A new campaign focusing on child sexual abuse, called Stewards of Children, is currently being launched in Cambria and Somerset counties.

The goal of the program is to reach as many parents, teachers, coaches and/or adults that come into contact with children. 

“This program will be instrumental in protecting children from not only sexual abuse but child abuse in general,” said program coordinator Shiryl Barto.

In 2018, there were 19 substantiated cases of sexual child abuse in Cambria County, according to data provided from the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services.

“Protecting all children is everyone’s first and foremost responsibility,” said Marlene Singer, of Johnstown, who was recently trained to present the program.

Singer is one of several locally trained facilitators available to present the program, which is free of charge to individuals, groups and businesses. 

Continuing education credits are also available for nurses, teachers and social service providers.

Stewards of Children was recently presented at Emmanuel Baptist Church, in Johnstown, to volunteers for the church’s Run Home Camps.

Camp coordinator Nick Miller said “This training provides an awareness into a sector of society that is invisible to the world at large. The awareness this program provides will help protect kids and help rescue them from acts of abuse.”

The program, which is completed in about 2 hours, includes a 35-minute video of testimonials from individuals who were sexually abused, and an in-depth discussion on the topic.

“This is an eye opener to the situations that you might find yourself in as an adult that could be misconstrued by someone else.” Barto said. “The ultimate goal is to protect kids and decrease the number of cases of sexual child abuse.”

Stewards of Children is available to be presented at schools, churches and businesses, as well as community sites and venues. 

The program will be offered on the first Thursday each month from 6 to 8 p.m. at 119 Jari Drive in Richland Township. A second program will be held on the third Thursday of each month from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Children’s Advocacy Center, 218 N. Kimberly Ave., Suite 4, in Somerset.

For more information or to schedule this program, contact Barto at 814-445-1676. Additional information can also be found at www.d2l.org

Ronald Fisher is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter @FisherSince_82.

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