Each year, Child Advocates gathers all of our advocates to thank them for their time, dedication and support for Houston's abused children. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we could not hold an in-person event this year. However, many of our amazing advocates and staff were able to gather in a virtual format to present two prestigious awards - Child Advocates' highest honors - the James A. Gwinn Volunteer of the Year award and our Rookie of the Year award.
Rookie of the Year: Jessica Fallon Campbell
Jessica Fallon Campbell became an advocate in 2019. She immediately hit the ground running with her first case, becoming the advocate for four siblings with multiple fathers that had been in numerous placements. Fallon eagerly rose to the challenge of helping to find the siblings a safe, permanent home.
Since the beginning, she has made an intentional effort to care for each child's emotional needs, taking time to listen to them and ensure they are understood. She is deliberate in her investment with all aspects of the case and has done a fantastic job creating strong communication lines with the caregivers and parents.
In her short time as an advocate, she has developed an incredible rapport with CPS. She has gained a reputation for tenacity and dedication, making time for her advocacy work at all hours of the day. One of our advocacy coordinators described Fallon, saying, "She was always steps ahead, and I never had to question her passion for the work." Fallon has genuinely demonstrated a commitment to the best interest of each child she serves, and we are so thankful for her dedication to helping Houston's abused children.
Congratulations, Fallon! We cannot wait to see the impact you will continue to make in the years to come.
James A. Gwinn Volunteer of the Year: Kaija Emmons
This year's James A. Gwinn Volunteer of the Year began her journey of advocacy in 1992. For eleven years after, she diligently served Houston's abused children. After retiring, Kaija Emmons came back to Child Advocates to continue to speak up for Houston's abused children and now is going on almost sixteen years of serving Houston's abused children.
Kaija has often taken on multiple cases at a time, once having as many as seventeen children on her caseload! Kaija has served children in just about every scenario imaginable - children with disabilities, children with severe emotional or educational needs, children who are currently out of state, physical abuse cases, sexual abuse cases, medical neglect cases - and everything in between. In other words, if a child has needed an advocate, Kaija has been there.
"She does the long, often-thankless work of gathering vast amounts of information about the children we serve, which means that she knows them in a way that few people do." Kaija's Advocacy Coordinator said about her. Once, she traveled to Arkansas to visit five siblings in their placement, arriving to find that they were all without clean clothes. Kaija took the family's laundry to the laundromat, completed fifteen loads of laundry, and did not step back on the plane until she was sure each child had a laundry basket, detergent along with something clean to wear.
In her time as an advocate, Kaija has passionately advocated for 81 children. She goes above and beyond to provide hope for a better future for each one. "Every day, we fight for these kids," said Kaija. "We're all they have. Without us, they're just stuck."
Kaija's commitment to Houston's abused children is nothing short of outstanding. We are grateful for advocates like her who exemplify our mission and stand in the gap for the foster children in Houston every day.
Congratulations to Kaija! We are so thankful to have you as a part of the Child Advocates family.