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Vigilance called key to preventing child abuse

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Child Advocacy Center of Niagara
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One in 10 children will be sexually abused by the time they turn 18. As Child Abuse Prevention Month begins, the Child Advocacy Center of Niagara is aiming to lower that number.Registration is now open for six Stewards of Children training sessions, which will all take place at different locations throughout Western New York. The national program teaches attendees what safety measures they can take to prevent child abuse.

Executive Director Ann Marie Tucker said it’s important for adults to learn how to identify situations where children are potentially at risk.

“Every program, every organization that interacts with children should have policies that help guide what is appropriate interaction,” said Tucker. “For example, we encourage organizations to recognize that when it’s not absolutely necessary for a child to be alone with an adult, that it’s good to avoid that.”

Tucker said while she thinks children should be aware of their surroundings, adults must also take the necessary steps to ensure no child experiences abuse. These include introducing boundaries and empowering them through clear communication. 

“Children that we see at the Child Advocacy Center, and children nationally who are reported as sexually abused, are typically very young,” said Tucker. “Over a third of the children that we see are under the age of seven, and so our vigilance and concern has to start at very young ages.”

Tucker also had some advice that could be life-changing for a child: if you see something, say something.

“It’s very important if someone does have concerns that a child may be being abused, to act on those concerns, to report it to appropriate agencies, Child Protective Services or law enforcement, so that the concerns can be investigated,” said Tucker. “If people have concerns, it’s important to reach out.”

The first Stewards of Children session will take place on April 5 at 11 a.m. in the Lockport Public Library. Registration for each training session is free and available online at nfmmc.org.