Child Advocates of Fort Bend Sees Reports of Abuse Declining As Social Distancing Continues

Although Child Advocates of Fort Bend (CAFB) saw a 20% increase in forensic interviews in March of 2020 over March of 2019, as physical distancing mandates have remained in place through April and May, they’ve seen a sharp decline in reports of child abuse and requests for forensic interviews. “We anticipated this would be the case because children are not in school and teachers, who are the main reporters of child abuse, aren’t making reports,” said CAFB CEO Ruthanne Mefford.

“Many of the cases we are currently seeing are more severe than in the past because we don’t have teachers catching things early to mitigate the abuse and neglect from escalating so by the time the abuse is discovered, the report is coming from law enforcement. We are also seeing increases in child abuse co-occurring with domestic violence.

“Much like with Hurricane Harvey, we anticipate that we will see a dramatic surge in reports of child abuse when children return to school and social distancing is eased,” stated Mefford. “Because children will not be returning to school for several months, we are asking everyone in the community to keep an eye on the children in their lives and in their neighborhoods and to report any suspicions of abuse immediately to the Texas Child Abuse hotline at 1-800-252-5400.”

Child Advocates of Fort Bend (CAFB) has experienced 53% growth in the past four years in the number of children who have been abused or neglected receiving services. As a result, the agency recently renovated and expanded its building, doubling its capacity to provide services to thousands more children. The project was completed early 2020, and the agency held its grand opening on March 5th shortly before physical distancing mandates forced schools to close.

“Fortunately for the children of Fort Bend County, we are better equipped to handle both the challenges of providing services digitally and the spike in the need for services than we were even a year ago,” said Mefford. “Our renovation included digital upgrades that have allowed our staff to more easily shift to working digitally, and we have both the space and the staff to meet the increased need.

Child Advocates of Fort Bend is an essential services business and has continued to provide services to children and families as safely as possible throughout this pandemic. Forensic interviews are being conducted on site with staff, partners and families wearing masks and practicing social distancing. State intakes of child abuse are being reviewed by staff remotely, and they are coordinating the joint response with law enforcement, CPS and the CAC to ensure that cases do not fall through the cracks. Therapists have been conducting “distance therapy” sessions remotely. CASA Advocates are maintaining monthly contact with children through digital and virtual means. A phased-in return to the campus begins June 1st.

“Because physical distancing mandates have forced us to cancel and reschedule several fundraising events, we are now facing both an increase in need and a shortage of funding,” said Mefford. The agency’s annual gala, which raises significant dollars to fund its programs, has been rescheduled to August 22nd and moved to the new Child Advocates of Fort Bend Davis George Campus to save money and allow for physical distancing. For more information, visit or contact Lisa Moore at

Child Advocates of Fort Bend is providing virtual events to help bring awareness. Tune into the agency’s Facebook page on Tuesdays at 2 pm where staff share online tips and support for families going through these uncertain times and will be on Facebook Live. In addition, CAFB therapists are offering coping tips on their Therapist’s Corner blog at