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Children’s Advocacy Center offering two new outreach programs

By MEGHAN BRADBURY - | Aug 11, 2022

The Children’s Advocacy Center plans to bring more awareness to child abuse with its newest program, The Community Awareness and Outreach Program, which focuses on both children and adults.

“The whole goal of the program is to raise awareness in the community and engage in outreach,” The Children’s Advocacy Center Pet Therapy & Community Outreach Program Supervisor Quinton Clawson said. “A big part of that is providing resources to the community to help prevent, raise awareness and educate about child abuse.”

The first approach, Stewards of Children, is an evidence-based curriculum through Darkness to Light, a worldwide leader in child sex abuse education, research and advocacy. The first training was held in July at the Collaboratory in Downtown Fort Myers, which attracted 11 participants.

The program is for anyone 18 and older. Anyone can join.

“As of right now, we are planning on doing a training at least once a month for Stewards of Children,” Clawson said. “We are more than willing to set up training for an agency, company, anything the community needs. So long as there is a TV where we can play videos, we can do the training.”

The next training will be held at 9 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 25, at the Collaboratory.They already have 19 participants signed up for the training, which can be done through the Darkness to Light website.

“I believe we are about to hit our max for the 25th,” Clawson said. “We have another one on Sept. 6. All of these are scheduled at the Collaboratory.”

The goal with Stewards of Children is to get all adults trained through the two and a half to three hour session. The training focuses on such areas as red flags of child abuse, ways to identify possible child abuse, what to do if there are concerns of child abuse and what means to take to prevent child abuse.

Although it varies depending on the study, or survey, an estimated 30 percent of child sexual abuse goes unreported. Clawson said people are not aware of how common sexual abuse is among children.

“Child abuse only survives and thrives when we don’t talk about it, or shine a light on it,” he said.

The other program under the umbrella of the outreach program, which focuses on children, is called Kayla’s Club. The club was put together in partnership with Kayla Peck, who is a board member for the Bobby Nichols Fiddlesticks Charity Foundation. The foundation financed the club.

“The Kayla’s Club focus is trying to reach children and building awareness and education for children on preventing child abuse,” he said. “This was inspired by Kayla sharing her own experience of child abuse when she was a child.”

Clawson said they are still developing the presentation. The hope is to provide it as often as the Stewards of Children program. The presentation, which is age appropriate, will focus on such areas as how kids can keep themselves safe and what to do if they do not feel safe.

“Those presentations are a mixture of age appropriate education surrounding this topic, made real with Kayla sharing her own portion of her story,” Clawson said. “We also want to reach every child. If we can reach every kid and adult in all counties that we cover, we can stop child abuse, or curve it greatly. I have been told it is an optimistic goal. It takes a community and with the community it is doable.”

To learn more about the programs, call (239) 939-2808, or visit www.cac-swfl.org.

As a licensed mental health counselor, the topic of child abuse is one that he has been talking about for quite some time, which the general person is incredibly uncomfortable to talk about.

“We as adults have to be willing to be uncomfortable,” he said, so the conversations are had and the reality of the subject is shared.

Clawson said CAC could not accomplish what it does without the community — volunteers, generous donations and individuals making reports of suspected abuse.

“Thank you to anyone that is a part of the community that takes that step each and every day,” he said.