholds" is a faith-based, eight-episode series that explores topics such as suicide and depression. (Courtesy Terry Weaver)
Series shot in Montgomery County aiming for Hulu, Netflix deal and more Houston-area news

Read the latest business and community news from the Houston area.

Sugar Land- and Missouri City-area higher education officials said they agree: There is no one-size-fits-all solution to educating students amid the coronavirus pandemic. (Chase Brooks/Community Impact Newspaper)
Despite COVID-19 challenges, Fort Bend County higher education institutions continue to recruit, graduate students

Sugar Land- and Missouri City-area higher education officials said they agree: There is no one-size-fits-all solution to educating students amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Here is the latest case, hospitalization and vaccine data from Fort Bend County. (Eva Vigh/Community Impact Newspaper)
Nearly 30% of eligible Fort Bend County population fully vaccinated against COVID-19

From March 26-April 8, the county reported an average of 91.6 new coronavirus cases a day.

The temporary waiver covering initial vehicle registration, vehicle registration renewal, vehicle titling, renewal of permanent disabled parking placards and 30-day temporary permits will end April 14. (Hannah Zedaker/Community Impact Newspaper)
DMV officials say no grace period following waiver of car title, registration; new housing set for Magnolia, Cypress

Read the top business and community news from the past week from the Houston area.

Hope for Three is celebrating its 10th anniversary during autism awareness month. (Claire Shoop/Community Impact Newspaper)
Sugar Land autism nonprofit Hope for Three celebrates 10th anniversary in April

April is the month dedicated globally to autism awareness.

Students returned to Fort Bend ISD's Meadows Elementary School on April 5. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
Meadows Elementary School opens doors to Fort Bend ISD students April 5 after rebuild

The school was completely rebuilt as part of the 2018 Fort Bend ISD bond.

Service King specializes in dent removal, bumper and fender fixes, and car body painting. (Courtesy Service King)
Service King to open Sugar Land collision repair center in mid-April

This will be Service King's 28th Houston-area location.

"Flower of Diversity," a mixed-media college and acrylic paint on canvas piece by Rhonda Radford Adams, will be one of the six works featured in a mural at the University of Houston at Sugar Land. (Courtesy Reginald Adams/Diversity Over Division)
Mural coming to University of Houston at Sugar Land highlights Fort Bend County's diversity

The mural is part of Diversity Over Division—a collaboration between Fort Bend County, the University of Houston at Sugar Land and Fort Bend County Libraries.

Officials from Houston Community College, Texas State Technical College, University of Houston at Sugar Land and Wharton County Junior College discussed the latest news from their schools. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
Q&A: Hear from leaders of 4 Sugar Land, Missouri City-area higher education institutions

Officials from Houston Community College, Texas State Technical College, University of Houston at Sugar Land and Wharton County Junior College discuss the latest news from their schools.

After serving up chicken in College Station for nearly three decades, Layne’s Chicken Fingers is opening its first location in the Houston area in Katy. (Courtesy Layne's Chicken Fingers)
Layne's Chicken Fingers coming to Katy; Gyro King opens in Sugar Land and more Houston-area news

Read the latest business and community news from the Houston area.

Less than 25% of American office workers have returned to in-person office settings since the start of the pandemic. (Courtesy Pixabay)
DATA: Texas metros lead the nation in return to in-person work since start of pandemic

About 37% of Houston office employees had returned to in-person work as of the end of March, as compared to an average of less than 25% in other major U.S. metros.

Gyro King serves six different types of gyro, including lamb, chicken, fish and falafel. (Courtesy Gyro King)
Gyro King opens newest location near Sugar Land Town Square

The restaurant serves six different types of gyro and held a grand opening April 4.