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Child Sexual Abuse Prevention for Youth Serving Organizations

As a provider of programming and services for youth, your organization can play a critical role in protecting the lives of children. As well as helping to put an end to child sexual abuse by implementing a comprehensive child protection program and training your staff and volunteers. Ask any organization that has experienced a case of sexual abuse and they will tell you that knowing what they know now, there is NO amount of time that would have been too great to spend on prevention and educating their staff and volunteers.

As a youth serving organization you have the opportunity to set a new standard within your community. Make the commitment for the long term well being of your organization and for the precious children in your care. You can be a leader to your community as well as a leader among other youth serving organizations by setting a higher standard and showing that you will do whatever it takes to keep children safe when they are with you.

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"An example of the effects of the training were immediately recognized last summer when YMCA staff, made more aware and educated by the Darkness to Light training, identified a child that needed assistance. We were able to take immediate and appropriate action, with the confidence that we knew we were taking the correct action. Child and family received the aid and care that was appropriate. What a great feeling for the staff as they knew what to do!"
 — YMCA President/CEO

A Youth Serving Organization in Action

Tackling the issue of child sexual abuse isn't easy, but the Hockomock Area YMCA is taking a positive, proactive role by educating adults in several communities that it serves in Massachusettes.  By hosting training sessions in its five member communities of North Attleboro, Franklin, Foxboro, Mansfield and Sharon, the Hockomock Y is raising awareness and helping adults learn how to prevent childhood sexual abuse through the Darkness to Light Stewards of Children program.

The goal is to have one in 20 adults take the course.

"We feel it's very important for our YMCA. We take very seriously the trust parents and families place in us, and there's nothing more important than honoring that by doing everything we can," Hockomock Y President Ed Hurley said.

Tony Calcia, who serves as the Y's vice president for child protection and social responsibility, said the goal is to have 5 percent of the community population go through the training.  "If you can reach 5 percent of adults, you can achieve a behavior change and a cultural change," he said.

The Y has been reaching out to local schools, youth groups and park and recreation programs to solicit volunteers interested in receiving the training. Reaction has been positive on all fronts, Calcia said.

"Most of the time, kids are sexually abused by someone they know. We all know about stranger danger, but it isn't a guy in a trench coat that looks creepy most of the time," Calcia said. "It's really important to get people involved from the agencies that serve children so they have policies to better protect children.  "For example, you should never have one adult and one child in an enclosed area by themselves."

Eventually, the Y hopes the training sessions will become part of the regular course of business for youth-oriented groups so that all volunteers know how to recognize and help prevent abuse.

"This is the kind of thing we take a lot of pride in at our YMCA. We're bringing folks together so we can make an impact on the community," Hurley said.