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May 25, 2004 > CAPA - Prevention is Better Than Finding a Cure

CAPA - Prevention is Better Than Finding a Cure

by Arathi Satish

Child safety programs are important. Child Abuse Prevention Agency's (CAPA) mission is to empower children with the knowledge that they each have the right to be safe, strong, and free from abuse. CAPA provides educational safety programs for children ages preschool through high schools, their parents and teachers. The programs empower and help children build self-confidence. CAPA aims to provide practical skills - an ability to problem solve, even in crisis situations.

Initially funded by the State, prevention education was eliminated from the State budget in 1990. Many original presenters felt that the program was critical so it was continued in southern Alameda County. The program was developed by the Children's Self Help Project, Child Assault Prevention Project and Center for Abuse Prevention and has been conducted in local schools for over 20 years. CAPA receives support from Parent Teacher Associations, parent groups, community service organizations, individuals, business, corporate, and foundation grants.

Children, who are victims of abuse, often do not seek help due to embarrassment, guilt, fear and shame. The program helps these children to say "no" and get help. This can prevent stop abuse before it starts. A child is also more amenable to treatment this way and the result is a healthier child with less intervention cost.

CAPA programs are presented in three parts. Parent's Program, Teacher In- Service and Classroom Presentations. Invaluable strategies for prevention of kidnapping, child maltreatment and abuse are discussed and taught.

In the parent program, parents are invited to attend a meeting that will provide an overview of the material that will be presented in the children's workshop. It is especially important for parents to attend this meeting as it will help them to reinforce the program at home through discussions with trained professionals and other parents. This helps to create an open communication atmosphere at home. Parents are informed about the best way to empower and reduce fear and focus on what a child can do if faced with a dangerous or uncomfortable situation. They are also instructed about how to talk about abuse prevention during every day life situations. Children need their parent's permission to attend the program.

The teacher in-service program is aimed at helping school personnel understand their role. It includes an overview, identifying children in crisis, reporting requirements and learning prevention techniques. Mrs. Vicky Karney, who teaches first grade at John Gomes Elementary School, says, "The CAPA program helps children learn ways to be safe and strong in certain situations. It teaches them it is okay to say "no" if something does not feel right. The presentation is at their level and they enjoy it a lot".

Classroom presentations include puppetry and songs for preschool through 1st grade and role playing and brainstorming for 2nd grade through high school. Children are taught practical skills like self-assertion, peer support and sharing their concerns with a trusted adult to build confidence. All classroom presentations take place in the classroom with the teacher present. This helps the children feel safe. The message is given in a pleasant, yet serious way. Age appropriate language and concepts are used. Children learn about problem solving, decision making, safety techniques, open communication and that abuse is not their fault. The presentation is of 30 to 35 minutes duration. Two presenters work together in the highly interactive program.

The classroom presentations focus on building basic skills like a safety yell, self-defense, identifying trusted adults, obtaining peer support, defining safe and unsafe secrets, dealing with bullies, encouraging children to say "no" to adults who may exploit them and helping them to communicate through brainstorming. Children are encouraged to listen to the "little voice inside" and that each individual has "personal space" or "comfort zone" or "boundary" around their bodies. They are advised about safe and unsafe touch. Safe touches never have to be kept secret. The program stresses that it is never a child's fault when they are touched in a way that makes them feel unsafe.

Janice Florena and Debbie Jackson, who recently made a presentation at Gomes Elementary School feel, "CAPA's programs are designed to teach children life skills that empower them to keep safe. All children have the right to be safe, strong and free".

In a world that is increasingly perilous, it is important to safeguard our children by encouraging them to acquire skills that will help them to gain confidence and the knowledge to be safe. Knowledge is power. Let's empower our children to be safe.

For further information and details regarding the programs, contact, CAPA, P.O. Box 6019, Fremont, CA 94538. Phone: 510/657-2272 or visit

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