School of Social Work research center, nonprofit create newest release of program to help abused children

October 20, 2021

As students began returning in person to school this fall, educators faced a greater likelihood of encountering children who had been abused at home since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Recent research by JAMA Pediatrics and the Arizona State University Southwest Interdisciplinary Research Center's Wendy Wolfersteig, Marisol Diaz and Diane Moreland examined restricted-access data of calls to the 24/7 Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline operated by Childhelp, a Scottsdale, Arizona-based national nonprofit organization that assists in the prevention and treatment of child abuse. Researchers found that total 2020 inquiries to the hotline rose 13.75% over the 2019 total. Sad child Stock photo by Lucas Metz/Unsplash Download Full Image

Fortunately, a program created by Childhelp, and rigorously tested by the School of Social Work-based Southwest Interdisciplinary Research Center (SIRC), is on hand to assist. The program, called the Childhelp Speak Up Be Safe prevention education curriculum, teaches children about the many forms of abuse and encourages kids to speak up if they, or anyone they know, has been abused.

SIRC’s Office of Evaluation and Partner Contracts has been teaming up with Childhelp for several years to evaluate its Speak Up Be Safe curriculum. The evaluation recently led the California Evidenced-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare (CEBC) to list the program in its registry as having “promising research evidence.”

Articles SIRC researchers published about the program and its efficacy in the classroom were submitted to CEBC as part of its review.

“We are proud to have our research achieve evidence-based status with a national clearinghouse,” said Wolfersteig, SIRC evaluation and partner contracts director, who also is a research associate professor in the School of Social Work. “This designation gives families and organizations the confidence to know that Childhelp Speak Up Be Safe delivers the results needed to help keep youth safe.”

SIRC’s research revealed 80% of the 10th, 11th and 12th graders surveyed said the curriculum taught them ways to keep themselves safe and how to better protect themselves against child abuse, Wolfersteig said.

CEBC works to advance the effective implementation of evidence-based practices for children and families involved with the child welfare system. The organization reviews and rates programs for listing in its program registry, a searchable database.

Being designated as an evidence-based program, which is required or preferred by some states, allows Childhelp Speak Up Be Safe to reach even more children with safety information related to abuse, neglect and bullying, according to a Childhelp press release.

The program includes age-appropriate lessons for children enrolled in pre-K through 12th grade, and it is the longest-standing and only comprehensive abuse curriculum, according to Childhelp.

The program covers a range of abuse including physical, emotional, sexual, neglect, bullying and cyber abuse.

The curriculum includes materials and resources in both English and Spanish for students, teachers, facilitators, parents, administrators and community members, designed to help build a safety network to protect children from abuse and neglect.

The program also partners with the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline, which is monitored 24 hours a day, seven days a week, by professionals who confidentially answer questions or give information on how to report abuse. The hotline number for calls or texts is 800-4-A-CHILD, or 800-422-4453.

Ways to implement the Childhelp Speak Up Be Safe prevention education curriculum are available by visiting or calling 800-790-2445.

Story by Morgan Carden, student journalist for the ASU School of Social Work. Stock photo by Lucas Metz/Unsplash

ASU alumnus uses research, education to address health disparities in Native American communities

October 20, 2021

While working as a senior research scientist early on in his career, Arizona State University alumnus Dave Wilson noticed that he didn’t see many people who looked like him in the lab.

“I really began to think, ‘Why don't other members from tribal communities have the same rich experience that I'm having right now?’ I had to make a career decision whether I was going to be a bench scientist for the rest of my life or think about ways to have a greater impact,” Wilson said. Portrait of ASU alum Dave Wilson Dave Wilson, who earned a bachelor’s degree in microbiology in 1998 and a PhD in molecular and cellular biology in 2007 from The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, will be recognized as one of The College Leaders for 2021 for his contributions to business, research and service. Download Full Image

Wilson, who earned a bachelor’s degree in microbiology in 1998 and a PhD in molecular and cellular biology in 2007, ultimately decided he wanted to pursue a career where he could make a positive impact on Native American communities. 

He has since been able to achieve this through a number of roles he has held, including as a public health adviser in the Office of Minority Health at the Department of Health and Human Services, as a legislative analyst in the office of the director at the Indian Health Service and as an adjunct professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health’s Center for American Indian Health.

In 2017, he was selected as the first-ever director of the Tribal Health Research Office at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). In this role he engages with hundreds of tribes to provide guidance, education and research that helps improve the health and well-being of these communities.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, a crisis that has hit tribal nations particularly hard, Wilson has worked to provide up-to-date information while dispelling misinformation. Last year, he led a conversation with Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, on the importance of coronavirus research, clinical trials and vaccines within American Indian and Alaska Native communities.

As a member of the Navajo Nation, Wilson feels privileged to be able to have the opportunity to help build a better future for Native communities. 

“I have the extreme privilege of working with the 574 federally recognized tribes to help them in any way that I can to improve the health, not only of this current generation, but of generations to come, through biomedical research,” he said. “It blows my mind when I really think about the impact and how important it is. We're really creating the pathway for the next generations to be able to take this and pick it up and carry it even further than we've been able to.”

For his contributions to business, research and service, Wilson will be recognized as one of The College Leaders for 2021 from The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Here, he shares more about his career and his advice for students.

MORE: 4 outstanding ASU alumni honored as The College Leaders of 2021

Question: How did your program in The College help prepare you for your career?

Answer: William Burke, who was in microbiology, Yung Chang, my professor and mentor, and Rajeev Misra all taught me how to challenge myself. Each of those individuals always encouraged me to be a little uncomfortable in where I'm at. That really helped me to open my horizons to different things. The minority graduate education program also provided me the opportunities to really develop and really set me on my path. Their support and encouragement were key.

Q: Have you faced any challenges throughout your career? If so, how have you overcome them?

A: I took this position (as director of the Tribal Health Research Office) because it is all about challenges. There's nothing that I do on any given day that isn't a challenge. There's so many different levels to providing the greatest amount of opportunities for not only tribal communities, but underrepresented communities, to fully participate in biomedical research. …

Another thing that we've really begun to reinforce and communicate across the NIH is that when you go into a community, it's important for you to listen. What are their priorities? It's all about strategic engagement, and there's nothing that comes without challenge in that process. There's a lot of things that need to be looked at, addressed and refined to better include underrepresented communities in biomedical research as a whole.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish in 10 years?

A: My hopes and aspirations are to be able to bring the scientific community to a place where we all recognize and appreciate what it costs Native people to be recognized as sovereign nations. I think there's just not a lot of this understanding across the country about our history. So it's really important for people to think about this and really understand what it means.

Q: How did you feel when you found out you had been selected as one of The College Leaders?

A: It's an honor to be selected and to be amongst such a prestigious group of my ASU peers. I think that it’s fantastic, and all of us have made significant contributions to our world. I really appreciate being nominated for this, and I think that it should be seen as a group effort. In tribal communities, it's more about the community than it is about the individual. My professors at ASU, my parents and all of the people who have helped me along the way are the ones who should receive this award as well. They helped me better understand and tap into my real talents.

Emily Balli

Multimedia specialist, New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences