Volunteer Info Session

The Fannin County Children’s Center is seeking volunteers for a variety of roles, including CASA advocates for children in foster care, CAC volunteers who supervise children and families at the center, Rainbow Room volunteers who organize clothing and other supplies, Honey Doers who help with minor repairs and maintenance and Hospitality Team who prepare food for various meetings and trainings.

CASA, which stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates, is one of several programs offered by the Fannin County Children’s Center for the benefit of abused and neglected children. CASA is seeking adult volunteers who can complete training and pass background checks to be appointed by the 336th District Court to serve as Guardian ad Litem for children in foster care.

In that role, CASA volunteers regularly visit their assigned child or sibling group and gather information from parents, other family, teachers, medical personnel, therapists and others in order to make recommendations to the court on what will be in the child’s best interest. They prepare court reports and testify at court hearings too. Many volunteers successfully manage to volunteer while also working full time and spending time with their families.

The Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC) is another program of the Children’s Center. Compassionate CAC volunteers are needed to supervise children, youth and families who are at the center for interviews or counseling. Other volunteers are needed for tasks not directly working with children, such as organizing clothes in the Rainbow Room, helping with light repairs and maintenance of the building and preparing food for various meetings and trainings.

There will be an informational session on Tuesday, August 10 from 5:30 – 6:30 pm on Zoom. CASA Program Director Amanda McDonald and Community Development Director Andrea Lappin will present information about all the volunteer opportunities available at the center, as well as information about the application process and training requirements. Attendance at the information session is not a requirement to become a volunteer, however, it is a helpful step to learning more about what it takes to be a volunteer and give an opportunity to ask questions. Attending the info session will not obligate anyone to become a volunteer.

The next training sessions for CASA volunteers will start in August. Participants will gain knowledge and learn skills needed to become an advocate for abused children in foster care. Participants will have 4 in-person sessions on August 24 & 31 and September 7 & 16 and there will be reading and online activities to be completed on their own time. At least 2 hours of court room observation in-person will also be required. All who successfully complete the training will take the CASA oath in the Fannin County District Courtroom.

Applications are now being accepted for all types of volunteers at the Children’s Center. Contact Amanda McDonald by email at amanda@fanninccc.org to get the Zoom link for the volunteer information session.

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School Supplies Needed

school suppliesDonations are needed for the 25th annual School Supply Drive and Fair hosted by the Fannin County Children’s Center. The Children’s Center will once again be giving away free school supplies to Fannin County students on Saturday, August 7 from 9 am to noon.

This year’s event will include a Back-to-School Fair, similar to what was done two years ago. The street in front of the center will be blocked off to allow churches, non-profits, local businesses and other organizations to set up tents to give away free food, resources or information. Free haircuts will be provided. There is still more room for additional vendors. The vendor application can be found on the agency website or by contacting Andrea Lappin. Volunteers with cosmetology licenses are also needed to help provide more free haircuts. Vendors and those interested in providing free haircuts can contact Andrea Lappin at (903) 583-4339 or andrea@fanninccc.org.

With this event less about a month away, the center is also seeking donations to make this effort possible. “As always, every contribution is appreciated and needed” said Sandy Barber, Executive Director of the Children’s Center. The center is now accepting paper, notebooks, pencils, folders and other school supplies.” Barber said, “Donors can also donate cash and leave the shopping to us. We will use it to buy what is most needed and we will stretch the donation farther by using our tax-exempt status when making the purchases.”

In all, the agency has given out free school supplies to more than 11,000 students in the last 24 years. Organizers expect to serve 500-700 students again this year. This effort depends on contributions from many generous individuals, churches, businesses and other local organizations.

Items needed include: notebook paper, pens, pencils, three-ring notebooks, folders with and without brads, spiral notebooks, scissors, markers, crayons, red pens and pencils, highlighters, glue sticks, glue in bottles, erasers, backpacks, construction paper, manilla paper, watercolor paints, pencil boxes and pencil bags.

Contributions can be delivered to the center at 112 West Fifth Street, Bonham, TX anytime they are open from Monday – Friday 8 am to 5 pm. Checks can be made out to FCCC and should include a brief notation that the gift is for school supplies. Donations can also be made on-line at www.fanninccc.org. All donations are tax deductible to the extent allowable by law. Organizers request that contributions arrive by July 30 or earlier if at all possible to allow time for organization and preparations.

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Kickoff Celebration to Build The Dream

Kickoff ribbon2021A large gathering of community members gathered for a ribbon cutting at the corner of Lee and Albert Broadfoot streets in Bonham on June 24 at noon. The board and staff of the Fannin County Children’s Center were excited to celebrate on the site of their future facility with community leaders, partner agencies, volunteers, donors and other community supporters.

Kelly Royse, local business owner and board member of the Children’s Center, welcomed everyone to the event. She quoted JFK in calling those in attendance “stewards of the future.”

Cindy Bankston talked about the long-standing relationship between the Glaser Family Charitable Foundation and the Fannin County Children’s Center. The foundation was formed about 20 years ago by Cindy’s parents Jim and Raynell Glaser, with a primary focus on the education and well being of children in this county. Their first grant was to the Children’s Center to help purchase and renovate the current facility. Bankston was pleased to announce that the foundation was pledging to give $50,000 to build the dream of a new, larger facility. Furthermore, this gift will be a challenge gift, encouraging others to give too.

Executive Director Sandy Barber shared that the dream for a new, larger facility started in 2016 during a strategic planning session. She outlined what happened over the past five years to get the Children’s Center to today where they now have about 8 acres of donated land, architectural drawings and a plan to raise the money needed to build the new facility.
The new center will have space for CPS investigators to co-locate at the center, a medical exam room and expanded therapy services, among other things.

“We have a big, bold goal. We are going to raise $10 million to Build the Dream of a new, larger facility to help kids from hard places,” said Barber. “I am excited to announce that we already have $1.7 million lined up.”

Bonnie Donaghey has donated $50,000 in memory of her late husband Lewis Donaghey.
Barber explained that the Glaser and Donaghey gifts, which together total $100,000, are challenge gifts. “That is, our community is being challenged to match these gifts dollar for dollar. Your gift of $50, for example, will be matched and become $100.”

The estate of Dr. Henry Spies has contributed over $800,000 to this project. The board of directors of Fannin Bank approved a gift of $25,000 to this project and the family of long time CASA Program Director Joyce McGehee donated $10,000 in her memory.

Rev. Dana Coker, pastor of First United Methodist Church in Bonham and member of the Children’s Center board, gave a blessing for the land, the project and the people who will serve and be served at the new center.

Legend Bank provided hot dog lunch for those in attendance and TXB and MCCraw Oil provided chips, cookies and cold water.

Barber outlined three ways community members can get involved: volunteer, donate or become a champion for the cause. The center needs CASA volunteers, donations to meet the challenge gift for the new building and help spreading the word about the center’s mission and project.

more about Build the Dream

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Jeep/Car Show at the Leonard Picnic

It’s time to clean up those Jeeps and old Hot Rods. Join us for the 142nd Annual Leonard Picnic Parade and the 1st Annual Jeep and Hot Rod show.

All cars, trucks, old jeeps and jeep wranglers welcome.

Entry fee is $5 per vehicle for the Car/Jeep Show.
No entry fee for the parade.

Saturday, July 17 at Leonard City Park.
Parade starts at 10 am
Show and Shine Car show starts immediately after the parade
Raffle drawings begin at 2 pm.

All proceeds will go to the Fannin County Children’s Center.

Feel free to decorate your Jeep/Car for the parade! Parade participation is completely FREE. You do not have to participate in the parade to be in the show, and vice versa.

The Leonard Picnic is a family friendly event going back 142 years! This event includes kids entertainment, live music, vendors, food trucks, 5k, game tournaments, Jeep Show and wineries. The event will end with a great fireworks show on Saturday night.

For updates and the latest information, follow the event on Facebook called “Leonard Picnic Parade, Jeep and Car Show”

Questions?
Contact Matthew at matthew4904@gmail.com

Advanced registration is now closed.

On-site registration will be available. We will accept cash, checks or cards.

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Build The Dream Kickoff Celebration

Kickoff InvitationThe community is invited to the Build The Dream Kickoff Celebration hosted by Fannin County Children’s Center on Thursday, June 24 from noon to 1 pm.  The event will take place at the future home of the Children’s Center at the corner of Lee and Albert Broadfoot Streets in Bonham.

During the strategic planning process in 2016, the center’s board and staff identified the future need to secure a new, larger facility in order to keep up with the growing needs of our community.  Over the next few years, a facility task force toured other CASA and CAC facilities, searched for available land or buildings and made several asks and offers.  In December 2019, Roy and Jan Reimer donated about 8 acres of land near the Bonham elementary and high schools.

In 2020, MJMC Architects, PLLC was hired and the planning process was in full swing.  The center also purchased a small adjacent property and Hammett Excavation graciously donated their services to tear down and remove an old, condemned house on that lot.

The center is now ready to kickoff the campaign to build the new facility.  Legend Bank, TXB and McCraw Oil will generously be providing lunch at the kickoff event.  Leaders of the Children’s Center and community will begin speaking at about 12:15 pm.  They have several exciting announcements planned.

Community members are encouraged to carpool when they can, as nearby parking space will be limited.

Read More about Building the Dream

Architect rendering of the future home of the Children's Center

Architect rendering of the future home of the Children’s Center

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Protecting Children from Sexual Abuse

April is Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention month. However, preventing child abuse and being aware of the signs is something all adults should do all year long.

Child sexual abuse is not something that happens randomly. Fannin County Children’s Center’s Executive Director Sandy Barber said there are actually many things parents and other adults can do to prevent child sexual abuse.

When checking out day cares, schools, camp or other activities for your children, Barber encourages parents to ask questions. “Do they do background checks, reference checks and personal interviews with every staff and volunteer?” said Barber. “Also ask how often they train their personnel in how to recognize and report child abuse as well as what policies they have in place to protect against child sexual abuse.”

“Most importantly, ask the organization what their policy is on one-adult one-child situations,” said Barber. Organizations that eliminate or reduce to the greatest extent possible one-adult one-child situations will greatly reduce the opportunity for sexual abuse to happen.

With young children who need diapers changed or assistance going to the bathroom, Barber encourages parents to ask questions about how and where that happens at the day care or other locations. All interactions between adults and children or even older youth and young children should be observable and interruptible by others.

Parents should also begin talking to children about child sexual abuse when their children are very young. As young children learn to identify their eyes, ears, nose and other body parts, it a great time to also learn the proper names for their private parts. As the child grows, the conversations should change and grow too.

“One way to explain it,” said Barber “is that the parts of your body covered up by your bathing suit are your private parts. If anyone tries to touch you on your private parts or asks you to touch their private parts, tell them “no,” get away from them and go tell a parent or other trusted adult.”

It is also important to explain to children that the person could be a family member, close friend or even an older youth.

“There are also several books available to read to your child that will help open up a conversation about this topic,” said Barber. “Two books that we like at the Children’s Center are “It’s My Body” and “Your Body Belongs to You.” These books are simple, straight forward and inexpensive.”

Barber stressed that it is important to read the book and/or talk about this subject more than once with a child. “Think about teaching your child how to say the alphabet or count, you cannot go over it once and expect them to know it,” said Barber. “Repetition is important.”

The Children’s Center also offers two types of free classes for adults. “Recognizing and Reporting” is a 1.5 hour class that covers recognizing the signs of child abuse and the steps of how to report it. “Stewards of Children” is a 3 hour class that focuses solely on sexual abuse and covers preventing, recognizing and responding appropriately. Classes will be scheduled soon and announced one the center’s website and social media. Details and registration links will be posted on the agency website here

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Child Abuse Rates in Fannin County

Proclamation 2021The Fannin County Commissioners have declared April as Child Abuse Awareness month in Fannin County. Estimates are that one in ten children will be sexually abused before their eighteenth birthday.

In Fannin County, there were 432 alleged victims of child abuse in 2020, according to the Data Book of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. This is a 9% increase over the previous year. Commissioner Jerry Magness noted that the number of alleged victims is more than one a day for a year.

The number of confirmed victims was 117 in 2020, according to the same source. These reports only include cases that are reported to Child Protective Services. Cases involving children who are abused by someone not in their household or family will often be investigated only by law enforcement.

The Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC) is one of two primary programs operated by the Fannin County Children’s Center. The CAC facilitates a multidisciplinary team involved in the investigation, prosecution and treatment of child abuse. Team members include Child Protective Services, all local law enforcement agencies and the District Attorney’s office.

The CAC received 220 new referrals from CPS and law enforcement last year. These cases primarily involve sexual abuse and serious physical abuse. In the year ending August 31, 2020, the CAC in Fannin County conducted 193 forensic interviews. These fact-finding interviews are a key part of the joint investigations conducted by CPS and law enforcement. CAC therapists provided 1,464 counseling sessions in the same year. These numbers were down only slightly compared to the previous year. The COVID-19 pandemic started in the middle of this reporting year. Services were paused briefly at the start of the pandemic and then quickly started back up with safety precautions in place. Counseling, advocacy and case coordination efforts went virtual. Forensic interviews continued in-person.

The Children’s Center’s other primary program for child abuse victims is Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA). In the year ending August 31, 2020 CASA served 119 children in foster care, which was the second most ever served in a year since CASA started serving children in Fannin County in 1993. Thirty-nine active CASA volunteers logged in 3,298 hours and more than 21,000 miles in their service to advocate for the children in the custody of the state. The pandemic changed, but did not stop, CASA’s efforts. Court hearings, child visits, mediations and case meetings all switched to Zoom or other video apps as the pandemic started.

“In Texas, all adults ages 18 and up are mandated reporters of child abuse,” said Sandy Barber, Executive Director of the Children’s Center. “That means, if you suspect a child is being abused, you are obligated by law to report it. You do not have to investigate. That is the job of CPS and law enforcement. However, CPS and law enforcement cannot check into a situation if no one finds the courage to make the call.”

When making a report, be prepared to give as much information as possible, including the child’s name, age, address and school as well as details about what happened. Reports should be made as soon as possible, but no later than 48 hours.

Reports to the hotline are confidential, except in cases where a judge orders CPS to release the name of the reporter. Reports can be made anonymously. The law provides for immunity from civil or criminal liabilities for innocent persons who report even unfounded suspicions, as long as the report is made in good faith.

In Texas, the child abuse reporting hotline is 1-800-252-5400. If the situation is an emergency, call 911 for local law enforcement. Reports can also be made on-line at www.txabusehotline.org if the situation does not require an emergency response. For more about the Fannin County Children’s Center, go to www.fanninccc.org.

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Pinwheels for Child Abuse Awareness Month

April is Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month. The Fannin County Children’s Center has several activities planned for this month.

The Children’s Center is putting up pinwheel displays across Fannin County. Each display includes 117 blue and silver pinwheels in honor of the 117 children who were confirmed victims of child abuse last year in Fannin County. Displays can be found in Bonham, Ector, Honey Grove, Ivanhoe, Leonard, Savoy and Trenton.

On April 6, the Fannin County Commissioners are scheduled to pass a proclamation at their regular weekly meeting, declaring April to be Child Abuse Awareness month for Fannin County.

April 9 is Go Blue Day in Texas. It is a day to wear blue in honor and memory of child abuse victims. The Children’s Center encourages schools, businesses, other organizations and individuals to wear blue, snap photos, post them on social media and share them with the center too. Photos can be sent to sandy@fanninccc.org or the Children’s Center can be tagged in posts. Suggested hashtags for the day include #GoBlueDay and #OneWithCourage and #NoExcuseForChildAbuse.

April 25 is Blue Sunday. This is a day when faith communities across the nation will say prayers for children who have been abused and neglected as well as for the professionals and volunteers who are working to stop abuse and help victims recover.

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4 New CASA Advocates

Spring 2021 (1)Four local people recently completed training and were sworn-in to become volunteer CASA advocates for children in foster care. The Honorable Judge Lauri Blake of the 336th District Court administered the oath to the new volunteers. New child advocates include Jan Woodruff, Jamie Gentry, Kristin Morgan and Lana Allred.

Because of the pandemic, this training class was entirely on-line including the swearing in ceremony, which Judge Blake conducted via Zoom. Each volunteer will be assigned a case to work after taking their oaths.

“We excited to welcome these people to our team and even more excited to report that we are very close to having an advocate for every child in foster care,” said Sandy Barber with the Fannin County Children’s Center, which includes the local CASA program.

In the year ending August 31, 2020, CASA served 119 children, which was the second most number of children in one year in the agency’s 27 year history. That same fiscal year was the busiest ever in terms of the numbers of cases worked and the number of new children coming into foster care.

All volunteers completed an intensive training class which prepares them to serve as Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) for children who have been removed from their home due to abuse and neglect. The district judge appoints CASA volunteers to serve as the Guardian ad Litem for each child who has been placed in the state’s custody. In that role, CASA advocates investigate the child’s situation, prepare written reports to the court and advocate for the child’s best interest in court hearings and other settings. CASA also advocates and monitors to ensure that all educational, medical, mental health and other needs are met.

CASA is one program of several programs for abused and neglected children that are operated by the Fannin County Children’s Center. For more information call (903) 583-4339 or visit www.fanninccc.org.

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Reception for 20 Years of Service

Barber 20th anniversary at FCCCTwenty years ago, the board of directors of the Fannin County Children’s Center hired Sandy Barber as the Executive Director.  On Monday, March 29, the board and staff will be hosting a come and go reception to honor Barber and her two decades of service to the organization.

When Barber started she was one of 4 staff and now there are 12.  Under her leadership, the agency has added programs and expanded services to better serve children who have been abused and neglected.  The center also purchased and renovated their current facility.  Barber has served on the state board for Texas CASA and Children’s Advocacy Centers of Texas.  She also has won many awards, including the Texoma Regional Citizen of the Year in 2015, the Athena Leadership Award in 2019 and the Angels in Adoption Award in 2019.

The reception will be come and go from 4:00 to 6:00 pm at the Children’s Center at 112 W. 5th in Bonham.  All are welcome.  COVID precautions will be in place, including wearing masks. For more info, visit www.fanninccc.org or call (903) -583-4339.

Read Sandy’s blog for the occasion: From the Executive Director’s Desk

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