After a hiatus due to illness and the March 2018 passing of its longtime president, Mrs. Charles Wilson, the Harrison County Child Welfare Board is back in motion with a newly-appointed chair and newly-elected board.
“The previous president of the board, Mrs. Wilson passed away and in that downtime when she was ill, and some other things happened with some other board members, some of the progress that the board had made slowed down. And so, they reached out to several of us in the community and asked us to serve,” said former city commissioner, LaDarius Carter, who was appointed president in October.
Harrison County Assistant District Attorney Madison Hood was selected as vice president, Ruthie Smith was chosen as secretary, Janie Hill as treasurer and Charlie Oliver as parliamentarian. More board members were appointed this month, reviving the count to 13 members again.
“It’s really exciting,” Carter said of the opportunity to serve on the board, helping the county’s foster children.
He said Pct. 2 County Commissioner Zephaniah Timmins, who serves as the county’s liaison, along with Charlene Graff, assistant to the county judge, asked him to serve and he gladly accepted.
“We learn about what the child welfare board does,” said Carter. “It’s really exciting to be a part of it.”
Timmins expressed how pleased he’s been with the board’s progress, so far.
“It is doing fantastic,” said Timmins. “We have a great group of people that’s there and they’re putting their heads together; they’re coming up with new ideas and things of what they can do in order to help CPS and help foster parents and the children.
“We have churches we’re hoping will get on board and help out,” he added.
According to the Texas Council of Child Welfare Boards, which is the umbrella of the 220 child welfare boards in Texas, serving 40,000 children each year, the goal of the boards is to educate the community on prevention and treatment of child abuse and neglect.
Members work at a grassroots level to develop programs that meet a community’s needs.
According to the website, http://www.tccwb.org, child welfare boards may independently or in collaboration with “rainbow room” groups work to meet the tangible needs of children receiving CPS services; host holiday celebrations and other special events for caseworkers and foster children; provide support for family group decision making meetings, foster parent training, and foster youth conferences; sponsor public awareness events to promote child abuse prevention and recruit foster and adoptive homes; and coordinate with courts and judges in pioneering solutions that support children and families and work to eliminate abuse and neglect.
“Our goal is to assist our counties in supporting families that are now or have been in crisis situations,” said Carter.
The board is appointed by the Harrison County Commissioners Court. Carter noted that the recently appointed officers all bring a special skill set to the table, complementing one another.
“Ms. Janie is our treasurer because she’s great with numbers and the business and following the paperwork,” he said.
“She spent countless of hours working with the IRS and the state of Texas and CPS and getting us new bank accounts and new mailing addresses and all of those things,” Carter said, sharing she made sure the business side of things were in order so they can execute their real passion, which is taking care of children.
“Ms. Ruthie, she’s our secretary because she’s great with staying on top of it, making sure the filing is in order, making sure the minutes or the agendas are submitted on time. I’m not either of those things,” Carter said.
“I’m the mouthpiece. I like to look at where we could be going and help to lead us in that direction,” he shared. “So everybody’s in the right place. My skill set just happen to be the place that was best for me on the board. I’m blessed to have a job where I can have a little flexibility, where I can be available a little more.”
During the recently held “Go Blue Day” ceremony, presented by the board, in observance of Child Abuse Awareness Month, Carter thanked Graff for helping the board as it works to get back on track.
“She has been an amazing help in getting us going,” he said.
Carter also acknowledged local attorney Amanda Allman Vanderburg, who he says is their biggest community advocate right now.
“She’s a local attorney who works in family law, but she has volunteered her office for donations and to allow CPS workers to stop by and give kids showers and all sorts of things,” he said, thanking Vanderburg for being an amazing community member.
As the board’s new leader, Carter said his primary goal is to ensure that the children of Harrison County who are in foster care are provided with the things they need, using the tax dollars and donations that are specifically budgeted and earmarked for them.
“If we’re not using those dollars for those children and to improve their lives, we’re not upholding our mission,” said Carter. “So, that’s the first thing is to put a funding structure in place, make sure that children are getting all the things that they need and we’re supporting those foster parents as best we can.”
Carter said their second focus is creating awareness of child abuse by educating the community.
“(Our goal) is for our community to understand the realities of child abuse and neglect and how we can prevent it as a community, so that maybe we have fewer kids that we’re (servicing) or maybe we’ll be able to spread that money around to fewer children so that we can serve each of those kids even better,” he said.
Carter noted the board is also striving to make sure that the committee continues to be in compliance with the mandates of the Texas Council and Child Welfare Board.
“No fault to anyone on the board previously, but when we came on, we had spent several months digging through the books and just making sure that we were following the rules and that our finances were the way they were supposed to be and we were meeting all the nonprofit tax codes,” Carter said. “When I step down, I want it to be where we hand it off so there’s no break in service to the children that we’re tasked in serving.
“The reason that gap was there is because, literally, the previous president who was a great leader in our community was ill and then she passed away; and so, I hope that’s not the case with me,” he added. “I hope I can pass the baton off to the next person so that the services are seamless.”
Carter urges the community to get involved with their mission in helping the county’s abused and neglected children by donating, advocating and volunteering.
“You can contact us via Facebook, Harrison County Child Welfare Board. You can contact the Commissioners Court. You can get in touch with CPS,” he said.