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Stewards of Children

Childhood sexual abuse is heartbreakingly common. Fortunately, the Stewards of Children Program provides Allegan County adults an opportunity to learn about its indicators. Bringing an interactive training into schools, churches, and workplaces, Stewards of Children educates the public about the statistics, tells the stories of survivors, and shares prevention and intervention information that adults need to take action.
Michigan Nightlight: Tell us briefly about your program in terms of its purpose and who it serves.
Safe Harbor Children's Advocacy Center Executive Director Lori Antkoviak: Stewards of Children is a two and a half-hour workshop that we present to adult community members. It’s an interactive video training session that is designed to give them the tools and education they need to help prevent child abuse.
What really differentiates this program?
Rather than just telling adults to protect children from sexual abuse, Steward of Children gives them simple prevention steps: what to look for and ways to prevent the opportunity of sexual abuse. 
We provide them with risk factors and the statistics; most people are amazed to learn how many children are suffering. At a
They leave knowing that one in four girls and one in six boys are sexually abused before their 18th birthday.
Stewards of Children session, community members learn to recognize the signs of sexual abuse. A couple of examples are when an outgoing child suddenly becomes withdrawn. Or, if a child’s sexual behavior is not age appropriate, that child may be sexually abused. 
It is simple.  Each person can walk away from the training with a tangible idea of what they can do to help prevent child sexual abuse. 
What are the keys to success for your program?
Stewards of Children is designed for all adults in Allegan County, rather than only the ones who have constant contact with children, such as educators and doctors. This program is for parents, grandparents, coaches, teachers, medical providers, church workers, counselors, social workers, and anyone else who is concerned this issue.
We take Stewards of Children into our schools and we present it to civic groups, to faith-based organizations, rotary clubs, and many more. The more adults who are trained equals more children protected from the possibility of abuse, and that is the biggest key.
What existing challenges remain with this program and how do you plan to overcome them?
It can be hard managing to convince citizens and groups that they need to participate in a two-and-a-half hour training to
The more adults who are trained equals more children protected from the possibility of abuse, and that is the biggest key.
protect children from sexual abuse. No matter how many times we tell them how powerful this is, how crucial it is, it often takes a referral from someone that they know and trust. If they hear about this program from their family members, their friends or their colleagues, they are much more approachable. They will listen to someone they know who has already been touched and inspired to take action. We are working on that.
What was the best lesson you learned in the past year?
This goes back to the challenges that we face. We have learned that the easiest way to promote this program is through word of mouth from those who have gone through our training. After every single training, these people supply us with names of other groups that could benefit from a Stewards of Children presentation. We continue to use that information to reach out to those groups.
What pieces of information or education hit home the hardest for your audience members?
We provide the public with real testimonials from survivors of sexual abuse, and each of these survivors give examples of how an adult in their life could have protected them from it. Again, the sheer numbers of kids shocks people when they learn the statistics.
They leave knowing that one in four girls and one in six boys are sexually abused before their 18th birthday. They find out that, while stranger danger is still a concern, that 90 percent of sexually abused kids know their offenders. These alarming facts can be a strong call to action for people to go out into the world and use their new tools, skills, and information to protect children.  

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