The Child Advocacy Center (CAC) has announced a major achievement this year: the Town of Hope Mills has become the first Cumberland County municipality whose staff has completed the Darkness to Light Stewards of Children child abuse training, successfully earning the Partner in Prevention (PIP) distinction*.
In early 2023, the CAC’s Prevention & Volunteer Coordinator, Faith Boehmer, met with Hope Mills’ Mayor and previous educator, Jackie Warner, and Warner expressed her desire for the town’s staff to receive child abuse prevention training.
With the assistance of other certified facilitators, Boehmer started that training in April 2023 with the Police Department, and more than 90 percent of that department attended. They then trained the Parks & Recreation Department and Town Hall staff, including all six elected officials, and 100 percent of their staff attended. By June, approximately 72 Town of Hope Mills’ employees had completed the training.
Twelve years ago, Darkness to Light–a nonprofit organization based out of South Carolina–started awarding the PIP distinction as a way to encourage individuals and communities to educate themselves on how to protect children. Once an agency has completed the Stewards of Children training with 90 percent of their staff, then they are eligible to receive the official PIP Seal.
In addition to training, Darkness to Light requires agencies to put policies and procedures in place and complete background checks on 100 percent of their staff and volunteers. Once done, Darkness to Light grants the agency three versions of the seal–digital, poster, and vinyl–to display to the general public.
“The hope is that seal would become a recognizable international symbol–whether it be for a school, a dance studio, or an extracurricular sports team–to indicate to the general public that those people have been trained and know how to protect children and prevent child abuse,” Boehmer shared in a press release.
There are three categories of organizations or businesses, according to Boehmer, that would qualify for the training and PIP seal:
“When Darkness to Light created the program, they wanted it to be simple training–accessible and approachable,” Boehmer explained in a press release. “And they wanted everyone to feel empowered to take the training and agree to protect our community’s children.”
While Boehmer shares her pride in the fact the Town of Hope Mills has completed the program, she acknowledges Cumberland County has seven other municipalities, not to mention the City of Fayetteville, whose staff would equally benefit from the same training.
“I hope our county’s citizens will all look at Hope Mills’ staff as an example of what’s possible in their own towns, places of worship, businesses, or organizations,” Boehmer expressed in a press release.
“They may not all work with children directly, but everyone knows children, has children of their own, or sees children out in the community, and we want folks to value being aware and educated about the steps they’d need to take to prevent or report any type of child abuse appropriately,” Boehmer concluded in a press release.
*The Partner in Prevention distinction does not confer any endorsement or approval of an organization or business by Darkness to Light or the Child Advocacy Center. The program and associated emblem is intended only to convey that the organization has met certain training standards and is not an endorsement of the services provided.
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