Child abuse cases up by 20 percent in Fort Bend Co. during pandemic

ROSENBERG, Texas -- As the coronavirus pandemic persists throughout the world, one unfortunate side effect is child abuse cases are on the rise.

Child Advocates of Fort Bend has seen a 20 percent increase in forensic interviews in March 2020, when social distancing mandates began, as compared to March 2019, according to the nonprofit.

In early March, the agency hosted a grand opening at its expanded building in Rosenberg, which doubled its capacity to provide services to children. This expansion project was in response to a 53% increase in the last four years in the number of children who have been abused or neglected and received services, according to the nonprofit.

"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," CAFB CEO Ruthanne Mefford said in the release. "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."

As an essential services business, CAFB is remaining vigilant during the coronavirus outbreak. The agency has put measures into effect to continue providing services for children and families in the safest way possible, the release said. Forensic interviews are still being conducted on-site one at a time as a way to practice social distancing. Staff is also on call in the evenings and on weekends, and therapists have been conducting distance therapy sessions.

Although CAFB increased its capacity to serve, due to social distancing orders, the agency is currently unable to host several fundraising events, Mefford said.

"Much like (with) Hurricane Harvey, we expect that we will see a dramatic spike in reports once children return to school," Mefford said. "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."

To help bridge this gap, CAFB is seeking additional funding from the community to continue providing service to children in need, the release stated. CAFB posted a challenge on Facebook to help raise $10,000 to fund their programs. To participate, go to their Facebook page or donate online at https://www.cafb.org/donate/.

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