Every county in Florida now has the impressive Child and Teen Safety Matters prevention programs in place for child protection and advocacy via the Monique Burr Foundation for Children. Since last year, thanks to a grant from the Impact 100 ladies, the Emerald Coast Children’s Advocacy Centers (ECCAC) were able to actively implement Child and Teen Safety Matters programs in Okaloosa and Walton counties. Research shows that 95 percent of child abuse is preventable through education.
Children participating in Child and Teen Safety Matters are given two lessons in child safety and prevention. The premise is the more one talks to a child, the more they will remember this important information and be empowered to use what they have learned to stay safe.
By a safe adult talking to kids about these sensitive subjects, the kids engage and it gets them to be more aware and talking, which is a good thing. Frequently, children come up to the advocates, or an adult after a lesson and share their negative experience of a family member, relative or other persons violating them. Then they can be helped. In effect, Child and Teen Safety Matters gives the children permission to tell.
“A report of child maltreatment is made every 10 seconds in the United States,” said Danielle Jacka, ECCAC community outreach advocate. “Through Child and Teen Safety Matters, we want to 'pull back the curtain' on child abuse. Every child deserves to be safe, and every adult can help prevent abuse!”
In the program’s first official school year, currently including the period from September 2018 through March 2019, impressive things have happened with students, teachers and guidance counselors going through the program.
In age groups 5 to 13, approximately 1,430 classes have been taught to 2,942 students in Walton County and 23,391 in Okaloosa County.
There have been 31 disclosures of some type of abuse or neglect in both counties.
Teen Safety Matters has also been added to reach teenagers.
As well, ECCAC has been doing Mandated Reporter Training classes for Okaloosa and Walton County EMS, Department of Health staff, as well as school district staff. To date, 8,000+ adults have gone through the ECCAC hosted classes. Many do not realize it is the law in Florida that if any person 18 and older knows or suspects a child is being abused, they are required to report it to authorities.