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The Safe and Healthy Communities Initiative (2018-2021)

Since 2015, PCCD has partnered with the CMSN to develop, implement, and evaluate a comprehensive CSA prevention strategy.  In 2018, the Safe and Healthy Communities Initiative (SHCI) started to be implemented with the overarching goal of using evidence-based programming to prevention child sexual abuse. Child Advocacy Center Advisory Committee (CACAC) member Dr. Jennie Noll and Dr. Kate Guastaferro oversaw the implementation at the Child Maltreatment Solutions Network (CMSN). 

The objective of SHCI was to identify the most effective comprehensive child sexual abuse prevention strategy by implementing SOC, Safe Touches, and Smart Parents – Safe and Healthy Kids, in a staggered manner, in four participating counties/areas.  Awarded applicants included Bucks, Chester, York, and Somerset/Cambria (both combined into one geographical area) counties.  Each site engaged in a cooperative agreement with PCCD that required them to accept a prescribed budget and implementation plan.  This allowed for consistency to ensure research could be conducted.  

SHCI Impact & Outcomes

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While the Safe and Healthy Communities Initiative pilot did not reach its original goal of reaching 5% of the county population (72,000 people) and 100% of second graders and parents participating in evidence-based programming, research conducted on the pilot initiative found significant positive impacts.

  • The Stewards of Children program aimed to reach 5% of the county population, approximately 72,000 people. Over 14,500 participants attended the program either in person or virtually. Counties faced challenges in reaching the target but implemented various marketing strategies developed by CMSN to improve their percentages.
  • The Safe Touches program aimed to reach 100% of second graders. 92% of the school districts in the four sites participated, and more than 16,600 second graders received the program. There were 31 known referrals made to PA Childline. Research conducted by CMSN showed a significant increase in CSA-related knowledge among participants following Safe Touches, and this increase was maintained for 12 months after implementation (Guastaferro et al., 2023).
  • The Smart Parents – Safe and Healthy Kids program aimed to have 100% of parents participating in evidence-based parenting programs. Over 200 parents who participated in an evidence-based parenting program received the added SPSHK module. A cluster randomized trial demonstrated that adding SPSHK to existing parent training enhanced parent awareness and protective behavior strategies without interfering with the efficacy of the existing program (Guastaferro, et al., 2020). Feedback from facilitators and parents highlighted the positive impact of the program, with teachers and schools recommending its use every year. A study on SPSHK's development, acceptability, and feasibility showed that parents were enthusiastic about the program and felt more comfortable discussing sex and sexual abuse with their children after participating (Guastaferro, et. al., 2019).