On behalf of the Child Abuse Prevention Council of Contra Costa County, I want to reinforce the concerns of the Jan. 30 article in this newspaper about sex abuse at schools: "Systems for reporting suspicions lacking in many areas, says federal report spurred by Mt. Diablo case."
We agree that the findings in the federal survey are indeed a "wake-up call." They have alarmed and motivated CAPC for many years as we have implemented best-practice solutions to address these problems.
The report states that there is no simple solution to the problems surrounding mandated reporting. CAPC fundamentally disagrees. A simple solution should not be sought. Rather, it is time to go to work using the evidence we have to make changes. Child abuse prevention experts know that raising awareness of child abuse, educating our community, educating parents and children about child abuse prevention are the most effective steps we can take to deal with this issue.
California was the first state to enact mandated reporting requirements and Contra Costa County entrusts the responsibility for training those affected by the law to CAPC.
Our local headlines are not only a wake-up call to realize the problem; they are a call to action. CAPC's services work to make every child safe, in school and home.
CAPC is Contra Costa County's sole source of mandated reporter training that follows the guidelines established by California's Office of Child Abuse Prevention. Moreover, it is provided to our schools, city and county programs, to child care providers, and all providers serving children in our county at no cost to those institutions.
While online training can be used as a resource, it cannot replace live training with experts in the field. In 2013, CAPC trained more than 5,000 mandated reporters and we now see requests from schools that will double that number in 2014.
We are training the entire staff of the Mount Diablo, Antioch, Brentwood, Lamorinda, and Martinez school districts and plan to add many more to our training schedule for this year. Additionally, CAPC is training all Walnut Creek city employees on their mandated reporter requirements and responsibilities.
CAPC, in partnership with Lamorinda schools, implemented new child safety and awareness program focusing on child abuse prevention, bullying prevention and sexual harassment. Speak Up Be Safe program is a reliable, research-based curriculum and is supported by parents and teachers. It not only teaches kids how to keep themselves safe, it engages the school community and parents on ways to talk to kids about these very difficult issues.
We have seen encouraging results with the first-, third-, fifth- and sixth-grade students currently in the Speak Up Be Safe program. This sort of partnership among educators, parents and child abuse prevention professionals is vital to long-term success.
CAPC calls on our elected officials, policymakers and stakeholders to come together with the dedicated staff of CAPC to incorporate the programs that protect children into the daily routines of the institutions that serve children.
Carol Carrillo is executive director Child Abuse Prevention Council of Contra Costa.