Program teaches parents to prevent child abuse

Stewards of Children training set Tuesday, April 23
April 19, 2013

National statistics are well established: One in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before they are 18 years old.

Of those abused children, one in three will become an abuser.

Stewards of Children, a nationally recognized program developed by South Carolina-based Darkness To Light, offers concrete steps adults can take to prevent child abuse. The organization will host a workshop 5:30-8:30 p.m.,Tuesday, April 23, at the Lewes Public Library as part of statewide events to mark Child Abuse Prevention Month.

The Stewards of Children program emphasizes seven steps: learning and understanding the facts, minimizing opportunities for abuse, talking about it, staying alert to potential warning signs, making a plan to react, acting on suspicions and getting involved in support organizations that fight child sex abuse, said Nikki Mowbray, director of Stewards of Children with the YMCA of Delaware.

Cheri Will, a registered nurse and sexual assault/domestic violence coordinator at Beebe Medical Center said one important aspect of the Stewards of Children workshops is that they focus on training adults.

“This isn't for kids; it's for adults,” Will said. “I like that this holds adults accountable for keeping kids safe.”

Learning the signs of abuse is key: aggression, not wanting to go with someone, sadness or depression, acting out sexually with dolls or other children and genital bruising or bleeding.

“One of the big things we say is that most abuse occurs in one child-one adult scenarios,” said Will. “So we focus on removing those scenarios when one child is with one adult.”

One of the ways Mowbray suggests preventing child abuse is by teaching children important lessons before bad people can teach them first. Research has shown that the first lesson children learn is the one that sticks with them, Will said.

“If you give children the information first, they will remember that lesson,” Will said. “In a crisis situation, it is that first information that children go back to, so they will remember parents telling them not to keep secrets as long as they had that lesson first.”

With the arrest and conviction of pedophile pediatrician Earl Bradley, the state stepped up efforts to bring Stewards of Children training to parents in the Cape Region whose children were abused by Bradley.

Some material included in the workshops could apply directly to Bradley: “Abusers often become friendly with potential victims and their families, enjoying family activities, earning trust and gaining alone-time with children.” Other examples include, “People who abuse children look and act just like everyone else. In fact they often go out of their way to appear trustworthy to gain access to children.”

Funded by a $10,000 grant from YMCA of Delaware and by federal and state funds, Prevent Child Abuse Delaware aims to train 35,000 people trained throughout the state by 2015, said Mowbray. About 8,600 people have been trained since 2011.

“We don't have to rip down buildings and build buildings with all-glass walls. We can use the knowledge we have to minimize risks to children,” Mowbray said.

There are 60 trained facilitators in Delaware who provide the workshops. While the facilitators are volunteers, the training sessions cost participants $10 to cover the workbook.

Registration is not required for the Lewes workshop. To find out more information about the workshops or to schedule a workshop for an organization, contact Mowbrey at 302-254-YMCA ext. 133.

For more information on the national program, go to


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