Findings from a three-year-long review on a partnership between Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center (ChicagoCAC) and an urban elementary school include increased student knowledge of personal health and safety related to sexual abuse prevention. The agency’s presence in the classroom was also found to be a benefit for teachers and parents. ChicagoCAC is part of the frontline response to reports of child sexual abuse in the city of Chicago and cofounder of the Chicago Prevention Alliance, a coalition of agencies committed to child sexual abuse prevention education.
The review, conducted by the Juvenile Protective Association, assessed a program running from 2016 to 2019 involving prevention curriculum from Committee for Children’s Second Step Child Protection Unit (CPU), which teaches PreK-5th grade students about sexual abuse prevention in an age appropriate manner. Goals for the program’s adult participants included increased understanding of child sexual abuse and the importance of its reporting, and attitude changes around prevention both on an individual and organizational level. Student lessons were conducted in both English and Spanish. Results were assessed through periodic focus groups and interviews, training evaluations, and student knowledge assessments created by Committee for Children.
Following student cohorts into a new grade saw gradual improvement in average scores every school year, particularly among pre-K, kindergarten, and first grade students. The majority of teachers were consistently satisfied with the prevention education ChicagoCAC offered. Teachers largely agreed or strongly agreed that their comfort with providing lessons on this topic increased, as did their confidence with reporting abusive behavior when observed.
Overall the report concludes that “this pilot project provided valuable lessons about the challenges and essential elements of implementing child sexual abuse prevention activities that can inform future efforts to protect children and youth and live up to the ideals of Erin’s Law”. The report further mentions that it was clear that “expert support provided by ChicagoCAC was highly valued by both the administration and frontline teachers and staff.”
“This report highlights the positive impact prevention education can make in children’s lives and the lives of the adults around them,” said Julia Strehlow, Director of Education, Prevention & Policy at ChicagoCAC. “It also shows that schools are an appropriate vehicle for this kind of education. As students return to in-person learning in the fall, it’s important to keep reinforcing prevention messaging to adults and students both, and to be able to fund these kinds of partnerships long-term.”