The Greater Carbondale YMCA is offering free community training in the recognition and prevention of child sexual abuse. The program, Stewards of Children, is a 2 ½ hour training session designed to educate adults about ways to recognize, prevent, and react responsibly to the reality of child sexual abuse. According to the Stewards of Children website, this program is the only nationally available program that is scientifically proven to increase knowledge, improve attitudes, and change child-protective behaviors among participants.

The training usually costs $10 per participant to cover the cost of materials used during the session, but a generous grant from the MAXIMUS Foundation is allowing the YMCA to offer the training for free this month. The MAXIMUS Foundation is a philanthropic foundation that provides financial support to nonprofit organizations and charities that “promote personal growth and self-sufficiency through improved health, augmented child and family development, and community development” in communities throughout the United States.

Heather Murphy, the YMCA’s financial development director, is a trained facilitator for the Stewards of Children program and will be conducting the training sessions. Mrs. Murphy, who has been conducting the training since 2013, explained that the Pennsylvania Alliance of YMCAs encouraged every YMCA in the state to have a trained Stewards of Children facilitator on staff.

“The Y is a partner in prevention. We keep at least 90 percent of our staff trained. Training certificates are good for three years, then people have to be retrained,” she stated.

The abuse prevention training is intended for parents, people involved in youth organizations, coaches, youth group leaders, church groups, businesses, Big Brothers and Big Sisters participants, and anyone else who works with children. People who need continuing education credits, such as social workers, are encouraged to check with their licensing boards to see if the Stewards of Children training is accepted in their particular field.

Each training session consists of a combination of videos, workbook activities, and group discussion. “The training teaches people how to make an area safe, how to look for red flags that could indicate abuse, how to protect themselves from being at risk of being accused, and more. The primary focus is on making the environment safe for kids,” said Mrs. Murphy.

“This training is important for anyone in the community who has a lot of contact with children, so we’re pleased that we got the grant to help us get it out in the community more, and at no cost. We’d love to have more participants, or to schedule group sessions for businesses and organizations,” remarked Mrs. Murphy.

Although the training is free, registration at least one day in advance is required. Stewards of Children training sessions are scheduled to take place in the Community Room at the Greater Carbondale YMCA, 82 North Main St., at the following times:

Sunday, April 2, at 4-6:30 p.m.

Monday, April 3, at 6-8:30 p.m.

Wednesday, April 5, at 6-8:30 p.m.

Thursday, April 20, at 8:30-11 a.m.

Sunday, April 30, at 3-5:30 p.m.

To register for one of the Stewards of Children training sessions or to schedule group session, call the YMCA at (570) 282-2210.