The Second Step Child Protection Unit: A New Approach to Protecting Children from Abuse and Neglect

by Matt Pearsall

Committee for Children has long been at the forefront of the effort to prevent child sexual abuse. In fact child sexual abuse prevention was the goal of Committee for Children's first published curriculum, the Talking About Touching program. Committee for Children has come a long way since then, bringing the power of social-emotional learning into schools around the world with the Second Step program and helping prevent bullying with the Second Step: Bullying Prevention Unit. Much has also changed in the field of child abuse prevention since the release of the Talking About Touching program, so Committee for Children recently returned to its roots and created the Child Protection Unit, a new Second Step unit designed to help protect children from sexual abuse and other forms of abuse and neglect.

The Second Step Program and the Child Protection Unit

The Child Protection Unit builds on core social-emotional skills taught in the Second Step program to help keep children safe from abuse and neglect. Strong assertiveness skills help children effectively report and refuse unsafe and abusive situations; children name their feelings to help recognize possible abuse; and they use self-talk to remember important rules and keep themselves safe. Empathy and friendship skills are also used to help create a safe and supportive environment at school, where children who are dealing with abuse can find refuge and feel comfortable seeking help.

Although the Child Protection Unit is designed to be taught with the core Second Step program, it can also be taught separately. This allows it to be used by community agencies and youth-serving organizations that may not use the full Second Step program.

How the Child Protection Unit Protects Children

With the Child Protection Unit, school staff are trained in how to recognize and respond to signs of child abuse and neglect, families learn how to recognize and respond to signs of child abuse, and children are taught safety skills through engaging, classroom-based lessons.

Staff Training

The Online Staff Training is the heart of the Child Protection Unit. Research shows that for any child abuse prevention strategy to be effective, clear child-safety policies and procedures must be in place, and all adults who interact with children must be trained in how to recognize and respond to possible abuse or neglect. The Child Protection Unit provides specific training to school principals and site administrators in how to create and implement effective child-protection policies and procedures, and thoughtful, engaging training for all building staff in how to recognize indicators of abuse and what to do to respond effectively if abuse is suspected or disclosed. Training is also provided to teachers and staff who will be teaching the classroom-based lessons, so they can feel confident and comfortable teaching this sometimes difficult content.

Family Materials

The Child Protection unit provides extensive support materials for families. Short, engaging videos help introduce families to their role in protecting children from abuse, as well as how to recognize and respond to possible abuse and how to support their child if he or she reports abuse. More detailed information is also available for families about how they can help prevent child sexual abuse and reinforce the skills their child is learning at school.

Student Lessons

The Child Protection Unit includes six research-based lessons for each grade level from Early Learning to Grade 5 that teach specific skills children can use to help them stay safe. Although the focus is on child sexual abuse prevention, children will learn skills and rules applicable to a wide range of unsafe situations. Each grade level features age-appropriate content. Younger children focus on learning straightforward safety rules and practice recognizing, reporting, and refusing to participate in unsafe or abusive situations. Older children build on these basic skills to explore how they can take more responsibility for their own safety. They practice keeping themselves safe from a variety of unsafe or abusive situations and learn when and how adults can help them keep themselves safe. All grade levels employ educational best practices and high-quality multimedia to engage students in learning these important safety skills.

Help Keep Kids Safe with the Child Protection Unit

Child abuse – including child sexual abuse – and neglect affect far too many children. Solving this pervasive problem can seem daunting. However, when children learn basic personal safety skills and the adults around them come together to learn how to protect them best, abuse and neglect can be detected and stopped. Based on Committee for Children's 35 years of experience in protecting children and the latest research-based methods, the Child Protection Unit offers schools and other youth-serving organizations an effective way to help keep the children they serve safe and create a supportive environment where all children can feel secure.