• July/August 2005
  • Vol. 6, No. 6

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A Positive Approach to Preventing Abuse

Only a portion of abusive behavior experienced by children is reported to child protective services. An innovative project in San Diego County, CLASP (Children Linked to Adults for Safety and Protection), seeks to increase the knowledge of children and adults about positive parenting in order to reduce family violence, encourage children to report abuse, and provide intervention and counseling for children and adults living in abusive homes.

Funded in 2001 by the Children's Bureau, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the project serves low-income, high-risk youth with a prevention curriculum delivered in school classrooms and through YMCA after-school programs. A unique feature of this program is the positive focus of its curriculum, which emphasizes healthy families and positive parenting in contrast to a more typical "bad touch" or "stranger danger" approach. CLASP's educators are adept at presenting the curriculum in either Spanish or English, and sometimes both at the same time. This is critical, as 72 percent of the children participating in the program are Latino.

Other keys to the program's success include:

  • Comprehensive family services. As part of the YMCA Youth and Family Services program, CLASP is able to offer classes for parents and family therapy in addition to its classes for children.
  • Cultural competency. In addition to being bilingual, staff have a local community perspective and use culturally relevant props and materials in the classes.
  • Quality staff. The program takes care to hire educators who are dedicated, energetic, and skilled at engaging groups of children.
  • Funding. The Federal grant makes it possible to offer CLASP as a free community service. Funding for resources such as food, incentives, and certificates increases the program's effectiveness.

The program has encountered a number of challenges, including concerns for staff safety in high-risk neighborhoods, some resistance from schools to bringing a prevention program into the classroom, and fears of immigrant children that their family might be forced to leave the country if abuse is reported. Despite these challenges, preliminary evaluation results indicate that short-term outcomes, such as increases in children's knowledge, are being achieved. Project staff continue to work toward demonstrating long-term outcomes, including the reduction of under-reporting of child abuse and neglect.

For more information about this project, contact:

Ana Gabriela Torres, CLASP Project Director
YMCA of San Diego County
4715 Viewridge Avenue, Suite 101
San Diego, CA 92123
(619) 691-1331

Note: This program was funded by the Children's Bureau, Grant #90-CA-1694. This article is part of a series highlighting successful Children's Bureau Discretionary Grant-funded projects around the country, emerging from official Children's Bureau site visits.

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