Katie Feldhaus always knew she wanted to be in a profession that helps people, but never envisioned herself working with crisis victims. Originally this Plano native wanted to be a nurse, but she didn’t like the idea of being around blood. However Katie couldn’t escape the pull of being a lighthouse for those in need, and she is now the family services supervisor for the Children’s Advocacy Center of Collin County (CACCC).
“I wanted to help people who are struggling,” she said. “After I took my first social work class, I realized this was what I am supposed to be.”
After graduating from Plano Senior High School in 2003, Katie got her bachelor’s degree in social work from Texas Woman’s University, then interned for a mental health hospital for four years. She decided to get her master’s degree in social work at University of Texas at Arlington and graduated in 2012. She began an internship with the Arlington Police Department in Victims’ Services and later worked at the Children’s Advocacy Center in Tarrant County. At that time, she and her husband, Chris, moved to Fort Worth so she could work for the center as a family advocate — a position she held for four years. But after they had their daughter, Addison, who is now six years old, the couple longed for home.
“I wanted to be closer to my parents and come back to the community where I grew up. I happened to be at a meeting at [CACCC] and heard they were hiring for an advocate,” she said.
She got the job, and after six months she was promoted to program supervisor, where she oversees a staff of four other advocates. Katie has now been with the center two years, and her duty as an advocate is to support children and their families who are dealing with tough situations. Her caseload includes young victims of sexual and physical abuse, neglect and online solicitation.
Last year, CACCC served 4,087 clients and provided 26,086 services to them, which was an increase of 25 percent. The center’s counseling specializes in trauma-focused therapy to children who have been abused or neglected, as well as to the non-offending families who are processing the aftermath of that abuse. This therapy is offered at no cost and increased in need by 16 percent last year to 14,084 sessions. The center’s fundraising efforts each year include Teddy Bear Ride, the Healing Hearts Invitational and a gala, which raised $588,000 in 2018.
Although Katie said she has found her niche, it can be a difficult job for advocates. “The center really focuses on making sure we have a good support system. We can reflect with our therapists and supervisors, and we believe in self-care. And we have fun events to get out of the day-to-day tasks,” she said. Katie also makes sure to blow off steam with daily Camp Gladiator workouts. “I’m really big into working out every morning. It helps with stress, and I feel so much better when I’m done.”
Her advice to anyone who wants to work in her field is to make sure the dedication and passion are there. She recalled times when new staff members started out energetic, but had a good cry in the office when confronted with the reality of basic necessities some clients do not have — like electricity, for example. She said that even when the outcome for a client isn’t exactly what the advocate hoped, these advocates are still giving the best support possible to children and their families.
Although no two days for Katie are quite the same, she provided a general overview of her average day as a family services advocate and supervisor.
A Day in the Life of a Family Services Advocate
8 30 a.m. After her 4 a.m. workout and a morning spent getting her daughter ready for school, Katie arrives at the office, checks emails, reviews the day’s schedule and grabs a much-needed coffee.
9 a.m. Time for a team meeting with the other four advocates on staff to look at the week’s workload. They talk about what interviews are coming in, who is covering what, what training has to be involved and any upcoming court dates. Katie said she likes to start these meetings on a high note and discuss what successful, positive things happened. Then she moves on to any client struggles, issues or questions they may have.
10 00 a.m. Katie greets a family whose child is coming in for a forensic interview, and gets them oriented. They talk about, and in some cases meet with, the multi-disciplinary team members that are involved, such as local law enforcement, Child Protective Services and the district attorney. She also tells families about clinical services and family advocate services that will be involved, and she addresses any individual needs of the child and family.
11 30 a.m. She follows up with the multi-disciplinary team members to discuss next steps for client services. This is also when Katie opens the case and inputs paperwork.
1 p.m. Katie may attend the monthly Crime Victims Council meeting, where victim advocates in the community convene to discuss anything new, and provide updates about services and resources.
3 00 p.m. Katie heads to the courthouse one or two times weekly to support her young clients that are testifying. The advocates stay with the child throughout the duration of case, and are a familiar face in troubling instances when children may need to testify against family members.
5 30 p.m. Katie heads home for dinner and family time.
Children's Advocacy Center of Collin County >