Kristi Fowler On Child Sexual Abuse

The Outreach committee has been busy handing out whistles, putting up lawn signs, and informing the public of Cope’s upcoming Blue Ribbon Month events, Kids Day and the Blue Ribbon Luncheon. Thanks to all our volunteers who are standing outside grocery stores to talk to people (sometimes in the rain) and getting the lawn signs out there! The focus of Blue Ribbon month this year is Child Sexual Abuse. Kristi Fowler, LMFT and author of the book How Could This Happen? gave a wonderful presentation at Cope’s Blue Ribbon luncheon April 10, 2012. She focused on how to spot the warning signs in children that they may be being abused, why abusers offend, statistics of child sexual abuse cases, reasons why children don’t tell and ways that professionals and non-professionals alike can listen to children when they do tell.

Some of the highlights from presentation: Child sexual abuse occurs across all socioeconomic classes, ethnicities, and religious affiliations. 93% of children molested know their abusers. 75-95% of children in our juvenile detention system have been molested. Children (girls and boys) affected by child sexual abuse are 27 times more likely to be a prostitute. A pedophile is different than a child molester: pedophiles fantasize about children sexually, but don’t always act on it. Child molesters act on it, but aren’t necessarily pedophiles. Child molesters offend for a number of reasons such as maltreatment as a child, overexposure to sexually explicit materials, no education of sex, curiosity of something seen on the Internet, or the power of manipulation. Children who are sexually abused and grow up to abuse others are generally the exception rather than the rule.

What can we do if we suspect abuse? Ms. Fowler emphasized that it is not our job to verify whether or not abuse is occurring, but to report it to the appropriate person, so that the concerns are known. Getting a file going is key, because if the abuse is not happening now, it might soon. She also emphasized trust. Some of the major reasons children don’t tell is because they fear they won’t be believed, that the abuse is somehow their fault, or that their abuser will follow through with his or her threats.

The most important thing I took away from this presentation was that we should call all people who have experienced child sexual abuse survivors, not victims, and that it is not necessary to teach children to live in fear. Education, awareness and a knowledge of boundaries will go a long way to protecting children from abuse and from becoming abusers themselves.

By Jennifer Sunseri, Cope Online Organizing Intern and Volunteer

Penn State Child Abuse Scandal

The news is devastating. Another major institution, this time a nationally acclaimed university, is mired in a child abuse scandal. Joe Paterno, the iconic football coach of the Penn State Nittany Lions, was fired for not reporting to police what he had learned: his assistant coach was seen raping a 10-year-old boy in the Penn State showers.

When we hear the news, we are reminded that child abuse is an extremely serious problem in our society. Fortunately, there are many different organizations working hard to eliminate the problem. Cope Family Center works with the family units within our community, focused on eliminating factors that lead to certain kinds of abuse. Cope works within the schools to educate children how to recognize potential dangers and how to report what they experience.

What happened at Penn State and previously within the Catholic Church is a different matter. How do we stop that kind of abuse when the institutions work harder to protect themselves than to protect the children entrusted to their care? What kind of message is sent to potential perpetrators of such acts when these massive, well-respected institutions act as protectors of the criminals? Why is it that only after the scandal is blown open and exposed the children are shown any concern? Why is the debate more about whether the famous coach was shown the proper courtesy when he was fired due to his record and reputation on the football field?

What happened at Penn State only underscores how serious is the problem facing us. In Napa County the child abuse rate has almost doubled with on average three reports being made each day. Shouldn’t we ask ourselves how many cases are unreported? Shouldn’t we ask ourselves: Do we value our children? Aren’t they our hope for the future? Isn’t it the responsibility of everyone to protect children from harm?

Cope Family Center and other organizations like CAPC (Child Abuse Prevention Council) working to stop the abuse of children need help. Cope asks everyone to get involved.  What more can be done in our community to protect our children? What can you do?

Welcome New Staff Members

Fatherhood Services Enhancement – Welcome Rafael Ortiz!

Rafael Ortiz joined Cope Family Center in July 2011 as a Home Visitor. Rafael has over 7 years of experience in the Health and Human Services field where he was previously employed as a CNA. He is currently studying for his BS in Social Work at Napa College. Rafael will be working specifically with fathers in our Home Visitation Program, supporting them to develop their parenting skills and contribute to their families’ improved health and well-being. Rafael will be using the ’24/7 Dad’ curriculum through one-on-one meetings with fathers, as well as in the support groups planned for the fall.  As we begin to engage fathers through these services, we look forward to offering additional activities for fathers, based on their feedback on how they would like to be supported in raising their children. Rafael has always been drawn to community service and is a much needed addition to our staff.

CAPC Program addition – Welcome Fransine Lopez!

Born and raised in Napa, Fransine has always had a desire to help her community and make a difference. Working with the CAPC Program, she is the Education Coordinator, bringing outreach programs to local schools and implementing various Parent Ed classes. Prior to working at Cope, she worked at the Boys and Girls club both at the main clubhouse and at NVLA so her face may be familiar to a lot of you. She is a recent grad from San Jose State University where she majored in Justice Studies with a concentration in Child Development. During her college years, Fransine worked in group homes and many other non-profit agencies. Fransine is looking forward to providing a fresh voice to the CAPC program and is enthusiastic about helping the program to grow.

Up Valley Home Visitation – Welcome Erika Acosta!

A St. Helena native, Erika Acosta is happy to be home. After receiving her Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work at Sacramento State University, she volunteered for a year in Guatemala working with the Friends of the Orphans, a nonprofit near and dear to her heart. Erika’s own mother and siblings were raised at the orphanage and it was a lifelong dream of Erika’s to be able to give back to the community that had raised her mother, aunts and uncles. Driven to community work, Erika is excited to be making resources accessible to families in the St. Helena area. Her love for children and their wellbeing is a perfect fit for her here at Cope Family Center and she looks forward to serving the community where she lives and loves.

No Such Thing As a Bad Kid – Training by Charlie Appelstein

Date: Wednesday November 9th
Time: 8:30 a.m. – 10 a.m. Administrators
Time: 1:30 p.m. – 3 p.m. Teachers
Time: 6:30 p.m. – 8 p.m. Parents

Cost: FREE
Location: NVUSD Auditorium
2425 Jefferson St., Napa, CA

Charlie Appelstein, MSW, is a nationally prominent youth care specialist and author whose primary focus is working with children and youth with emotional and behavioral problems. Charlie will discuss what is Positive Behavior Intervention & Support (PBIS) in NVUSD and how it promotes warm and healthy school environments which help all students thrive. He will teach respectful limit setting and how to move from punitive approaches that are not working to more positive strategies. Charlie will focus on strength-based practice & the power of a positive attitude including  self-esteem building & activities for at risk children and youth. Please RSVP to Molly Arnott: marnott@copefamilycenter.org.