Educating both adults and children is important to preventing child abuse.
At Darkness to Light, we focus on the prevention of child sexual abuse by educating adults. We believe it’s an adult’s responsibility to protect children, but we know educating both adults and children is vital to prevention. Empowering children to tell a trusted adult is one of the keys to prevention and intervention.
We sat down with our friend Lynn Layton, President and CEOof the Monique Burr Foundation for Children (MBF) and Ignite 2018 Presenting Sponsor, to ask a few questions about their child education programs and why they think working together to educate children and adults is important. After all, if a child tells an adult they are being abused and the adult doesn’t know how to react or report, then what kind of message is that sending to kids?
Darkness to Light (D2L): Why is it important to educate children on abuse?
Lynn Layton (LL): We know that abuse can be prevented through education, so we have a responsibility to educate as many people, adults and children, as possible. We educate children on all sorts of safety information, such as looking both ways before crossing the street, wearing a helmet when they ride a bicycle, and how to react during a tornado in school. Safety information to help protect them from child sexual abuse or any other type of child victimization is no different and should be our responsibility. There is a great deal of research supporting the fact that educating children is an effective prevention method, helping them learn strategies and gain tools to communicate with safe adults to keep themselves safe. There is also significant research to justify educating children through school-based initiatives more so than other types of prevention education strategy. Our belief is that adults are responsible for protecting children, however there are things children can do to help adults keep them safe. We believe educating both adults and children is the responsible thing to do if our goal is to truly protect children, and we are proud to be working with Darkness to Light to accomplish this goal.
D2L: Tell us about the programs you offer?
LL: MBF Prevention Education Programs are comprehensive, primary prevention education programs based on polyvictimization research. The programs are available to schools and other organizations, such as child advocacy centers, to educate and empower students, school personnel, and parents with information and universal Safety Rules and strategies to prevent all types of victimization. The programs are effective, yet also practical and easy to implement. The programs include reinforcement materials and activities for students, parents, and schools. We have reached over two million elementary and middle school students with our programs and trained over 3,000 facilitators with MBF Prevention Education Programs.
- MBF Child Safety Matters® (grades K-5) covers bullying, cyberbullying, all types of child abuse, digital abuse, and other digital dangers in two classroom lessons ranging from 35-55 minutes (or in 4 shorter lessons).
- MBF Teen Safety Matters® – Middle School Edition (grades 6-8), covers all the topics above, as well as relationship abuse, sexual assault, and sex trafficking in three 45-minute lessons (or 6 shorter lessons).
- MBF Teen Safety Matters® – High School Edition (grades 9-12), is currently in development and will cover the same topics as middle school but in more depth. The program will be available January 2019.
- MBF After-School Safety Matters™ (grades K-8) is under development and will be available in 2019 to after-school programs and youth-serving organizations to help protect students from bullying, cyberbullying, all types of child abuse, including digital abuse.
- MBF Athlete Safety Matters™ is also under development. The comprehensive, sports-focused curriculum will address personal safety issues for athletes, from little league to elite levels.
D2L: What is the importance of educating both adults and children?
LL: We believe a 360° approach is needed to truly protect children and we choose to collaborate with Darkness to Light and offer the Stewards of Children® to provide a comprehensive training program. We don’t believe this is an either/or option, but rather a condition that is necessary if we truly want to protect children.
D2L: Both of our organizations value research & we understand you are working with Dr. Finkelhor, a highly regarded child sexual abuse prevention expert. What are you working to achieve?
LL: There is a good deal of literature that supports the effectiveness of child-focused abuse prevention research. The study that was just completed by Dr. Finkelhor and researchers at the University of Florida shows that children in grades K-5 that received our MBF Child Safety Matters program did learn the concepts we teach to help them stay safe. But for us, this is just a first step. We are committed to ongoing research and hope to show empirically that our child-focused prevention program, which is more practical for schools to implement and comprehensive in content covered, is effective at protecting children. We will continue to work with Dr. Finkelhor as we move forward with all of our prevention education programs.
D2L: Why did MBF decide to sponsor Ignite 2018?
LL: Partnering with Darkness to Light is a very exciting and logical step for our organization to take to move forward in protecting children. Ignite brings together adults who are committed to prevention, which is a great opportunity for us to inform them about educating children. Both organizations work tirelessly to seek the best, more current research-based information on what works in the prevention education. We hope to share information about our programs, the research behind them and encourage those who are currently using Stewards of Children® to educate adults, to also seek the opportunity to educate children.
D2L: What are you most excited about this year at Ignite?
LL: We are very excited to have the opportunity to network with others who are committed to the mission of protecting children from any form of child victimization. We are also excited to learn from others around the country who are doing amazing work in this field and to celebrate our progress so far. We still have a lot of work to do, but we can always accomplish more when we work together.
Lynn Layton is the President and CEO for the Monique Burr Foundation for Children, Inc. Lynn carries out the Foundation’s mission to provide bullying and child abuse prevention education to every elementary student in Florida. She oversees the expansion of the Foundation into surrounding counties, develops the Foundation’s board, secures volunteers and executes fundraising events. “I do not believe that we will ever rid ourselves of child abuse or bullying. But I come to work each day knowing that the work we do, the partnerships we form and the money we raise truly makes a difference in the lives of children here in Florida. I am blessed with the opportunity to see some of the fruits of our labor.”
Ignite National Prevention Conference is the only national child sexual abuse prevention conference that brings together child advocates from all over the world. This year, the conference will be held October 9-10th in Memphis, TN with a pre-conference day on October 8th. The conference will engage attendees to equip, strengthen, and organize their prevention initiatives, as well as provide advanced training, though provoking interaction sessions, and help individuals and organizations bring fresh ideas to their communities. Register today!
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