The horrific exploitation and murder of a two-year-old boy in Christiansburg this winter has made community members ask “What now?” and “How can we help keep this from happening?”
The organization NRV CARES, New River Valley Child Advocacy, Resources, Education and Services, (205 W. Main Street) in Christiansburg, is dedicated to community education to stop child abuse by raising awareness among adult civic groups, parents and children themselves through workshops for grown-ups and theatrical presentations for children throughout the New River Valley.
During April, Child Abuse Prevention Month, and into May, NRV CARES is presenting prevention training called “Steward of Children” a workshop designed around approved teaching approaches and presented by trained NRV CARES staff.
“We’re offering a “Stewards of Children” training with the Women’s Resources Center in Radford. It’s a prevention training that helps teach people to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to child sexual abuse,” Andi Golusky, NRV CARES executive director said in a phone interview.
The “Steward of Children” workshop is designed for any adult who is “concerned about the welfare of children and who desires to learn about child-protective behavior,” the NRV CARES website says, “”Stewards of Children” uses real people and real stories to show you how to protect children.”
There will be two workshops this spring: Thursday, April 11 from 6-8:30 p.m. at the Women’s Resource Center (1217 Grove Ave.) in Radford, and May 17 at 9-11:30 a.m. at Pearisburg First United Methodist (401 Hale Street) in Pearisburg.
“This is a training in which people have to be trained to do the training and it follows a curriculum to help people have the tools they need to recognize and prevent child abuse,” Golusky said. “We encourage going to these trainings. They’re done strategically in line with the Department of Social Services and are designed for people who work with children on a regular basis.”
In addition to training adults, NRV CARES and its partner organizations work together to also train children.
“The other cool thing we do is help to bring in “Hugs and Kisses.” It’s a play – a musical shown in local elementary schools with the Theater IV theater company out of Richmond. It’s about good and bad touch,” she said.
The play uses song and dance to teach children the difference between good and bad and secret touching to inform children and to help everyone speak frankly together.
“We’ve done these in schools for many years. We’ve collaborated with the Virginia Department of Social Services to talk to kids afterwards, if the play brings up questions. Now they have someone I can talk to – a proper authority,” Golusky said.
The Family & Children’s Trust Fund (FACT) of Virginia data portal indicates that child abuse/neglect is prevalent in the NRV, Golusky said.
Data from 2016, ranked four of the five NRV localities in the top 24 with the highest rates of child abuse/neglect. Pulaski and Giles counties ranked second and third in the state respectively. About 1 percent of children in the NRV are victims of abuse and/or neglect. To think in terms of individual children, in 2018, there were 424 verified abuse/neglect victims in the NRV.
For more data and information about community education, visit: www.nrvcares.org and www.fact.virginia.gov/child-abuse-neglect-advisory-committee/#