Chaucie’s Place is a child advocacy organization in Hamilton County that focuses on the prevention of child sexual abuse and youth suicide. Chaucie’s Place educates both children and adults through its prevention and education programs Smart Steps: A Body Safety Program for Children™, Stewards of Children® and Lifelines®youth suicide prevention program.
Smart Steps: A Body Safety Program for Children™ Makes Giant Leaps
Smart Steps was created in 2012 when Chaucie’s Place reworked the original body safety program to reflect new national research. Not only was its original program restructured to reflect the research, but it was also vetted by local law enforcement and the local sex crimes prosecutor. The prosecutor’s feedback was used to highlight key language that needed to be memorized and relayed in exactly the same fashion during each classroom presentation. Once these changes were made, the reframed materials were disseminated to staff and a team of volunteers were trained. The program was renamed and trademarked ‘Smart Steps: a Body Safety Program for Children™.’
Currently, Smart Steps is offered to students in kindergarten, second grade, and fourth grade once per year. Toby Stark, the executive director of Chaucie’s Place, has stated that the program team would like to make Smart Steps available to every grade in the next few years. Of course, the language will need to be age appropriate and the script modified to best suit each grade level.
Stark understands that child sexual abuse prevention is a process that takes time. So when expanding Smart Steps into a new school district, “the growth has to be authentic, organic, and steady,” Stark said. “True relationship building has to be part of the process, and the relationship has to be based on trust.” Smart Steps coordinators refuse to compromise the quality of the program for growth’s sake.
Yet, in recent years, Smart Steps has experienced rapidly increasing demand for its services. As such, Chaucie’s Place has issued a call for new volunteers.
Volunteers receive an initial one hour of orientation along with the script that they must follow when presenting Smart Steps to students. Volunteers then sign up to observe a veteran present the material in a classroom. After observing the presentation, the Smart Steps volunteer will be assigned by Chaucie’s Place to deliver the program while being observed their first time. A rubric was created to be used in order to evaluate the volunteers and to provide feedback for improvement. After their initial presentation, volunteers are observed at least one other time by Chaucie’s place staff. Additionally, classroom teachers and guidance counselors complete a survey after each presentation on the quality of the program and presenter. The feedback and improvement that has been achieved as a result of using the rubric with consistent evaluation has been a key part to program success.
Classroom teachers appreciate the program and often recommend it for other school districts. One area teacher remarked after hearing the program presented, “I would highly recommend this program to other school corporations. This vitally important information is presented in a developmentally appropriate format by skilled staff members and volunteers. I so appreciate that Chaucie’s Place makes this program available to schools!”
Chaucie’s Place is heeding such requests. It plans to make child sexual abuse prevention training available in Madison County and Muncie in late 2015. In doing so, Chaucie’s Place will continue to spread its message to a growing demographic of children who might be at risk of sexual abuse and suicide.