KENT CO., Mich — The Children’s Advocacy Center of Kent County and the Kent County Sheriff’s office have teamed up for a project to prevent child sexual abuse.
It’s a free, online story time series to help kids learn about body safety and talking to trusted adults. Both agencies said it’s an important topic for children and parents to understand.
Michelle Werkman, the Executive Director of the Children’s Advocacy Center of Kent County explained how the ‘Right Time for Story Time’ series is presented.
“The books are age-appropriate for kindergarten through fourth grade and really help parents who are reading the books, put some language around body safety and how to identify safe adults and the importance of letting them know that their bodies are their own,” she said.
Werkman said the series is an effort to reach families during the pandemic and times when kids are out of school.
She said, “We knew that kids were not going to be engaging in the typical activities where they would have access to trusted adults or mandated reporters should they need to talk about something that happened to them.”
The short videos feature a CAC staff member and someone with the Kent County Sheriff’s Office.
Kent County Sheriff, Michelle LaJoye-Young said, “The information is very important for the child, the relationship is very important for us.Tthese are absolutely the worst cases for us to investigate.”
Sheriff LaJoye-Young said her goal with the series is for kids to trust law enforcement with things that aren’t so comfortable.
“Any opportunity that we have to have officers help with the education process, bridges that relationship, not only for now, but into the future for that child and an officer and that is so important for their own safety,” she said.
The videos are offered in English and Spanish and come with a follow-up activity that kids and parents can do together.
Werkman said, “The more we can get in front of this, the more we can provide education, and language around it and a broader community understanding.”
The CAC serves about 1,000 children every year and reports that one in ten children in Kent County will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday.
“It does not know socioeconomics, it does not know race, or differentiate between religion, it impacts everybody,”Werkman said.
The center reports that about 90% of children impacted by sexual abuse know their offender and Werkman said that number is even higher in Kent County; startling 99%.
“I think we really want to move away from pretending it isn’t a problem and pretending that it’s not something we need to educate our kids about,” she said.
Both agencies said that the online videos are a great jumping off point for broaching some tough subjects that every family needs to talk about.
Werkman said, “If your child is three years old, if your child is 12 years old, or 15 years old, have the conversation with them.”
You can access the ‘Right Time for Story Time” series right here.