In 2019, data showing the child abuse rate in Florida steadily declining proved that local and state-wide efforts to prevent and respond to abuse are working. While the trend is encouraging, community partners want that number to be zero.
A major investment from Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation and support from other donors will provide the Child Protection Center (CPC) an opportunity to strengthen the system of care for abused children and increase prevention and education programming.
“Abuse comes with a lifetime of emotional debt,” says Teri A Hansen, President | CEO of Barancik Foundation. “While it’s critical to have a strong safety net for children who have been hurt, preventing violence and neglect from the start is just as crucial.”
The longest running program of its kind in the state, CPC’s Personal Safety and Community Awareness Program (PSCA) includes age-appropriate safety workshops for children that cover topics such as sexual abuse prevention, internet safety, and abduction prevention training. The program also targets parents, caregivers and teachers on positive parenting techniques, identifying abuse, indicators and impacts of sexual abuse, and safe internet practices.
“A child is abused or neglected every 14 minutes in Florida,” says Doug Staley, Executive Director of CPC. “Prevention education for parents and other adults is critical to protect our kids. As many as 60% of cases of abuse is perpetrated by people the family trusts, and 30% of cases involve the child’s own relative.”
Currently, the program serves students from preschool to high school at 34 schools in Sarasota County. $300,000 over two years in funds from Barancik Foundation will be used to expand workshops to other youth-serving organizations, childcare professionals, and the greater community at-large.
The organization plans to produce more educational materials to distribute at the workshops and community presentations. New curriculum will also focus on the ever-changing world of technology, including social media safety, cyber-stalking, and online bullying.
“Sadly, when state and federal funding is cut, educational efforts are the first to go,” says Staley. “This support is instrumental in ensuring that fewer children have to go through the unthinkable.”