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Survey Social Emotional Development a Top Priority for Parents / Public News Service | #childsafety | #kids | #chldern | #parents | #schoolsafey

A new survey finds a majority of parents of children younger than six in Utah and across the country rated social emotional development the most important factor when choosing a child-care provider or school.

Chairman and CEO of Goddard Systems Dennis Maple said social emotional learning is the development of social interaction, understanding and managing emotions and practicing self-regulation skills.

He said as children soon head back to school, it is important for parents and teachers to establish communication to encourage behaviors that lead to positive social interactions.

“It allows you to become engaged in the learning that is taking place in the schools,” said Maple, “so that you as a parent – or as a guardian or whatever the case may be as a family unit – can reinforce what the children are learning in the school each and every day. And again this notion of social emotional intelligence is a really, really important thing to have.”

Maple said the survey also shows that parents place the safety and well-being of their children in close second place, with priority number three relating to academic growth.

Lauren Starnes, Ph.D – the senior vice president and chief academic officer for Goddard Systems – said she is pleased to see social emotional learning become what she calls a “primary focus across America.”

She added that this type of learning is the foundation people use to establish their social, intellectual and moral compass.

“These skills and this learning begins very early,” said Starnes. “It begins in very young children learning how to identify in themselves how they’re feeling and establishing emotional vocabulary to express that verbally.”

Starnes said social emotional development also includes identifying emotions in others and knowing how to respond with empathy.

She added that while this type of learning starts at a young age, it is something we all continue to develop and sharpen throughout adulthood.

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An unfortunate spate of child sexual abuse cases in Idaho is putting prevention methods in the spotlight.

A Kuna middle school teacher recently pled guilty to enticing a child, and lewd contact with a minor. Another case from a Boise junior high school has left lingering questions about how the abuse could have been stopped earlier.

Taryn Molitor is a family support coordinator at Saint Vincent de Paul North Idaho in Coeur d’Alene. She said the first thing people can do to prevent abuse is understand its prevalence.

“One in ten children before their 18th birthday will be sexually abused,” said Molitor. “Ninety percent of abuse happens by somebody the family knows and trusts. One in five youth are sexually abused by peers, or youth to youth abuse.”

Molitor said it’s also important for adults to lay out boundaries. For instance, having an observable and interruptible conversation with a child is important so they understand they are safe.

Molitor is also a certified instructor for Stewards of Children, a child sexual abuse prevention program that provides training for the public.

She said the program revamped its training this year and Idaho was one of the first states to implement it.

“They’re going at it from a trauma informed perspective this time around,” said Molitor. “And that features new experts with lived experiences sharing their stories, as well as professionals who work in the field of child sexual abuse prevention and law enforcement.”

Molitor said the goal of Stewards of Children is to train 5% of Idaho’s population, or about 95,000 people. They have currently trained about 20,000.

Molitor said this is not an issue that can simply be solved by throwing money at it.

“It takes conscious, knowledgeable adults talking about it,” said Molitor, “and getting comfortable with holding boundaries and having healthy relationships with the kiddos in their lives.”

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Texas parents under investigation for child abuse by the state will be informed of their rights before their children are removed from the family’s home under a law passed by legislators this session.

House Bill 730 requires that caseworkers notify parents accused of abuse or neglect of their legal rights, such as their right to an attorney and their right to refuse to answer questions.

Andrew Brown – policy advocate with the Texas Public Policy Foundation – said from the first knock on the door, the family’s rights will come first.

“It may seem like a small change,” said Brown, “but I think this will serve to revolutionize the way that child protective investigations operate in the state of Texas.”

The bill also requires that child caseworkers document their efforts to keep a child with their family. In addition, the state abuse hotline will no longer accept anonymous tips against parents.

The law requires that a parent or person under investigation be provided a written summary by Child Protective Services of the allegations against them.

Brown said the new law is centered on family preservation, and could reduce some of the trauma families often experience.

“It hopefully will take some of the fear of having involvement with the CPS,” said Brown. “You’re never going to be able to remove it because it’s a scary process. But knowing that you do have rights, you do have protections in the law.”

Brown said Texas is one of the first states to expand Miranda-style warnings that must be given to parents in child welfare investigations.

Disclosure: Annie E Casey Foundation contributes to our fund for reporting on Children’s Issues, Education, Juvenile Justice, Welfare Reform. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

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One organization wants to help the longest waiting children in Arizona’s foster-care system find their way into loving, adoptive family homes.

Rita Soronen, CEO of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, said Arizona was one of the first states where they launched their Wendy’s Wonderful Kids Program, a child-focused recruitment model, which Soronen noted works to help children with a higher likelihood of going through the foster care system and not being adopted.

Soronen added the goal is to get enough youths adopted from the foster system, so the state can then use the savings to pay for the program independently. Currently, there are three adoption recruiters which are privately funded by the foundation in the state.

“They’ve finalized over time more than 340 adoptions, the average age of the child that they’re serving is 14, I think 95% of those children that they’re serving are in sibling groups,” Soronen outlined. “They’re really right in the heart of that focus population. What we would love to continue to do in Arizona, is take this program to scale.”

Soronen emphasized in order to take things to scale and get 20 to 30 recruiters in Arizona, it takes what she calls a “co-investment relationship” between the state or counties and the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption to serve all children in need. Since 2005, the foundation has served 606 youths in Arizona and are currently serving 58.

Jeanie Gaskill, an adoptive parent, and her husband were presented with the opportunity to foster two siblings through one of the foundation’s three recruiters, which would lead to their eventual adoption by the couple.

She said it was nice for the children to meet her and her husband first as their foster parents, as it alleviated some of the pressure. After six months, they decided to adopt the siblings. Gaskill recommended families interested in fostering and adoption learn about what she called “trauma-informed parenting.”

“Because it is completely different than parenting a child who you gave birth to or has not experienced trauma,” Gaskill explained. “It is very different and it is a mind shift. I have a social work background, so it wasn’t that much of a jump for me, but it can be, I think, for a lot of people.”

Gaskill added it is important to give children time to process and realize they might present one way and feel totally different on the inside. She advised everyone to take their time and educate themselves as much as possible.

Disclosure: The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption contributes to our fund for reporting on Children’s Issues, LGBTQIA Issues, Philanthropy, and Social Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

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