COOS BAY — The Kids’ HOPE Center in Coos Bay held a gathering yesterday to honor community members and staff for their achievement in training over 1,000 adults in a nationwide child sexual abuse prevention program. Bay Area Hospital’s Chief Development Officer Barbara Bauder kicked off the event by announcing the center had officially met its goal of reaching 5 percent of the adult residents in Coos County totaling out to 1,800 individuals this past month.
The Ford Family Foundation had provided a grant of $35,000 per year for the last three years, which ran from May 2015 to May 2018, to be awarded to the center to help introduce and train adults on a nationally acclaimed training curriculum known as “Darkness to Light: Stewards of Children.” According to the Ford Family Foundation’s website, the program is designed to help educate adults on how to recognize, prevent and react to child abuse in a responsible manner. Adults who are enrolled in training do so for free and their organizations or employers are not charged. After reaching their deadline, the Ford Family Foundation has offered to extend the grant for another two years and increase the amount to $65,000 a year for the center to continue training.
Sarah Bright, the education coordinator and training facilitator at the Kids’ HOPE Center, announced at Wednesday’s event that Oregon currently ranks No. 4 in the U.S. for most “Partners in Prevention” and that Coos County holds 22 of those partnerships. The “Partners in Prevention” is the status given to an organization that completes the training by having about 90 percent of its staff participate. Myrtle Point High School, Reedsport Library, South Coast Hospice and the North Bend Fire Department are among those partnerships. According to the Darkness to Light website, the prevention program is unlike most in the scope that it uses real stories and people to show trainees how to protect children.
The program is based off five steps and includes video training, a workbook and is produced in both English and Spanish. The training takes a little over two hours and is open to any adult who is interested. Bauder said the center is the first to have reached their goal in Oregon under those sites that were designated as a training site.
“The team here is really amazing,” said Bauder. “We are committed to forging ahead with the program just as enthusiastically as we are now and for the next two years we hope to get all of Coos County trained.”
The Kids’ HOPE Center is currently tabling at the Coos Bay Farmers Market every Wednesday with information on the program and the other services the center has to offer as a way to expand its community outreach. Volunteer and training facilitator John Lemos, who has worked with the center since August 2017, said his interest began with a tour of the facility.
“I’ve been retired for about five years and was looking to do some volunteer work,” said Lemos. “I walked in and thought wow this place is really doing something for kids.”
Lemos was recognized by staff and given a certificate showcasing his commitment and having trained the second highest number of adults in the county which was 502. Lemos said at one point he hosted three training sessions per week for two weeks.
“Kids are important and you see that especially in a program like this,” said Lemos. “I get so much joy in doing this and helping and I’ve told them if you need me for anything I will change my plans and be here.”