Jacksonville, FL – A local program is making a huge impact statewide.
- It teaches a half-million Florida schoolchildren how to protect themselves and their friends from being victims of child abuse, sexual abuse and bullying.
- It produces solid, research-driven evidence that leads to pupils coming forward with reports of abuse, abusers being identified for victimizing children and kids being put in safer environments.
- It is so easily implemented that counselors in hundreds of Florida schools have been effortlessly instructed on how to teach the lesson plan to pupils — and in an efficient, age-appropriate manner that doesn’t require huge chunks of classroom time and leaves staffers raving about its effectiveness.
- It is provided free of charge to any school in any Florida district that requests it.
In the Duval County public schools alone, this prevention education is being provided to every pupil in kindergarten to sixth grade as well as kids in all but 12 of Florida’s 67 counties.
This impressive work is ably carried out in inspiring fashion by the Monique Burr Foundation, a local nonprofit whose Child Safety Matters program is winning national acclaim for its revolutionary approach to educating children to avoid being victimized by abuse — and, equally important, empowering those who have been abused to report it and prevent it from ever happening again.
“(Child Safety Matters) is comprehensive in approach and scope, and it saves lives,” said Ed Burr, the Jacksonville businessman who launched the Monique Burr Foundation nearly 20 years to honor his late wife, a devoted child advocate.
“When you can break the cycle of abuse,” Burr told the Times-Union editorial board, “you can change the lives not only of those kids but the generations that (follow them).”
The Child Safety Matters program has been extremely effective because it acknowledges the factor of polyvictimization — that children who are being sexually abused are usually being traumatized in other ways, too (bullying, violence, etc.) — and the reality that most kids are being victimized by adults and others they know or believed they could trust.
By using such a holistic and wide-ranging method to address abuse with pupils while in a classroom setting, Child Safety Matters has encouraged children to not only recognize when they are becoming targets of abuse, but to identify people they can immediately speak with and share what’s happening.
Among the strong partners are the Florida Department of Education, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, the Florida Department of Children and Families, Gov. Rick Scott’s office, the National Educators to Stop Trafficking and the Cyberbullying Research Center.
HIGH MARKS IN EVALUATIONS
Recently, the Child Safety Matters program was the subject of a rigorous, several-month evaluation by Florida State University’s respected School of Teacher Evaluation and received high marks not merely for how it empowered children to learn about preventing abuse, but for how easy it was set up for school counselors teaching it to carry out the standardized lesson plan.
In short, Child Safety Matters is helping children.
It is putting an end to ongoing abuse.
And it is preventing future abuse.
The program is doing so well — and at no cost to the school districts around this state that use it — that the question isn’t whether it works.
The only question is this:
Why are there still 12 counties in Florida that don’t think it’s worth having Child Safety Matters taught to their schoolchildren?