A new program through the Children’s Advocacy Center is seeking to give the community training that could help avert something like the Penn State scandal involving Jerry Sandusky.
“At Penn State, Jerry Sandusky took advantage of children from unstable households,” said Children’s Advocacy Center director Martha Pierce, noting child predators take advantage of such breakdowns in the family unit. “In Warren County, a full 100 percent of the victims we work with at the Child Advocacy Center know the perpetrator. This isn’t a stranger danger. This is someone they know.”
The program being offered through the 31st Judicial District Children’s Advocacy Center, which serves both Warren and Van Buren counties, comes through a federal grant aimed at educating the public and is called Stewards of Children.
“We have a facilitator who will help teach the fundamentals to people and organizations and it’s free of charge,” Pierce said, noting the materials are paid for through the federal grant. “Anyone can request the program whether it be clubs, churches, community organizations, employers and even individuals.”
Pierce said the program covers a variety of areas when it comes to keeping children safe. One example Pierce gave while addressing McMinnville Noon Exchange this week was a caution against unsupervised one-on-one time between an adult and child, something the program explains can be a red flag both for liability and for the child’s safety. It was such isolation of children under the auspices of an organization supposedly intended to help children that allowed Sandusky to molest children at Penn State.
Pierce pointed out the Children’s Advocacy Center here worked 570 allegations of child abuse whether it was physical, sexual or drug endangerment over the last year. Of that number, about 200 cases were listed as severe. Those numbers, Pierce noted, show abuse does happen here.
“We need to talk a lot about it,” Pierce said. “We don’t want to think it exists in our community, but it does.”
Anyone interested in having the program presented to them or their church or group is encouraged to contact Pierce at 507-2386.
The Children’s Advocacy Center also has several other things happening in the near future. Some upcoming events sponsored as part of Child Abuse Awareness Month in April include The National Day of Hope on April 3, Blue Shirt Day (Shirts for Hurts) on April 5, The Farm Children’s Festival at Baker Mountain Farms on April 6, the Warren County Children’s Festival at the Civic Center on April 20, and the Child Advocacy Open House on April 27.