Women's Fund of Central Texas
Engaging Women in Philanthropy That Benefits
Women and Children
BY SERVING THE UNDERSERVED, BOTH RECIPIENTS AND GIVERS ARE EMPOWERED
By the time many abused and neglected children in the foster care and court systems are assigned a Court-Appointed Special Advocate (CASA), it already seems too late. Very young children are so susceptible to trauma that often times their difficult behavior later in adolescence are a direct result of this early damage. But research shows that these problems could be mitigated with early intervention.
That’s where the Women’s Fund of Central Texas steps in. The fund granted CASA $21,500 to train volunteers, who speak up in court for children removed from their homes due to abuse or neglect, on the latest practices in advocating for infants and toddlers. The training will be required for all CASA volunteers, to help them understand early brain development, the effects of trauma and how to support strong attachment to a primary caregiver for these children.
“The Women’s Fund grant empowers CASA volunteers to make recommendations for young children that sometimes go against established Child Protection practices – such as requiring parental visitation more often to maintain attachment,” says Robin Bradford, Development Director for CASA of Travis County.
That is exactly the reason that the Women’s Fund exists – to empower and benefit women and children in Central Texas, through a philanthropic fund that awards grants to nonprofit programs that directly benefit women and children, and are focused on improving their lives.
The need for such a focus is great. In 2001, of the nearly $35 billion given to charities through foundations and corporate funding, less than six percent went to programs that specifically serve the needs of women and girls. An idea was formulated: what if a group of Central Texas women came together and each committed to donating $1,200 a year for five years, to grant to such programs?
The Women’s Fund of Central Texas was born. MariBen Ramsey of the Austin Community Foundation and several local women, including Patty Huffines and Donna Stockton-Hicks, began to put together a group they called the First Ladies.
“The purpose was to bring together women from all areas of the community and teach philanthropy – how much of an difference one person combined with many could make,” Huffines says. “Giving $100 a month can make a huge impact in the community, and gives oneself a sense of accomplishment in numbers.”
The fund was established under ACF, which has administered the details and brought innovative ideas to the program. Eventually the Women’s Fund started a second group for young women, to give $500 per year, and puts on an annual event called Power of the Purse where grants are distributed and the new giving year gets underway.
“Each year we have exceeded our expectations and the number of women involved has continued to grow,” Huffines says. In 2011, the Women’s Fund awarded a record $130,000 in grants. In addition to CASA, funding was given to AVANCE for literacy programs; People’s Community Clinic for health services; Trinity Center to assist homeless women; and three other nonprofit organizations.
“Were there no ACF, this fund would not exist,” says Stockton-Hicks.
Bradford adds that the grant CASA received accomplished far more than volunteer training to serve the children better. Because of the Women’s Fund, connections were fostered between CASA and like-minded groups such as Any Baby Can and the CRADLES program of Austin Recovery – another recipient of the power of Women’s Fund granting.