Keeping kids safe with puppets

The headlines just don’t stop coming. Child abuse cases in Oklahoma make the news with alarming frequency. We also know that not all cases of abuse make the news.

According to the Oklahoma Department of Human Services, 41 children are confirmed as victims of abuse every day in our state. According to the Darkness to Light Foundation, a national organization dedicated to ending child sexual abuse, statistics show that 1 in 10 children will be sexually abused by the time they are 18 years old, and 60% of them never tell anyone.

That is, of course, the bad news. The good news is that at Family Builders, we have the power, and a well-researched program that can help make children safer using puppets.

Puppets? Really?

People often respond to this statement by saying, “Puppets? Really?” and the answer is a resounding YES! Puppets are helping teach Oklahoma children about all forms of abuse and providing them needed tools to keep them safe.

Two years ago, Family Builders became an approved provider of the research-based KIDS ON THE BLOCK program. KIDS ON THE BLOCK provides short (15 minute) interactive puppet presentations designed to help elementary students learn about sensitive topics like physical and sexual abuse and even bullying.

The scripts and characters

The presentation scripts are written by child-serving professionals with the aim of not only educating children about the issues, but also providing them with the language they need if they ever face a situation where they have to talk about it.

With a variety of puppet characters, each with their own personality, and backstory, staff and volunteer puppeteers from Family Builders take their puppet shows on the road to schools, churches, day care centers and camps. Through the engaging presentations and follow up materials, children learn things like how to help a friend who is experiencing abuse or bullying, the difference between “tattling” and “reporting” and how to tell an adult when they are facing a problem too big for them to handle.

How it helps

At the conclusion of every puppet presentation, each student is provided a template for writing a thank you letter back to the KIDS ON THE BLOCK puppets. These letters provide Family Builders staff the ability to track the effectiveness of their presentations, and-most importantly–give children the opportunity to disclose anything that they may be witnessing or experiencing. Most of these letters come back with sweet and funny responses, but recently, a child who had seen a Family Builders presentation on bullying at his school wrote to “Steven”, the KIDS ON THE BLOCK puppet:

Dear Steven,
Thank you for coming to my school. Today I learned about bullying. But I have a question. What if the bully is a grown up?

Through a 15-minute presentation, Family Builders gave this child a voice and a place to ask questions. By red-flagging the child’s letter and communicating with the school counselor, Family Builders was able to provide a safety net for that child from a potentially abusive situation in his life.

To find out more about KIDS ON THE BLOCK or Family Builders’ other child abuse prevention programs, contact Kirsten Richardson.

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