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

Sad child

Stock photo by Lucas Metz/Unsplash

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.

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

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