It Takes a Village: Keeping Our Children Safe
by Elizabeth Ury, Director of Jewish Community Engagement
When our children are tots, the focus may be teaching about choosing broccoli over a chocolate chip cookie. As they get older, it may be learning how to make friends and be respectful to teachers. Sometimes help is needed to teach the more sensitive topics. JCFS Chicago partners with families and community organizations to help educate and find resources for those moments. One area in particular is child safety and abuse prevention. To meet that need, JCFS offers:
Mandated Reporter training for teachers, clergy, social workers, counselors and administrative staff at synagogues, day schools and camps: This training includes information about who is a mandated reporter under Illinois law, how to recognize abuse, and how to respond to suspicions and disclosures of abuse. In addition to covering the DCFS requirements for mandated reporters, participants grapple with organization and age specific scenarios. JCFS staff are also able to provide guidance related to appropriate policies and protocols.
Parenting resources and programs offer suggestions for having conversations with their children about boundaries, safe touch and abuse, and about telling a trusted adult when something doesn’t feel right. As with many other critically important conversations we have with our children, it is far better to have 60 one-minute conversations than one sixty-minute conversation.
Student education: We are currently rolling out a brand-new abuse prevention curriculum for students in preschool through fourth grade. Taking what we’ve learned from over 10 years of educating children, our new S.M.A.R.T. Kids curriculum teaches kids important safety information through videos and interactive discussions. This spring we’re thrilled to be sharing this curriculum with nearly 1700 students in Orthodox Jewish day schools in the Chicago area. We look forward to expanding our reach to other schools in the coming years.