Responding to Sexual Behavior Problems in Youth

476560_origThe Duggar Family and the actions of Josh Duggar when he was a teenager have recently received a large amount of attention in the media. This coverage has given rise to discussions about the issues surrounding sexual behavior problems in youth and the best way to respond.

Teresa Huizar, executive director of the National Children’s Alliance, stated: “For Children’s Advocacy Centers across the country, many of the most heart-wrenching cases involve families in which sibling abuse has occurred. Parents are distraught about the victimization of one child while terribly worried about the legal consequences to another child. The anguish of parents as they struggle to provide emotional support and effective intervention to both the child victim and the child with sexual behavior problems is real and palpable.”

Our community is not immune to these issues. Foothills Child Advocacy Center, a member of the Charlottesville and Albemarle Child Abuse Multidisciplinary Team (MDT) of 14 local agencies, can help families navigate such situations. Such families are referred to the MDT and Foothills through local Child Protective Services or law enforcement. We would encourage any concerned parent, grandparent, or other adult to contact them for help and not try to handle these situations alone. We can serve as a gateway to services that can help victims heal and ensure youth with sexual behavior problems receive effective treatment and are held accountable for changing their behavior. For a directory of local providers, click here.

One excellent resource for parents and professionals is the National Center for the Sexual Behavior of Youth, which provides public awareness, training in evidence-based treatments, and technical assistance all tied to managing and responding to youth with problematic sexual behavior. Helpful information for parents and links to treatment providers can also be found through the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, a network of mental health experts in child trauma intervention.

Finally, and most importantly, at the heart of every child sexual abuse case are the child victims. We should not minimize the trauma child victims suffer as a result of abuse by youth with sexual behavior problems. Whether the offender is a sibling, friend, or extended family member, the victims suffer a betrayal of trust and a loss of personal safety that is deeply wounding. Similar to other forms of child sexual abuse where the offender is within the family, these child victims struggle with both their fear of continued abuse and their love for the family member that has harmed them. As a society, we have failed to protect these victims, and we owe them the evidence-based treatment needed to heal, as well as our support as they go through the challenging healing process.

This article is based largely on one sent out by the National Children’s Alliance and has been minimally revised for our use, with their permission.

Posted in Uncategorized

Keeping Kids Safe on the World Wide Web

caution-computerThe Internet can be a dangerous place for children. A 2013 Netmums survey of 825 children ages seven through 16 and 1,127 parents revealed these and other alarming statistics:

  • One in 20 children admitted arranging a secret meeting with someone they met online.
  • More than half of all kids (57%) accidentally accessed inappropriate content online – although only 9% had looked for it deliberately.
  • More than 25 percent of the children obtained an online account such as Facebook by pretending to be older than they were.
  • Nearly one-third of the parents surveyed did not put restrictions on or supervise Internet use.

These statistics become even more alarming in context of a 2006 report noted by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which stated that 73% of youth who were asked for a face-to-face meeting met their sexual solicitor online. The report also identified how these solicitations occurred: 37% in chatrooms; 40% through instant messaging; and 21% through gaming devices.

What can we do to keep kids safe on the Internet?

The FBI, Netsmartz411, Internet Safety 101 and other groups recommend the following steps.

  • Talk to your children. Talk to them about sexual victimization on the Internet. Tell them never to arrange a face-to-face meeting with someone whom they met online. Establish rules to protect privacy, for example, tell them never to share personal information such as name, age, address, school, etc. with other users and not to post photos without your permission.
  • Spend time with your children online and have them show you their favorite sites; know what they are doing and who their online friends are.
  • Use parental controls on computers, tablets, and mobile phones. Bar access to chatrooms.
  • Set time limits and consider using time-limiting software.
  • Always maintain access to your child’s on-line account and randomly check his/her e-mail.

Click here for more resources about keeping kids safe on the Internet.

Posted in General | Tagged , , , ,

Let’s Go Back to School Safely!

5804348The first day back to school can be both exciting and stressful for children and parents alike. Parents may ask “Will my child get along with the new teacher? Will my child fit in? Will my child get on the right bus after school?” The child may be having similar thoughts: “What if I don’t like my new teacher? What if I can’t make new friends? What if I get lost on the way home?” These fears are normal and experienced by almost every parent and child.

To put these fears in their place, parents can take steps to help their children go back to school confidently and safely. Most importantly, parents should talk and listen to their children and establish school safety rules.

Talk and Listen to Your Children

Make time to sit down with your child and ask “How do you feel about going back to school?” Then listen to your child and talk about her or his concerns.  Once the school year is underway, keep asking!  Ask your child about his or her school day every day – and listen. Let your child know that she or he can talk to you about anything that’s bothering them without getting in trouble. If you have concerns, talk to the teacher.

If you haven’t done so already, talk openly with your child in an age-appropriate manner about safe boundaries for their bodies. If you have, consider a “refresher” conversation. The resource “Protecting Children from Sexual Abuse” provides information on how to talk to children about this difficult topic.

Establish School Safety Rules

Consider following these rules, found at

  1. Be sure your child knows his and your contact information. He should have his full name and address, your full name, and daytime phone number memorized.
  2. Avoid labeling your child’s clothing, backpack or jackets with his name where it is visible. You don’t want a stranger to be able to call out your child by name, so be sure his name isn’t visible anywhere on his clothing or school bag.
  3. Be familiar with how your child’s school handles emergencies. Be sure to educate yourself about the policies and procedures regarding school lock-downs and other emergencies. Let your child know who is listed on his emergency contact form.
  4. Be a presence. Get involved in your child’s school. Join the PTA or volunteer to be a room mother.
  5. If your child walks or rides the bus to school, talk specifically about safety rules and have a set check-in time for him to call you when he gets home from school.
  6. Pay attention. Pay attention to changes in your child’s eating habits, sleeping habits and personality. If you notice your child seems withdrawn or isn’t sleeping well, inquire as to why.  A change in behavior may signal that something is wrong.

Finally, be aware of your child’s use of the Internet at school. Ask the school about their Internet safety policies and rules. Find resources on Internet safety here.

Posted in General

Keeping Kids Safe at Summer Camp – 5 Questions to Ask

FoothillsCAC-SafetyatSummerCampSummer camps can be a great option for keeping school-age kids busy and away from television and video games. It’s important to remember, however, that not all summer camps have policies in place to prevent child abuse.

What can parents do to help keep their kids safe in summer camps? Ask the right questions, drop in unexpectedly from time to time on the camp to observe things, and talk openly with their children about abuse. 

Ask the camp supervisor/director these five questions, taken from

  1. How do you think about child safety?  Listen to their answer:  Do they even mention child sexual or physical abuse and their prevention/intervention policies? Do they understand their responsibility to protect children from abuse?
  2. Does the organization do criminal and Child Protective Services background checks on all employees and volunteers? If not, that’s a red flag.
  3. What is the organization’s employee conduct policy? If they say they don’t have one, that’s also a red flag. If they have one, ask for a copy.  Read it carefully and look for gaps in the policy. For example, does it contain restrictions that prohibit employees from giving gifts to an individual camper? Does the policy tell the employees to avoid private one-on-one interactions between a staff member and camper? Does it require that there be two unrelated adults in charge of kids?
  4. Is there abuse-prevention training provided for all employees who work with kids, including camp counselors who may be youth themselves? If not, another red flag. You may want to tell them about the training we offer.
  5. Are activities observable and “interruptible”? Can you come visit, drop in, and observe? Most crucially, can your child call you if s/he has a safety problem? If not, this is a HUGE red flag. You may want to consider not sending your child to this camp.

Just asking these questions can help to keep your child safer. Seriously consider the answers as you choose a camp for your child or as you decide whether to keep your child in a camp. Last but not least, talk openly with your child about abuse. Download this brochure to learn more: Protecting Children from Sexual Abuse. 

You are the best advocate your child has. Be a hero for your child! 

Camp leaders: If your organization doesn’t have these policies and practices in place, Foothills can provide technical assistance to help you put them in place. Just contact us! 

Posted in General | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Give4Good – Donate to Foothills!

Today (May 6) is a one-day, 24 hour, online giving event organized by the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation (CACF) to promote philanthropy in Charlottesville, Albemarle, Buckingham, Fluvanna, Greene, Louisa, Nelson, and Orange. More than $32,000 in matching funds and cash prizes will amplify charitable contributions and inspire our community to come together for 24 hours to maximize its philanthropic impact!

Foothills is participating in this terrific event and we would greatly appreciate your support! Your donations can help to support our work to minimize trauma, promote healing, ensure child safety, and hold perpetrators accountable. We believe that all children are entitled to be safe, healthy, nurtured and valued – Foothills envisions a unified and just community whose members are knowledgeable about and invested in assuring that all child victims receive the benefit of a range of services available in the community. 

Donate during today’s Give4Good campaign and Foothills will have the chance to win additional grant prizes that would be monumental in supporting our work to prevent and stop child abuse in our community.

Click the link below to donate:

Give4Good – Donate to Foothills Child Advocacy Center

THANK YOU for your support!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Posted in Events | Tagged , , , , , ,

Pinwheel Garden Marks Start of National Child Abuse Prevention Month

Story originally posted by NBC29

ImageA unique annual display is marking the start of Child Abuse Prevention Month.

A pinwheel garden is on display on the playground of Charlottesville’s Children Youth and Family Services (CYFS). Pinwheels are the national symbol of child abuse prevention.

Nonprofits and child advocacy groups across the country are planting pinwheel gardens Tuesday to bring awareness about child abuse and neglect.

“It’s something that’s difficult for people to think about and talk about but the more we get it out there and the more we can help people learn about what they can do to prevent child abuse the better our communities will be,” said Brittany Selkregg, VOCA trauma counselor.

CYFS plans to hold other events and programs throughout the month, including a parade to promote child abuse prevention on Charlottesville’s downtown mall April 29.

Watch the video via NBC29 News.


Learn more about National Child Abuse Prevention activities in the Charlottesville area on the Foothills Child Advocacy Center website.

Posted in Events, General

April: National Child Abuse Prevention Month

ImageIt’s April 1st, which means it is officially National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Recognized federally, this month is a time to recognize that we each play a part in promoting the social and emotional well-being of children and families in our communities. It is also a time to acknowledge the importance of families and communities working together to prevent child abuse and neglect. During the month of April and throughout the year, communities are encouraged to share child abuse and neglect prevention awareness strategies and activities and promote prevention across the country.To learn more about the history of National Child Abuse Prevention month, please click here to visit the official website.

The Charlottesville community has several activities planned throughout the month to bring awareness to this important topic. These events started with the Pinwheel Garden Planting this morning at Children, Youth, & Family Services (CYFS). The pinwheel is the symbol of child abuse prevention. Planting the Pinwheel Garden symbolizes the Charlottesville community’s commitment to protecting our children.

Keep up with other events in the area by bookmarking the National Child Abuse Prevention page on our website or following us on Facebook to see how you can get involved. Thank you for your support!

Posted in Events, News | Tagged , , ,