CHILD ADVOCACY STUDIES

Two years ago, the Department of Family and Children’s Services, Attorney General’s Office and Children’s Advocacy Centers of Mississippi joined forces to request that colleges and universities in Mississippi implement Child Advocacy Studies (CAST) designed to ensure that our future workforce will be skilled in recognizing and addressing abuse cases prior to entering their career fields. CAST is an interdisciplinary program for students entering the fields of criminal justice, social work, sociology, human sciences, education, nursing, psychology, law, medical school, or seminaries. This program involves a multidisciplinary approach that allows the various disciplines to learn to work together to prevent, identify and address situations involving child abuse and neglect. CAST is a unique program that can be catered to the needs of each university and it brings academia into application by teaching students the skills necessary to work effectively as part of the team that reflects the real world experience.

While Mississippi has already become a national leader of the statewide model of the CAST curriculum, we still have a way to go to reach our goal of implementing CAST in 100% of the public universities and colleges. It is also our hope and expectation that many of the community colleges and private colleges will also adopt the training program. We recognize that institutions of higher education are an important key to changing lives and, for that reason, the CAST program has the potential to be the most important dynamic to impact child maltreatment. Child maltreatment has far reaching implications for communities which impact education, economics, healthcare, and many other systems which will directly assist college students in their further professions.

Why cast is important


  • Families are suffering from the lack of appropriate responses and services.
  • Program involves a multidisciplinary approach for students in higher education classes that allows the various disciplines to learn to work together to prevent, identify and work with situations involving child abuse and neglect.
  • CAST is a unique program that can be designed to the requirements of each university, and it brings academia into application by teaching students the skills necessary to work effectively as part of a team that reflects real world experiences.


There is a growing body of research documenting the poor undergraduate and graduate training addressing the multifaceted and complicated issues surrounding child maltreatment. The United States Attorney General’s Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence has recognized the need to improve undergraduate and graduate training in this area and has called for a “national initiative to promote professional education and training on the issue of children exposed to violence at home, in their neighborhood, and schools. ”The Task Force included sexual abuse in the definition of violence and they specifically urged academic institutions to “include curricula in all university undergraduate and graduate programs to ensure that every child and family serving professional receives training in multiple evidence-based methods for identifying and screening children for exposure to violence.”[ii]

What is the focus of cast?


The CAST curriculum focuses on interdisciplinary, ethical, realistic and culturally sensitive content that provides professionals a foundation for responding to child maltreatment. Students learn about the various disciplinary responses to child maltreatment and will develop a multidisciplinary understanding of the most efficient responses. Students completing the courses in the program will be better equipped to accomplish the work of related agencies (social work, criminal justice, nursing, etc.) as they advocate on behalf of child victims and survivors of child maltreatment.

There is a growing body of research documenting the poor undergraduate and graduate training addressing the multifaceted and complicated issues surrounding child maltreatment. The United States Attorney General’s Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence has recognized the need to improve undergraduate and graduate training in this area and has called for a “national initiative to promote professional education and training on the issue of children exposed to violence at home, in their neighborhood, and schools.” The Task Force included sexual abuse in the definition of violence and they specifically urged academic institutions to “include curricula in all university undergraduate and graduate programs to ensure that every child and family serving professional receives training in multiple evidence-based methods for identifying and screening children for exposure to violence.”[ii]

There is a need for extensive training about child abuse and neglect for professionals who work with children and families. The absence of effective training in institutions of higher learning necessitates that professionals must learn important skills through on-the-job training while the lives of children are at stake.

Identification and screening for abuse and neglect, identifying risk factors in families, and prevention efforts are critical for maximizing prevention of abuse and neglect in Mississippi. One-time training is not enough. These training needs extend to ongoing training for the existing workforce. For example, physicians, teachers, faith leaders and other professionals need training on mandated reporting laws. As these laws are revised frequently, it is important that professionals receive routine training on mandated reporting as well as the latest research on child maltreatment. This is a very basic training requirement that could directly benefit the lives of thousands of children annually.

[ii] Report of the Attorney General’s National Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence. Defending Childhood. Available from https://www.justice.gov/sites/default/files/defendingchildhood/cev-rpt-full.pdf. 2012.

How is cast implemented?


Faculty members and administrators of Institutions of Higher Learning attend training on the Child Advocacy Studies model. They are given sample syllabi along with course, certificate and minor requirements. Trainers and faculty who have implemented the model are onsite to answer questions about implementation and the benefits of implementing CAST. The trained faculty and administrators take the information back to their institution to gain support, recruit an interdisciplinary faculty team, determine what the institution will offer and plan for implementation. The Children's Advocacy Centers of Mississippi offers support through a dedicated staff member throughout the development and implementation process. Quarterly peer networking meetings are hosted by the Children's Advocacy Centers of MS. The peer meetings are either face-to-face or web-based for the purpose of furthering the joint effort of Mississippi colleges and universities. Participants are invited to the One Loud Voice Conference and other offerings in which there will be advanced training opportunities and research discussion. When the institution is ready for an accreditation visit, faculty and administrators are required to submit an application to Gunderson National Child Protection Training Center for approval of the course, certificate or minor program.

PROVIDING COURAGE THROUGH CURRICULUM

Required for Certificate Program

  • Perspectives on Child Maltreatment and Advocacy
  • Professional and Systemic Responses to Child Maltreatment


Select One with Required Certificate Program

  • Global Child Advocacy Issues
  • Responding to the Survivor of Child Abuse and Survivor Responses


Electives

  • Child Exploitation, Pornography and the Internet
  • Sociology of Child Poverty
  • Gender, Violence and Society
  • Child Advocacy Research Studies
  • Juvenile Delinquency
  • Understanding Adverse Childhood Experience Research
  • When Faith Hurts: Recognizing and Responding to the Spiritual Impact of Child Maltreatment


Required for Minor

  • CAST Capstone Experience
Universities & Colleges

A CAST program is not difficult to add to the university or college academic program. The courses may already exist and only need an infusion of CAST curriculum with organization into a CAST certificate or minor program. The certificate is approved and offered by Gundersen National Child Protection Training Center. The institution can number and title the course to fit the individual system. Mississippi has a network of participating institutions that are sharing ideas and successes to move the program forward.

Who is involved?