By Scotta Callister
When it comes to preventing child sexual abuse, Kathie Collins believes every caring adult can play a role.
That’s why Collins, executive director of Treasure Valley Children’s Relief Nursery, is encouraging adults throughout Malheur County to take a short, one-time training to help them ensure children in their communities are safe.
“Everybody has a child in their lives who is precious to them, whether it’s their child, a grandchild, a niece, a neighbor – We want those folks to say, yes, I want to give up 2-1/2 hours of my life to learn about this.”
“This” is the Stewards of Children program that teaches participants how to prevent child sexual abuse, to recognize the signs of abuse, and to react responsibly to help children.
The Ontario-based Relief Nursery is offering the training to groups across the county. Participants don’t need to be professionals, just people who care about children, Collins said.
“Anyone who is a parent or grandparent would benefit from this training,” she said.
The training was designed by a national group, Darkness to Light, which found when just 5 percent of a local population gets such training, child abuse rates go down.
The Roseburg-based Ford Family Foundation was so impressed by the results, it decided to fund the program in Oregon with a goal of training 5 percent of all Oregonians. Building Healthy Families, an Eastern Oregon nonprofit, won a grant to do the trainings in Wallowa and Baker counties and to have Treasure Valley Children’s Relief Nursery handle the trainings for Malheur County.
Collins said the Relief Nursery offered its first training in June 2015 in Ontario. Since then, 478 people have done the training. Now her staff, which is certified to conduct the sessions, is ramping up to more than double that number, and reaching out to all the communities of Malheur County.
“We want to go out to Vale, Harper, Willowcreek, Jordan Valley, Ironside, Adrian, Juntura,” she said.
Collins said all residents need to do is request it, and come up with seven to 20 people and a location. The participants could be a church group, a parent organization, a youth or sports program, or a business – really, any group of caring adults, she said.
“A couple of weeks ago, we trained the staff at Snake River Pediatric,” she said. “They said it was excellent.”
The trainings include two videos, discussion time, surveys, and an interactive workbook that the participants keep.
Collins said the training is free to participants, and the program pays any costs for putting it on, such as room rentals or refreshments.
Collins said the long-term ramifications of preventing abuse are significant. Child sexual abuse is linked to many problems in later life – depression, suicide, substance abuse, violent acts, and a continued cycle of abuse.
Darkness to Light’s website notes that doesn’t need to occur: “One person can make a difference in a child’s life. But when a community comes together, we can create a new cultural norm that nurtures children and protects them from child sexual abuse.”
Collins urged people interested in the training to contact the Treasure Valley Children’s Relief Nursery, 541-823-2526, for more information