Train Your Staff, Protect Your Students | By: Committee for Children By Tonje Molyneux & Matt Pearsall Awareness about the issue of child abuse and neglect is on the rise, both among educators and the general public. This increase in awareness is good news for children who may be suffering from abuse or neglect. State and local governments across the United States are drafting new laws to help protect children. Many of these initiatives—such as Erin’s Law, which has been enacted in states across the USA to protect children from sexual abuse—ask educators to take a leading role in protecting children. Schools are uniquely positioned to help protect children from abuse and neglect. They offer an optimal environment in which to implement child abuse and neglect prevention and intervention strategies. One of the keys for schools in leveraging their unique position is high quality training for all school staff. By providing this training, schools can realize their potential for protecting children from abuse and neglect. Safe, Supported, and Protected Schools are one of the most important communities in a child’s life. Children spend many hours each day in school. In a school with a safe and supportive environment, students are better able to develop positive relationships with staff, and staff are better able to get to know their students well and to support both their academic and emotional needs. For children experiencing abuse or neglect in their lives, this safe and supportive school environment is particularly important. At school, these students are able to form safe, stable, and nurturing relationships with adults, and this increases the likelihood that they will disclose abuse or neglect to a trusted adult. Even if children do not actually disclose abuse or neglect, they are still more protected at a safe and supportive school. School staff spend hours each day with students and get to know them well. Because of their close familiarity with students, staff are in an excellent position to notice the signs of abuse and neglect in a child and do something to stop it. According to leading child abuse researcher Dr. Keith Kaufman, a school staff member is “the single person in someone’s life who can intervene early on to stop abuse.” Schools are well-positioned to be places where students feel safe, supported, and protected, and where staff are ready and able to intervene to help protect students from abuse and neglect, but how can they achieve this goal? The answer is through effective all-staff training. Prepare Staff to Protect Students School staff need to be ready to recognize and respond to students being abused or neglected. This is no easy task, and it requires effective training. Effective child protection training should include materials to help school leaders create a comprehensive child protection strategy grounded in the latest research into best practices. It should train every staff member in the school to recognize, respond to, and report signs of child abuse and neglect, and it should prepare teachers to deliver quality personal safety lessons to students. The Second Step Child Protection Unit online training program addresses all these requirements. The Child Protection Unit online training includes: A module for school leaders that teaches them how to develop and implement a comprehensive child protection strategy A module for all school staff that teaches them how to recognize the signs of possible child abuse or neglect and best practices for responding to and reporting possible abuse or neglect; staff members also learn important strategies for supporting students experiencing difficulties, including abuse and neglect A module for teachers who are teaching child protection lessons in their classroom to help them teach the lessons with confidence and fidelity Schools Can Help Keep Kids Safe from Abuse With rising awareness of child abuse and neglect and more legislation getting passed to address this, the moment is now for schools to leverage their unique position as an optimal environment for child abuse and neglect prevention and intervention. By creating a comprehensive child protection strategy and training all staff to recognize, respond to, and report child abuse and neglect, schools can play a big role in keeping our kids safe from abuse and neglect. Try a free demo of the Second Step Child Protection Unit online staff training.