Don’t be afraid to talk to your children and each other. Child sexual abuse gains power from the secrecy that surrounds it.

In December 2011, the Child Advocacy Program launched Stewards of Children, a national initiative that tries to equip communities with the tools needed to end child sexual abuse.

The goal is to have 5,000 Chautauqua County adults complete the training over the next five years. Given Chautauqua County’s adult population, the goal of 5,000 people represents nearly 5 percent of the county’s population, which is identified as the tipping point, or the number of adults needed in order to begin to make a behavioral change.

“The behavioral change we are looking for is for adults to learn new skills in order to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to child sexual abuse” said Jana McDermott, Child Advocacy Program executive director.

McDermott has trained 167 county residents so far, with more workshops scheduled. However, McDermott now has help.

Recently, the Child Advocacy Program sponsored a Stewards of Children facilitator’s workshop that resulted in 31 county residents becoming qualified to conduct Stewards of Children trainings.

“We had a diverse sampling of agencies and individuals at our facilitator’s workshop,” McDermott said.

Many youth serving agencies were represented including BOCES, the Boys & Girls Club, Chautauqua Children’s Safety Education Village, Grandview Farms, Chautauqua County Department of Mental Hygiene, Lutheran Social Services, and the Jamestown Family YMCA. The facilitators are now able to conduct additional Stewards of Children trainings, over the next five years, reaching a minimum of 5,000 adults.

“The community response has been phenomenal,” McDermott said. “Hosting the facilitator’s workshop is a $10,000 investment in our community. We brought a national trainer to Jamestown and identified 30 residents with a desire to become Stewards of Children facilitators. These facilitators will now go in to the community fully prepared to bring the issue of child sexual abuse into the light. They will educate community members, schools, camp counselors and adults everywhere on the issue of child sexual abuse, including simple and proactive steps for everyone to become more vigilant when it comes to protecting our children.”

Funding for the facilitators workshop was provided in part by a grant from The Sheldon Foundation.

Upcoming Stewards of Children training is scheduled for July 24 at the Child Advocacy Program headquarters. For more information, call the program at 338-9844.

“Don’t be afraid to talk to your children and each other. Child sexual abuse gains power from the secrecy that surrounds it,” McDermott said.

The Child Advocacy Program is a non-profit organization dedicated to ending child abuse in Chautauqua County. When abuse does occur, the Child Advocacy Program coordinates a community response to bring healing, hope and justice to children and families.

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