I’ve been a Darkness to Light Authorized Facilitator for a number of years, and one thing I’ve learned is that when it comes to preventing child sexual abuse, collaboration is key. Last year this lesson was illustrated in a powerful way.
Like many others, this story begins because of a situation of child sexual abuse. I am employed by the Arlington County government and facilitate Stewards of Children® trainings through our child advocacy center. Last year I found out that the Arlington Parks and Recreation department was recommending that parents who use their programs sign up for my sessions.
It turns out that one of their employees was a perpetrator. Part of their organizational response was to increase parental awareness of child sexual abuse.
That gave me an idea.
I spent months emailing, calling, and meeting with Parks and Recreation representatives to share my vision. I began small and held training sessions for little groups of administrators. My vision caught on! Soon after, the Parks and Rec department committed to train all 600 members of their staff in Stewards of Children®. The training is now mandatory for all admin, maintenance crew, grounds crew, counselors, park rangers… everyone!
Stewards of Children® has been a huge hit. Not only has there been a positive response from participants, but the major staff feedback has been that they want further supplemental training. Per this request, I began collaborating with our Child Protective Services to add a short training on local mandated reporting requirements. I have also helped facilitate a connection to Darkness to Light’s partner, the Beau Biden Foundation for the Protection of Children, to review and revamp their child protection policies. It has been an excellent collaboration between three county agencies (CPS, CAC, and Parks and Rec)!
Today, children have a much safer experience when they participate in programs or visit the parks run by Arlington County Parks and Rec. To my fellow facilitators, my advice is that you don’t give up! Get creative and see if there are any organizations you can form a collaboration with. Working together, we are truly able to create safer communities for children.
Jennifer Gross, LCSW, CSOTP (certified sex offender treatment provider)
After receiving a Bachelors degree in Social Work from Catholic University and a Masters degree in social work from the University of Maryland, Jennifer first entered the field of social work as a Child Protective Services social worker, working primarily with Spanish speaking families around issues of child physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, neglect and exposure to domestic violence. Over the past twenty-six years, Jennifer has worked and volunteered in a variety of settings and agencies helping with families who have experienced some form of abuse. Jennifer has held positions as a supervisor, therapist, educator and case manager. She has in depth experience in prevention, investigation, identification, education, evaluation and treatment regarding offenders, child abuse victims and non-offending caretakers. She has advocated for change to protect children and prevent abuse. Jennifer is bilingual Spanish / English. Learn more about her work at her website.
This Spotlight Story was shared via our Share Your Story feature, through which survivors can offer their experiences as a source of insight, support, and ultimately hope for the community. In order to create a safe and supportive community for all our readers, we do not share the names of perpetrators or the specifics of court cases. All posts are reviewed prior to posting, must adhere to Darkness to Light’s guidelines for appropriate content, and may have been edited for length.