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DHS News April 2012 | PDF Icon DHS News April 2012

Safe Start Helps to Create Safe, Stable Lives for Families

Every day, children are exposed to violent media messages, but the violence they are seeing in their own lives may be even worse: the US Department of Justice estimates that sixty percent of American children have been exposed to violence, crime or abuse in their homes, schools and communities. Without intervention, children exposed to violence may suffer from diminished health, an increased likelihood of entering the justice system or even becoming violent themselves. 

In 1999, after noticing that there was a significant need for a program to address children affected by violence, a committee of DHS staff and representatives from other community agencies held a series of meetings to discuss potential solutions. These meetings led to the implementation of Safe Start, a program comprised of three unique models - Safe Havens Training Project; ACT: Raising Safe Kids; and Safety Kids, Inc. While each Safe Start model has a different target audience, they share the common goal of encouraging the healthy emotional development of children.

Safe Havens Training Project was the first Safe Start program utilized by DHS. This Safe Start model trains teachers and professional caregivers on ways to respond to children who have experienced violence and offers advice on how to help children feel safe.

In 2001, Safe Start introduced Safety Kids, Inc., which uses play to teach young children - pre-K to fifth grade - how to be safe when home alone, confront bullying, resolve conflict, use the internet safely and more. Currently, this program is being held in local schools and Head Start facilities.

Safe Start brought ACT: Raising Safe Kids to DHS in 2007. Created by the American Psychological Association (APA) for parents of children under the age of eight, ACT focuses on issues of childhood behavior, anger, discipline and conflict, as well as the effects the media can have on children. Even though the ACT program has only been in Pittsburgh for a few years, it has gained recognition from both the APA and the national ACT community as one of the best ACT programs in the country. Safe Start has trained more than 100 ACT program facilitators, and maintains a local network of agencies and facilitators.

Safe Start staff report that they are consistently reaching more than 1000 children, parents and teachers each year. Through both the models and individualized presentations, the awareness of how violence and the media impact children has grown. Parents report that the Safe Start program has helped them to change their ways and stop spanking. Parents also suggest that the information they learned through Safe Start not only improved their interactions with their children, but also with their co-workers.

Learn more about Safe Start

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