CSWE #APM19

It’s that time of year again where I am attending the Council on Social Work Education’s Annual Program Meeting in beautiful Denver, Colorado. I wanted to provide a bit of context for a Poster Presentation I am giving with a colleague from Eastern Michigan University. 4f616c91_3217_4da7_807e_ede1e41bf98e_276dbd3a-8822-49ba-9246-41767b077386Dr. Angie Mann-Williams and I have been working with Virginia Repertory Theatre and Families Forward Virginia for the past decade on evaluating the Hugs & Kisses Child Sex Abuse Prevention and Awareness Play. The poster we are presenting demonstrates the unique and innovative model of how this evaluation demonstrates that children in kindergarten through fifth grades are able to increase their knowledge of good, bad, and secret touching as well as understanding that they can take action to stop secret touching. Here is the conference proposal:

The American Medical Association (2008) identified childhood sexual abuse as a silent epidemic whereby at least one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused by the age of 18 (Centers for Disease Control, 2011). It has been widely documented in the literature that being sexually abused as a child increases the risk of developing behavioral issues, mental health disorders, as well as other health issues (Dong et al., 2002; Tjaden & Thoennes, 2000; Whitaker et al., 2008).  As a result, significant interest and resources have focused on child sexual abuse prevention.  The aim of this presentation is to highlight Hugs & Kisses, a school-based child sexual abuse prevention play, along with the program’s robust mixed-methods evaluation model. The presentation will also address how this program and evaluation model has been carried into social work coursework to demonstrate the role that evaluation research has on social work curricula at the bachelor’s and master’s levels.

Since 1983, Hugs & Kisses has been presented annually in elementary schools throughout Virginia. The primary safety lessons taught in the play are: 1) the concept of secret touching; 2) if you experience secret touching you should tell a trusted adult; 3) private parts of your body are those that are covered by a swimsuit; 4) children have the right to say “no” to secret touching; and, 5) secret touching is never the child’s fault.  Hugs & Kisses is a joint production of Families Forward, Virginia Repertory Theatre, and the Virginia Department of Social Services (DSS). With a rich 36-year history, Hugs & Kisses continues to be an innovative prevention program with a rigorous evaluation model.

Families Forward, Virginia Repertory Theatre and the Virginia Department of Social Services (DSS) each play a unique role in the facilitation of the Hugs & Kisses play.  The presenters, who act as the program evaluators, interface with all stake-holding agencies to facilitate the evaluation. To evaluate the efficacy of the play, a mixed-methods systematic evaluation model was developed.  The evaluation model includes a teacher evaluation form to test pre-play preparation and post-play experiences, a valid and reliable children’s questionnaire to assess the level of knowledge children gain as a result of viewing the play, and comparative results over time. The aim of the teacher evaluation is to evaluate their understanding of the content of the play as well as their readiness to discuss the main themes of the play in a post-play discussion.  The children’s survey targets the post-play knowledge of the key themes of the play.

The sample was gathered during the spring 2016 tour of Hugs & Kisses.  The aim of the sampling process is done to maximize representation of all counties and cities in which where the play is booked, including urban, suburban, and rural localities. Families Forward distributed evaluation materials to 50 schools that initially book the Hugs & Kisses play.  All participating schools were asked to choose one class per grade for the children’s evaluation process.   Thirty-one of the 50 schools where the play was booked (62% response rate) participated in both the student and teacher evaluation process. This participation netted 2,700 children’s questionnaires and 154 teachers’ surveys.

Based on the data received, this presentation highlights key findings from the systematic analysis.  Such findings will include the pass rates for the children’s questionnaire (overall and by grade), teachers’ readiness to discuss various aspects of child sexual abuse, and factor analysis of the children’s survey instrument. Lastly, findings from the analyses whereby the teacher’s surveys and children’s surveys are matched to determine the effectiveness of in-class discussions, in-service training, and study guide on enhancing the children’s understanding of the themes of the play.

Just in case you wanted to see a quick snippet of the play, here is a video from Virginia Repertory Theatre:

The play is really amazing and over one million children have seen the play in Virginia since 1983. Our evaluation data clearly show this play is having a tremendous impact. One thing we did differently with our poster was utilized a new design that has been developed by Mike Morrison. Below you can see our poster and you should be able to click on it to expand it and see a bit more information.

 

We have a paper under progress so we don’t want to share too much information at this time. We are also moving forward with several papers related to this overall project and I hope to be updating regularly about the Hugs prevention program, so stay tuned 🙂

 

Very Quick UPdate

I can’t believe I haven’t written anything on this blog since the election. I guess I needed that time to recover 🙂

In all seriousness though I have been pretty busy volunteering in a vast array of capacities. I have reviewed lots of tech and social work related proposals and a couple manuscripts. This in addition to my regular academic work is doing a great job of keeping me up at night. Lately, I have been still plugging away on a couple social media related research projects. However, I am slowly trying to move beyond into an area where I have mainly operated as a consultant. I, along with a colleague, conduct a program evaluation for a child sexual abuse prevention play and it is awesome. The play is called Hugs & Kisses and is performed by the Virginia Repertory Theatre out of Richmond, Virginia. The play uses child appropriate language to teach children in grades kindergarten through fifth the concepts of good touch, bad touch, and secret touch. You can check out this short clip for more information and also their website https://va-rep.org/tour/hugs.html.

This play is really amazing and kids absolutely love it. It has been very effective at teaching these important concepts. But where do I come in for all of this besides performing the annual evaluation? Well, my colleague and I are trying to do some more research around the language used in childhood sexual abuse prevention. The literature is surprisingly scant on this topic and anecdotally I have heard that even in abuse investigations some social workers do not adequately investigate for sexual abuse. We wonder if educating children can help with prevention. Well, the obvious answer is yes because an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. But! We want to know more so we can help create better interventions and take prevention even further.

If you are a social worker, educator, counselor, or helping professional I would be interested to hear your opinion on the topic of childhood sex abuse prevention. Leave a comment or send me an email. I look forward to the conversation and I will try to post some more regular updates here about my on-going work.

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