By PFSA Staff

Together, We Can Empower Our Communities

By Angela Liddle

Last week, I was invited to serve as a panelist on a virtual community forum that Dauphin County hosted in response to the horrific murder of Kyan King.  Kyan was a 16-year-old teenager from the Harrisburg area who was shot and killed in broad daylight as he tried to escape from a registered sex offender.

The details surrounding what happened to Kyan leading up to his death are at a minimum horrendous and evil. His family members, friends, classmates, and acquaintances are grieving and searching for a way to navigate life without him. Kyan’s untimely passing has left a profound impact on our local community.

That’s why Dauphin County hosted this forum—it was an opportunity for the community to come together and discuss subjects like child abuse and sex trafficking—which are often uncomfortable and difficult to talk about. Being educated about the warning signs of child abuse and sex trafficking is one-step closer to preventing it.

The statistics on child abuse, neglect, and child sex trafficking are startling. Recent studies have shown that 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys is a victim of child sexual abuse. This is a major issue that should be of concern to all of us. In 2019, Dauphin County Children and Youth Services received 1,180 reports of child abuse, and 171 of those reports were substantiated (meaning, they were proven true). In Pennsylvania last year, there were a total of 4,865 substantiated child abuse reports and 51 children who died as a direct result of abuse.

Commissioner George P. Hartwick moderated the forum and the goal was to provide community members with information, tools, resources, and support services. During the forum, we talked about what type of warning signs could be indicators that abuse is occurring and what people should do if they suspect that a child is being abused.

I served as a panelist alongside Administrator Marisa McClellan (Dauphin County Social Services for Children and Youth), Captain Terry Wealand (Harrisburg Police Department), Steven Turner (Harrisburg Area YWCA), Dr.  Dawn Crosson, PsyD (Clinical Psychologist), Ausha Green (Harrisburg City Council Oversight of Public Safety), and Chief Deputy District Attorney Jen Gettle (Dauphin County).

The forum lasted several hours and many members of the community had good questions pertaining to the prevention of child abuse. I left with the belief that every county across the Commonwealth should follow Dauphin’s example. It would be incredibly helpful for each community to hold these forums on a regular basis, so that individuals can know what services are available to protect children and how they can best prepare to themselves to play a key role in the safety, security and and well-being of all children.

*Reminder

If you think that a child is being abused or neglected, you should call Pennsylvania’s ChildLine hotline at 1-800-932-0313. It’s operated 24/7 and reports can be made anonymously

It Takes a Village

September 4, 2020

By Jill Whitmyer

It Takes a Village
By Haven Evans

Project Protect, a five-step plan to combat online child sexual exploitation and abuse (CSEA) launched by the Technology Coalition, recently gained the support of some of the world’s largest tech companies such as Apple, Amazon, Google, Facebook, Twitter and Microsoft.

This project aims to incorporate a “strategic five pillar plan”: tech innovation, collective action, independent research, knowledge & information sharing, and transparency & accountability. Establishing a multi-million dollar research and innovation fund is also one of the coalition’s main goals. Additionally, the group intends on hosting an annual forum with governments, law enforcement and other stakeholders to discuss ways to fight CSEA.

Support from the world’s leading technology companies is a major step in the right direction for the project and we as an organization applaud this move by the tech giants. The companies are expected to invest millions of dollars into research, innovation, and issue reports on how the progress on fighting online child sexual exploitation and abuse is going. Combating child abuse is truly a community effort and takes participation from individuals, organizations, corporations, and government entities.

Here at the Pa Family Support Alliance, we are dedicated to providing education, support, and training programs to make Pennsylvania safe for children. We want every single child in the Commonwealth to grow and thrive free in an environment that is free from abuse and neglect. We do know social media and the internet usage can pose real and dangerous threats to children and they can often be faced with issues like the invasion of privacy, bullying, harassment, abuse, and exploitation. Below are a few tips on how to keep your kids safe online:

• Speak to them: Parents and caregivers should make sure that their children and grandchildren know they have a voice. If anyone is making them feel uncomfortable—no matter who it is—they should come to them.
• Educate them: One of the easiest ways to ensure your child stays safe online is to educate them on the dangers of the internet. Warn against dangerous websites, sex offenders, malware, phishing, and explain how to utilize privacy settings (if they are old enough to do so).
• Limit online usage: Give your child a certain amount of time for technology use, implementing this practice will lower the likelihood of contact with a predator and also promotes healthy usage habits.
• Use parental control software. Parental control apps will allow you to monitor your child’s internet usage, visited websites, time spent online and even enable you to block certain websites you deem unsafe. You should check your children’s internet browsing history and see what websites they are visiting.
• Report it: If anyone sends inappropriate messages or explicit information to your children online, you should report them to your local law enforcement.

In a world that’s moving increasingly online, it is vital that we take steps to ensure our children are protected and that truly does take a village. We are glad to see that large tech corporations are mirroring that dedication towards safety and look forward to the breakthroughs Project Protect will make in combating online child sexual exploitation and abuse.

Haven Evans has been the Director of Training at the Pa Family Support Alliance since 2016. She has extensive experience and knowledge of Pennsylvania’s Child Protective Services Law. Prior to her role at the Pa Family Support Alliance, Haven was a ChildLine supervisor and a ChildLine Manager. There she was responsible for managing the state’s 24/7 intake unit that responds to a large volume and variety of calls regarding the care of children, particularly reports of suspected child abuse or neglect.

ARTICLE:
CNET: Google, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft back effort to stop child abuse online
The tech giants get behind a five-step plan called Project Protect.
Alexandra Garrett
6/11/20
https://www.cnet.com/news/google-facebook-twitter-microsoft-back-effort-to-stop-child-abuse-online/

Tech giants including Apple, Amazon, Google, Facebook, Twitter and Microsoft are supporting a five-step plan from the Technology Coalition that aims to end online child sexual exploitation and abuse.

The Technology Coalition, which was founded in 2006 and counts these companies among its members, provides funding and advice to the tech industry on online safety tools for children.

“The world has changed since we first came together in 2006,” the coalition said in a release Thursday. “Technology is more advanced, and there has been an explosion of new internet services, including mobile and online video streaming.”

The plan, called Project Protect, includes five pillars of action, according to the coalition. The actions include investing in new technology aimed at ending child abuse, holding annual government forums, funding independent research, creating new ways of sharing information, and increasing accountability.

“Project Protect brings together the brightest minds from across the tech industry to tackle a grave issue that no one company can solve on its own — child exploitation and abuse,” said Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg in a release.

The tech giants said they’ll invest millions of dollars into research and innovation and publish annual reports on the coalition’s progress.