Oct 15, 2015 Tess Fletcher: A leader among leaders
Tess Fletcher is a leader among leaders when it comes to helping abused children in Central Arkansas.
Fletcher serves as the executive director of not one, but two non-profits — Children’s Advocacy Alliance (CAA) and Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) — both with a mission of being the hope and justice for abused children in the 20th Judicial District, which serves five counties.
“That’s quite a load for anyone to carry, but in her 10-plus years at the agency, Tess has certainly risen to the occasion,” said board secretary Dr. Sher Craig. “It’s no surprise that she was named one of the five winners of the chamber’s ‘Women in Business’ award last December.”
Other accolades for the soft-spoken advocate include being named as one of the “40 under 40” to watch in 2013. She was also recognized as “one of the Faces of CASA” at the state CASA conference in 2013.
First Lady Susan Hutchinson met with Fletcher and her staff last spring during Child Abuse Awareness Month and toured the CAA office. “Tess Fletcher is a prime example as to what one woman can do when she hears the heart cry of a child and takes action to alleviate that hurt and to find not only protection and safety, but a better future for the children in her world,” said Hutchinson. “I am most grateful for women (and men) like Tess Fletcher.”
The CAA/CASA staffs agree with the First Lady in recognizing Fletcher’s commitment and willingness to do whatever it takes.
Fletcher understands the responsibilities of her staff from her own experiences. She started as a CASA volunteer and in 2004 became the advocate supervisor. A few years later, she helped establish the Children’s Advocacy Center, which coordinates investigative and treatment efforts involving law enforcement, child protective services, prosecution, medical and mental health services. Near the end of 2008, the CAC and CASA decided to join forces and become CAA, and Fletcher became executive director of the unified organizations.
For Fletcher, this means two sets of staff (although they work seamlessly together and appear as one organization under her leadership), two budgets and separate grants/regulations to keep straight. “Running a non-profit successfully is a lot to juggle, but keeping two running full time takes a superwoman,” said board president David Hogue.
“I enjoy working for Tess at the Children’s Advocacy Alliance because she gets it,” said Melissa Moore, forensic interviewer for the CAC. “She sees the need in our community to help these children that have, unfortunately, been the victims of abuse. She supports her staff and knows that sometimes we all have to pull together and do things out of the ordinary to serve these hundreds of children in our community. I have seen Tess do everything from meet with political officials to clean toilets. She does the work that needs to be done so we can serve these kids.”
The CAA Board of Directors is appreciative of Fletcher’s leadership. “As a former volunteer and staff member and now as a current board member, Tess’s dedication to the agency and mission is an inspiration,” said past president Molly Chappell. “Time and again I have seen her make difficult decisions and deal with heartbreaking stories of hurt and neglect. But through all of the long hours and never ending stress, Tess has always carried herself with dignity and never wavered from doing what was necessary and best for the abused children served by the agency.”
“Tess has incredible dedication and one of the biggest hearts when it comes to helping abused and neglected children,” said board member Kat Dull. “This is not an easy job for anyone, but Tess has unwavering spirit and has worked tirelessly to help thousands of vulnerable children grow up free from abuse and neglect.”
In 2013, Fletcher led the agency, with the board’s help, in procuring the equipment needed to set up a medical exam room. Operational for more than a year now, children are able to receive the exams at the agency that are needed to collect forensic evidence. In the past, the only option was to wait for an appointment at Arkansas Children’s Hospital.
And if all of this isn’t enough for one lady to manage, she still finds time to be wife to Eric Fletcher and mom to Keegan and Abbey.
On Aug, 21, Fletcher earned a new title as she completed her master’s degree in Public Administration.
“It isn’t everyone that can manage two agencies, a family and a master’s degree. Somehow, she makes it all work,” said CAA office manager Sue Smith. “I am proud to have her as my boss, co-worker and friend.”
“The CAA board of directors congratulates Tess on her many years of service to the children of the 20th Judicial District,” said Hogue. “We salute Tess and are proud to call her ours!”