In 2017, Voices for Children welcomed Executive Director Anjuli “A.J.” Renold, the expansion into Madison County and Leon County, as well as several new initiatives to improve advocacy efforts for children in the Brazos Valley.
ADVOCACY PROGRAM HIGHLIGHTS
Voices for Children trained and supported 109 CASA volunteers who advocated for 210 children involved in 119 court cases in Brazos County, Grimes County and Burleson County. Voice for Children assigned a CASA volunteer to 100 percent of cases assigned by the court. CASA assisted in achieving permanency for 80 children with 58 percent (46) of children returning to parents or relative caregivers.
VFC staff and volunteers transitioned from paper case files and a server-based record management system to a web-based record management system (Optima Database and Google Docs) accessible to staff and volunteers. This transition to paperless case management reduces waste, increases efficiency, and ultimately improves quality of advocacy for children. VFC also updated the format of reports to the court to better address the social, emotional, and physical well-being of each child, as well as the best interest of each child in regards to the parent-child relationship.
Early Family Engagement Program
The Child Protection Court in Brazos and Grimes County began appointing VFC/CASA at the ex-parte stage of child protection cases. When the Department of Family and Protective Services petitions to take legal custody of a child due to abuse or neglect, Voices for Children is appointed at the time of removal from the home. CASA’s appointment at this stage of the case ensures children are seen soon after removal, information about the family is gathered in preparation for the initial court hearing and relative support is explored.
The Early Family Engagement Program was developed and implemented to ensure high-impact advocacy at the ex-parte stage of cases. The Early Family Engagement Program is designed to utilize tenured CASA volunteers to evaluate every new case at the ex-parte stage. Specially trained Early Family Engagement CASA Volunteers are dispatched to interview children, parents, placements and family members before the initial court hearing (Adversary Hearing) in order to address immediate needs of children (medical, academic, attachment, placement) and seek out relative support for the family. Early Family Engagement CASA Advocates provide a report to the court prior to the Adversary hearing and ensure a smooth transition after the case is assigned to the CASA volunteer. To date, 4 cases have resolved at the ex-parte stage due to CASA’s advocacy efforts, resulting in children avoiding foster care placements.
PMC PIlot Project
Voices for Children participated in a pilot project headed by Texas CASA to address children linger in permanent managing conservatorship (PMC) of the Department of Family and Protective Services. Due to a 2015 federal court ruling that determined the rights of children in foster care were being violated, Texas CASA committed to addressing the unique needs of children who remain in foster care after parental rights are terminated. Voices for Children worked to evaluate current advocacy efforts and tailor volunteer training to address key issues addressed in the federal court ruling, including independent living skills and normalcy for children, search and engagement efforts for family members related to children lingering in foster care, and advocacy for children in residential treatment facilities for psychiatric care. Due to VFC’s participation in the PMC Project, the organization of the program staff evolved to separate and specialized advocacy for children lingering in foster care. The PMC Advocacy Supervisor position was created, a staff position dedicated to excellence in advocacy who children who transition from temporary custody to permanent custody of the state of Texas. It is now protocol to require additional training for CASA volunteers who are assigned to children in long-term foster care. Additionally, all PMC cases are now transferred to the PMC Advocate Supervisor.
Collaborative Family Engagement
Due to Voice for Children’s efforts to address Early Family Engagement and Permanent Managing Conservatorship cases, VFC was chosen to participate in yet another Texas CASA initiative- Collaborative Family Engagement (CFE). CFE is a specific approach for Texas based on established Family Finding and Engagement work by Kevin Campbell developed to address identified critical case management policies applied throughout all work and interaction with families and children – an embedded practice in casework. The Brazos County Department of Family and Protective Service (DFPS) and Voices for Children are partnering like never before to coordinate efforts to engage family members in child protection cases. Starting in January 2018, VFC and DFPS will engage in training and coordinated case management in a renewed effort to collaborate to serve children and families of the Brazos Valley with dignity and diligence to keep families together.
Expansion into Madison and Leon Counties
Voices for Children is excited to announce the expansion of services into Madison County and Leon County in 2017. It is with deep appreciation for Madison County and Leon County courts and the Department of Family and Protective Services leadership in both counties that VFC is able to expand advocacy effort to a larger portion of the Brazos Valley. As of January 1, 2018, Voices for Children has been appointed to 8 children in Madison and Leon Counties.
The following is a demographic report of the population served by Voices for Children, CASA of the Brazos Valley in FY 2016-17 (September 1, 2016-August 31, 2017):
|African American||30% (62)|
|Two or more races||6% (12)|
|Reunification with Parent||25% (20)|
|Relative Adoption||10% (8)|
|Non-Relative Adoption||33% (26)|
|Custody to a Relative||23% (18)|
|Custody to a Non-Relative||3% (2)|
|Turned 18, left extended foster care||8% (6)|
VOLUNTEER RECRUITMENT AND TRAINING
Voices for Children recruited and trained 36 new CASA volunteers. Volunteers Advocates are required to submit to a rigorous application process including an interview, reference checks, CPS and criminal background checks, as well as register with FBI fingerprint database system.
CASA volunteers are also required to complete 33 hours of pre-service training before taking an oath before a judge to complete the role of Guardian ad Litem in child protective service cases. Voices for Children offered three training classes in 2017. Voices for Children staff evaluated the pre-service training and worked to improve and update every aspect of the training. Our September 2017 training class was the largest and most diverse class in Voices for Children history!
CASA volunteers are also required to complete 12 hours of continuing education each year. In 2017, Voices for Children offered 29 in-service training opportunities. Training topics ranged from trial preparation and court report writing to lessons in Google Docs and advocacy for children lingering in long-term foster care. Voices for Children is invested in ensuring all CASA volunteers are equipped with the knowledge and skills needed to provide excellent advocacy to children and families involved in the CPS system.
Voices for Children works to promote inclusiveness, diversity, respect for all cultures and ethnicities, for children, families, volunteers and staff. It is our goal to recruit and support volunteer advocates from a variety of demographics, ideally proportional to the community we serve in the Brazos Valley.
|31-40||9 % (10)|
|61 and older||39% (42)|
Volunteer Ethnicity and Race
Father Fish (June)
Voices for Children partnered with College Station Police Department and City of College Station for the annual Father Fish event at Cy Miller Pond. Thanks to generous sponsorships and the collaboration of community groups, Father’s Day weekend was welcomed by a free fishing event for fathers and father figures, including rods and reels, bait, and a fully stocked pond!
Shop for CASA (July-August)
Voices for Children’s annual clothing drive was successful in providing new clothes to every child appointed to the organization. Every year, CASA volunteers submit clothing and shoe sizes of each child. Donors from the community commit to purchasing at least a complete outfit for over 200 children, ranging in age from 0 to 21.
Adoption Day Celebration (November)
This year, Voices for Children partnered with the Department of Family and Protective Services and the Child Welfare Board to celebrate families who consummated an adoption in the past year. Instead of holding adoption hearings on Adoption Day, a family style dinner was served with games for children and fellowship between families who completed the long process of adoption through the child protective court system.
Holiday Toy Drive
Voices for Children starts preparing for the holidays in September by asking CASA volunteers to submit specific present requests from their CASA children. Volunteers and donors work diligently to ensure children in foster care receive wrapped presents specially purchased for each child. It is a way to give a child a voice during the holidays. For over 200 children, it is a tremendous effort, but we did it! Each request was matched with donor from the community, community volunteers wrapped every present, and CASA volunteers delivered the presents to the children before Christmas morning.
FUNDRAISING AND RESOURCE DEVELOPMENT
Voices for Children is a non-profit organization, dependent on grant funding, individual donors, and fundraising efforts to function. Throughout the year, Voices for Children has several fundraising events. Thanks to community partners and event sponsorships, every event in 2017 surpassed the previous year in participation and revenue! We could not do it without your support! Thank you!
AHEAD IN 2018
ART OF HELPING CHILDREN GALA March 3, 2018 Brazos County Expo Center
VOICES FOR CHILDREN STREET FAIR April 28, 2018 Henderson Elementary
FATHER FISH June 16, 2018 Cy Miller Pond
ROB CHILDRESS CHARITY GOLF TOUR. October 23, 2018 Miramont Golf Club
CASA SUPERHERO 5K November 3, 2018 TBD
ART STEP Third Thursday every month
FIRST FRIDAYS First Friday every month
Board of Directors FY 2017-18
President, Brac Jones (Grimes County)
2nd Vice President, Jacque Flagg (Brazos County)
Treasurer, Greg Gammon (Brazos County)
Alice Blue-McClendon (Brazos County)
Tracy Corrier (Brazos County)
Nkrumah Dixon (Brazos County)
Robert Goldstein (Grimes County)
Brittany McManus (Burleson County)
Shelly Jo Payne (Leon County)
Shane Phelps (Brazos County)
Alison Pittman (Brazos County)
Vice President, Carl Prihoda (Burleson County)
Past President, Susan Smith (Brazos County)
Secretary, Janet Green (Grimes County)
Bob McGee (Brazos County)
Jennifer Smith (Brazos County)
Letha Solether (Brazos County)
Jeff Waguespack (Brazos County)
Garland Watson (Brazos County)
Cathy Wheaton (Madison County)
Ingrid Villar Woods (Brazos County)
Ernie Wright (Brazos County)
Voices for children staff
Executive Director, Anjuli “A.J.” Renold
Recruitment and Training Manager, Kate Mason
Development Manager, Randi Shaffer
Financial Manager, Gerry Turner
Office Manager, Myra Pineda
Program Director, Tricia Campos-Brenner
Advocate Supervisor-Burleson/Brazos County, Shanntel Williams
Advocate Supervisor-Brazos County, Ashten Harris
Advocate Supervisor-Grimes, Leon and Madison County, Kathy Lord-Jones
Advocate Supervisor, PMC Joyce Carter
Program Support Specialist, Kelsie Schauer