ATLANTA – In conjunction with National Child Abuse Prevention Month, Mercer has received a grant from the Pittulloch Foundation, a charitable organization focused on improving education in the state of Georgia, to implement the Stewards of Children child sexual abuse prevention training program throughout the University.
"We are so grateful to the progressive vision of the Pittulloch Foundation. The Foundation has long supported Mercer, and now it is enabling the University to launch a program that will benefit children for generations as we seek to train future ministers, educators, nurses, coaches and parents," said LaVann Landrum, director of development for the Stetson School of Business and Economics, who initiated the process of bringing the Stewards of Children program to Mercer.
"Child sexual abuse is the root cause of so many symptoms that our society struggles with, including alcohol and drug addiction, mental health issues including depression, bipolar disorder and anxiety, eating disorders, teenage pregnancies and sex trafficking," said Lynn Pattillo, president of the Pittulloch Foundation. "Training future leaders while they are in college and graduate school about child sexual abuse prevention will help them become more effective in their professional roles as faith leaders, educators, medical providers, coaches and youth program officers. Our foundation is excited to work with Mercer University as it becomes an important academic partner in the statewide child sexual abuse prevention initiative."
Dr. Kathy Robinson, assistant professor of counseling in Mercer's Penfield College, will serve as program director.
The first phase of the program will take place over the next year, beginning with the identification and training of 10 facilitators, who will in turn train faculty and staff across all schools, colleges and administrative units of the University. The goal for the first phase is to have around 100 faculty and staff participate in the two-and-a-half-hour training session.
Ultimately, as training continues over the next several years, the aim is to have the program's conventional, real-world approach to protecting children make its way into the curriculum across the University, especially in disciplines such as education, counseling, medicine, nursing and theology where students will be providers of services to children.
Other institutions that have recently implemented the Stewards of Children training program include Georgia Tech, Emory and The Citadel.
"I am pleased to be coordinating this initiative," said Dr. Robinson. "The generosity of the Pittulloch Foundation grant provides Mercer a wonderful opportunity for faculty and staff to partner across the University to become better aware of the impact of child sexual abuse. Moreover, the training will provide education on prevention and how to take action on behalf of abused children. I cannot think of one discipline on our campus that will not benefit from this training."
Stewards of Children was created by Darkness to Light (D2L), a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending childhood sexual abuse by sharing the solution of prevention, awareness and education, and has become the most effective and most measured program that addresses the prevention of child sexual abuse. Featuring compelling survivor stories and expert commentary, the training has been evaluated by a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)-funded study, which determined that the program both increases knowledge and changes attitudes and behaviors about child sexual abuse.
"Ideally, all universities would include child sexual abuse prevention training in curriculum for disciplines working with children. Students preparing to embark on careers need to be armed with the tools, knowledge and empowerment necessary to contribute to the health of both children and society. We are thrilled that Mercer University is joining the growing list of higher education institutions recognizing child sexual abuse prevention training as an essential part of student education," said Dr. Lyndon Haviland, interim CEO of D2L.
Begun in 2000, the organization today has 7,700 authorized facilitators who teach the Stewards of Children training program in 50 states and 16 international locations. More than 920,000 copies of the training have been distributed around the world.
Faculty and staff who have questions about the program or who are interested in volunteering as facilitators should contact Dr. Robinson at firstname.lastname@example.org or (678) 547-6496.