Hall County Reaches “Tipping Point” in Preventing Child Sexual Abuse

Wednesday September 11, 2019

Gainesville, GA – Hall County has reached a significant milestone in the protection of its community’s children: more than 5% of the adult population has been trained to prevent, identify and respond to child sexual abuse through Stewards of Children® training, which means Hall County has now reached the “tipping point.” The tipping point theory, based on Malcolm Gladwell’s book The Tipping Point, suggests that once 5% of a population has a change in behavior, the momentum for change becomes unstoppable.

Hall County reached the tipping point thanks to the Hall County School System’s training of all certified staff. The system has trained 2,065 employees, which puts Hall County beyond the tipping point. More than 7,500 Hall County residents have now completed training, exceeding the 5% mark of 7,010.

Stewards of Children® training is an evidence-based program scientifically proven to help participants prevent and respond to child sexual abuse. The training helps participants better understand the issue of child sexual abuse, identify unsafe situations and practices and react responsibly in the best interest of the children they serve.

In Hall County, Stewards of Children training is provided through the Edmondson Telford Child Advocacy Center (CAC), a not-for-profit organization that provides forensic interviews and physical exams in a child friendly environment and also coordinates multi-disciplinary oversight of all child abuse cases to strengthen prosecution of perpetrators and ensure no child “falls through the cracks” of the judicial system.

The Hall County initiative is part of a statewide prevention effort under the leadership of the Georgia Center for Child Advocacy. Georgia was the first state to implement a comprehensive statewide initiative using Darkness to Light’ Stewards of Children program, and Georgia is frequently used as a national model for other states. The Northeast Georgia region leads the state in this effort, with seven counties in addition to Hall having reached the tipping point: Rabun, Lumpkin, Stephens, Habersham, Dawson and White. Hall County is the 21st county in Georgia to reach the tipping point – and also the largest county so far. 

“I am thrilled that we have finally achieved this years-long goal,” says Heather Hayes, executive director of the Edmondson Telford CAC. “So many in our community have committed to this training – from law enforcement to our school systems to concerned parents and caregivers – it has truly been a community-wide effort.”

One in 10 children will be sexually abused before the age of 18. Seventy-three percent of children don’t tell anyone until well after the abuse occurred, if they tell at all. Sixty percent of children who do tell, disclose to a teacher.

In September 2018, the Gainesville City School System completed training all of its 950+ employees, achieving Partner in Prevention designation by training more than 90% of its employees. The Hall County School System made a similar training commitment for its staff – starting first with certified staff, who account for more than half of their 3,500 employees. Completing the training for their certified staff put Hall County over the tipping point – now on the way to the 10% mark, a designation only three counties in Georgia have achieved.

“We were pleased to join this effort in protection of our community’s children,” says Will Schofield, superintendent of Hall County Schools. “The two-hour training was a significant time investment for our teachers and certified staff, but many reported that it was some of the best training they had received. They recognize the value it brings to their daily interactions with students, as well as other children within their sphere of influence. For our employees to help Hall County achieve this incredible milestone is an added bonus.”

Jaclyn Crow, LMSW, a social worker with Hall County School System led the training coordination within the school system.  “As a board member with the Edmondson Telford Child Advocacy Center, I am able to see first-hand the need for this training within our community. I am so pleased to have been a small part of this community-wide effort. The feedback I have received from teachers has been phenomenal; I know it will have an impact within our schools!”

Stewards of Children training is offered through the Edmondson Telford CAC at no cost to the community thanks to funding from United Way of Hall County.

“We celebrate with the community in reaching tipping point and are so pleased to have been a part of this effort thanks to the generosity of our donors,” says Jessica Dudley, president and chief professional officer of United Way of Hall County. “This collaborative is a perfect example of the power of collective impact to benefit the most vulnerable in our community.”

Stewards of Children training is not just for employees working with children, adds Hayes; everyone who loves a child can benefit from the training.

“While we certainly want to train those working with children professionally, we also want to train parents, grandparents, friends, neighbors – all of us can learn more about identifying signs of abuse in children we interact with and recognizing high risk situations to avoid. We’ve had great success with parents bringing together a group of friends for an in-home training – they enjoy a parents’ night out and also learn valuable information in the process!”

To learn more about Stewards of Children program in Hall County, please contact Steve Collins with Adults Protecting Children at AdultsProtectingChildren@gmail.com.