SCAN Program Helps Kids Recognize Child Abuse | LSS of Wisconsin
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Lutheran Social Services of
Wisconsin and Upper Michigan


SCAN Program Helps Kids Recognize Child Abuse

A hand goes up, and a child quickly begins to talk about things happening at home, asking: “Is this child abuse?”  The innocence behind the question and the child’s willingness to ask it, seemingly unaware of what they are sharing with the whole classroom, underscores the importance of educating children at a young age about child abuse so they know when to ask for help.

SCAN (Stop Child Abuse and Neglect) was developed with this goal, and for more than 30 years, it’s visited classrooms in Racine County, teaching children what abuse is and what to do if they see it or experience it themselves. Last year, SCAN held sessions at 97 different public and private schools in Racine and Kenosha counties, and talked to nearly 11,000 kids.

“Every year, we have children who share something with us that results in a formal report being filed,” said Karen Fetherstone of SCAN. “Many times, they tell us something they won’t even tell their teacher.” 

Katy Adler, SCAN program director, explains by sharing a recent story:

“A seven-year old child told the SCAN presenter about long-term sexual abuse by two family members," recalls Katy. “The child had kept this from other close family members, school staff and other trusted adults. The information presented by SCAN, as well as the SCAN facilitator's compassionate demeanor, taught this child that what was happening was abusive and was not the child's fault, and it gave the child the courage to follow through and tell the secret.”

And that is the hope – that children recognize when something is wrong and tell a responsible adult about it so someone can step in. SCAN doesn’t always get to see the final result of their presentations, but just knowing that a child like this seven-year old would no longer be dealing with this alone is enough.

Puppets, Dolls, Videos and Songs Used to Share Message

SCAN was founded because of efforts by the Racine County Child Abuse Committee to stem maltreatment of children. It started with simple puppet shows in 1983 presented to kindergarteners in the Racine Unified School District. In 1991, LSS took over the program and has since expanded it to include private schools, preschools and daycare centers throughout Racine County as well as in second grade classes in the Kenosha Unified School District for the first time this year. SCAN’s curriculum includes sessions for five different age groups: preschool, kindergarteners and children in second, fourth and six grades.

As expected, the youngest children learn about child abuse in simple terms they can easily grasp, with puppets, dolls, songs and posters helping to explain this difficult topic. SCAN comes and talks to the littlest audiences over several shorter sessions due to their limited attention span.  As they get older, the curriculum tackles topics like respect, bullying and how to be safe when texting or using social media, and it’s taught in one or two longer sessions.

Effectiveness is measured by SCAN regularly. Students complete worksheets and multiple-choice questionnaires that test what they’ve learned when the sessions are over.

Expanding SCAN to Include More Schools, Sessions for Eighth-Graders

Going forward, Karen and Program Manager Katy Adler hope to expand the SCAN program in several ways. First, they would like to add to their presence in Kenosha, by talking to more ages of children in Kenosha’s Unified School District and by introducing their program to more schools throughout the county. In addition, they hope to add programming for eighth graders that tackles dating and relationship safety.

Karen and Katy always welcome volunteers who want to get involved with SCAN, and they are also willing to help others jumpstart similar programs.

“If they have program needs, we are here,” confirmed Karen.

SCAN is funded by the United Way of Racine County and the United Way of Kenosha County as well as through private donations from local churches, schools, individuals and businesses. 

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