Bivona Child Advocacy Center is a non-profit, multidisciplinary organization located in Rochester, New York. Their mission is to coordinate and provide services to child victims of sexual or physical abuse and their families at a single welcoming facility.
Bivona CAC is the only agency located in the Rochester area that provides these services, working with more than 1,500 children each year. In 2012, they collaborated with the YMCA of Greater Rochester and Darkness to Light to develop a county-wide initiative among Monroe schools and other service organizations.
Child sexual abuse is an issue that people find difficult to talk about, but it affects numerous children around the state of New York each year. Bivona CAC is a progressive agency which aids and expedites the process of dealing with child sexual abuse so that the victims and their families can begin the healing process. In order to move from a reactive approach to a more effective proactive one, the organization developed an initiative to provide prevention services to youth serving organizations in the Greater Rochester area.
To provide these services, Bivona needed a prevention program, and Darkness to Light’s Stewards of Children was chosen to be the initiative’s basis. To jump start the project, specific targets were set. “Currently, one of our largest targets are the school districts in our area,” says Bivona Prevention Education and Outreach Specialist Stefanie Szwejbka. In addition to schools, faith-based facilitators, childcare providers, and parents in parent teacher associations are targeted to generate momentum within the community.
The Redwoods Foundation (an insurance agency serving YMCAs across the USA) and other private agencies provided the funding for Stewards of Children facilitator training. To encourage facilitators to train others and spread the word, co-facilitation is utilized. According to Szwejbka facilitators are often more willing to step outside their comfort zones and facilitate additional trainings with a co-trainer present.
In addition, an annual facilitator luncheon is held for everyone, allowing facilitators to meet, greet, and network. During the luncheon, a Core Principles Award is presented as an incentive to the facilitator who best displays the core principles of Darkness to Light.
Since the initiative’s beginning in May of 2012, it has generated a great momentum. Currently, it is on its way to reaching the goal of training 28,000 community members, or five percent, in Monroe County over the next five years. In the first 18 months of the initiative, 33 facilitators and 3,656 people were trained in the Stewards of Children program.
The Rochester initiative is currently in “train to sustain” mode, and seeks to move forward by increasing communication among trainees and facilitators, growing the Collaborative by adding more organizations, training more facilitators, and hosting more facilitator workshops. Bivona CAC also partners with several agencies who regularly train staff and help promote the Stewards of Children initiative within the community.
The biggest challenge faced by this growing initiative is cost barriers. To overcome this challenge, Bivona CAC plans to acquire sponsorships and grants to offer more scholarship opportunities to individuals in the community.