Pennsylvania — The Stewards of Children program soon will take a giant leap toward the goal of educating 5,000 Centre County residents to recognize and report child abuse.
Howard Long, president and CEO of the YMCA of Centre County, said four local school districts will train their entire staffs through the program during the 2013-14 school year.
The YMCA is offering the training in collaboration with the county’s Youth Service Bureau, Women’s Resource Center and United Way office.
The Bald Eagle Area, Bellefonte, Philipsburg-Osceola and Moshannon Valley school districts will have their employees at all levels take the 21/2-hour course, Long said.
“I commend the schools for acknowledging that this is an important training for their staffs,” Long said. “And it’s not only teachers. It’s going to be maintenance folks, cafeteria staff. It’s going to be the entire school.”
“We’re having everybody do this,” Bald Eagle Area Superintendent Jeff Miles said. “It will be bus drivers, cafeteria staff, custodial people, teachers, administrators.”
The training was developed as the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal was unfolding.
The organizers reported recently that more than 1,500 people had been trained either individually or through their work sites.
With the schools joining, the number of people served will essentially double. Miles said Bald Eagle Area staff will train in August.
“We’ll have 300 to 400 people ourselves,” Miles said. “They’ll be busy.”
The goal is to reach 5,000, called a “critical mass” for making significant changes in how the county reacts to child abuse incidents.
“It’s not an ‘if,’ it’s a ‘when.’ We want to make this happen,” Long said.
“We decided we wanted to be a partner in child abuse prevention with our Darkness to Light program,” he added. “We’re well on our way.”
Participants in the program will better understand the signs of child abuse and get instruction on how to react to such situations.
To learn more or to sign up for training, contact Cameron Frantz, the YMCA’s director of community outreach, at the county organization’s State College branch (237-7717).
Central training sessions are scheduled, and instructors will also go into a business to train several people at once.
“You don’t have to be a parent and have a child to benefit from this,” said Mary DeArmitt, the YMCA of Centre County’s marketing and communications director.