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Council focuses on abuse prevention

John Rieping/Madera Tribune File Photo From left, operations assistant Annamarie Sheriff and executive director Maria Salazar of Madera County Child Abuse Prevention Council hold a sign promoting a giveaway event.


When Maria Salazar started leading the county’s Child Abuse Prevention Council in 2017, the agency only offered only “mandated reporter training and parenting classes,” she said.

But she felt the agency should renew its attention upon the second to last word of its name: prevention. The council’s governing board returned to being a working board, and this year new pilot programs were tested with the aid of the board and other volunteers.

In 2019, training in a variety of new subjects will be offered for adults who work with young people, as well as fresh offerings for children, teenagers and young adults: RadKids, Love Notes, and Money Habitudes.

New training for adults who work with the young include the following topics: “Adverse Childhood Experiences,” “Child Maltreatment,” “From Risks to Protective Factors,” “Home Visitation Fundamentals,” “Trauma-Informed Care,” “Resilient-Informed Care,” talks on different ages of child development, and more.

RadKids consists of five programs meant to teach children skills to avoid, resist and if necessary escape harm, whether online or in person. The hope is that the safety skills they learn will help them to respond effectively to violence instead of reacting with a simple “fight, flight or freeze” response. RadKids was piloted by the council’s board this year at Golden Valley Unified School District for those ages 6-11, but will now be expanded to those 5 years and younger at select schools.

One aspect of RadKids, “Sam’s Secret,” features storytime that helps initiate discussion of good, bad, and uncomfortable touch. “That’s empowering,” said Salazar, “because one primary prevention is letting them know that no one has the right to hurt them, they don’t have the right to hurt others, and it’s never their fault so they can tell.”

Love Notes is an “evidence-based” program, Salazar said, to build relationship skills for teens and young adults, and so help them avoid dating violence and teen pregnancy. She believes skills and knowledge can make all the difference.

Salazar described having a young person, with eyes shut, take colored marbles from a jar after being told one color symbolized a “negatively influencing” boyfriend or girlfriend and another color stood for a positive one. Then the person could take another marble with eyes open, and usually picked a “positive” one. When asked to explain the difference in the result, the person may answer, “Well, I couldn’t see the first time.”

Meanwhile Money Habitudes — already used by the local Public Health Department — works on financial literacy and good habits. Money woes can be a high risk factor for problems, Salazar explained, and she hopes the program will help families avoid that.

Existing programs, such as parent classes and family advocacy, will of course continue as well.

All the programs are efforts to cushion against “Adverse Childhood Experiences” (such as abuse, neglect, and household dysfunction) that can pose a risk to the future health and opportunity of young people, according to Salazar, who alluded to studies on the subject.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, such experiences can have a lasting negative effect on more than 40 aspects of health, behaviors and life potential, raising risk of obesity, diabetes, depression, suicide, heart disease, cancer, stroke, alcoholism, and more. Those risks, the CDC says, can be mitigated by programs for parents and young people like those offered by the local council, as well as by high quality child care, social support for parents, treatment for mental illness and addiction, and sufficient income support for lower income families.

Those interested in any of the Child Abuse Prevention Council programs can contact it via its website at, or by calling 232-9753. The council also welcomes volunteers for particular activities. Brochures listing all of the council’s offerings can be picked up at their office, which is shared with the juvenile probation department, at 28281 Ave. 14.

See for information on the RadKids program. Visit for information on Money Habitudes.

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