...and we just keep getting better.
Believe it or not, we started on the streets, where cultural anthropologist Dr. Jennifer James sought to identify the risk factors in the lives of children who turn to prostitution. Dr. James's groundbreaking work at the University of Washington in Seattle established that early sexual abuse was linked strongly to later prostitution.
So Dr. James founded Judicial Advocates for Women to sustain an avenue for research and child sexual abuse prevention. In 1981, the group produced the Talking About Touching program, a personal safety and sexual abuse prevention curriculum that’s still around today.
Birth of the Second Step Program
1986 was a big year: We adopted the name Committee for Children and published the Second Step program. It expanded on concepts explored in the Talking About Touching program by teaching empathy, impulse control, problem solving, and anger management to help children avoid violent behavior.
In 2011, we released the Second Step fourth edition, which still features the social-emotional skills that made it famous and adds Skills for Learning. The design has also been updated and streamlined, with many of the teaching resources located online for easy access.
Taking on Bullying
Several horrifying incidents in the 1990s drew unprecedented attention to school safety and bullying in the United States. Studies showed that the consequences of bullying were wide-ranging, including psychological harm to bystanders and declines in academic achievement.
In response, we developed a third program, the innovative Steps to Respect curriculum, designed to reduce bullying. We found that, rather than asking students to shoulder the burden of bullying prevention, all of the members of a school community can work together to create a safe and respectful school environment.
Research and Accolades
Since 1995, there’s been a surge of research by academic institutions, the government, and others that has affirmed our approaches. Most recently, the largest and most rigorous U.S. study to date of a school-based bullying prevention program appeared in the fall 2011 issue of School Psychology Review. It showed that the Steps to Respect program had a significant impact on bullying and a wide range of bullying-related factors—for example, a 33 percent lower likelihood of physical bullying after the program.
We were also accorded "Exemplary" status by the federal departments of Education, Justice, and Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. The White House and CASEL, a renowned institute dedicated to social-emotional learning, have also honored Committee for Children programs.
An Enduring Mission
Our mission today bears a strong resemblance to our founders’ goals. Our programs are still research-based and school-driven; still routinely scrutinized, tested, and improved.
Today our programs are offered in 70 countries, at 25,000 schools, to more than 9 million children. Schools in nations and regions as diverse as the United Kingdom, Japan, Norway, and Kurdistan use the Second Step, Steps to Respect, and Talking About Touching programs. We work with these and other partners to achieve a common vision: safe children thriving in a peaceful world.