Nicole S. Rowe
Administrative Assistant, Public Relations
320 DuPont Highway
New Castle, DE 19720
Wilmington University Offers Child Advocacy Studies Certificate
15-Credit Certificate Aims to Help Students Identify Child Maltreatment
The verdict in the Casey Anthony trial has shocked the country. Across the nation people continue to speculate on who committed the most horrific form of child abuse: murder. The sad truth is that over 1,500 children are murdered each year at the hands of those who are meant to protect and care for them. Closer to home in Sussex County, Delaware, the child sexual assault case against a well-known pediatrician, Earl Bradley, has traumatized an otherwise quiet town and sent shock waves through the state. The public is left at a loss for words.
Wilmington University hopes to take the first steps in eradicating child abuse through education. This fall, the University’s College of Social and Behavioral Science is offering a Child Advocacy Studies certificate (CAST) aimed at anyone seeking to work with children including case workers, teachers, nurses, medical personnel and law enforcement. The certificate will help students recognize the symptoms of child maltreatment, identify intervention strategies and conduct investigative interviews. All the courses are taught by practicing professionals who have significant experience in the field.
Mariann Kenville-Moore, Wilmington University adjunct instructor who teaches the three core CAST courses, is the Director of the Delaware Attorney General’s Victim/Witness Program. She has been at the center of many child abuse cases meeting with parents, law enforcement and medical professionals. Kenville-Moore hopes the CAST courses will illuminate the importance of recognizing the signs of child abuse and early intervention.
“For far too long, the systems established to protect children have intervened after too much trauma has occurred. By educating our professionals of tomorrow about child maltreatment, we can intervene earlier, more effectively and with better outcomes for families and our communities,” Kenville-Moore said. She co-teaches the course Responding and Investigating Child Maltreatment with detective Jacob Andrews, a twelve year veteran of the New Castle County Police Department and an adjunct instructor at Wilmington University.
Andrews has spent over three years investigating physical and sexual assaults against children as part of the Family Services Unit. “The [CAST] courses teach students the principles of child abuse investigation, and awareness of the heinous crimes committed against our children. Children are the most vulnerable of victims, and awareness is the first step in stopping the abuse.”
Wilmington University is among a small group of academic institutions that are offering courses in child abuse recognition and investigation. In fact, the University is only the 17th university in the country to offer a certificate in Child Advocacy Studies. Students, regardless of major, can register for the 15-credit certificate that consists of three core courses and two electives. They will learn everything from understanding the profiles of child abusers to forensic interviewing. This fall, courses will be offered at the New Castle campus, the Georgetown site and the Cumberland, New Jersey site. In the spring courses will be offered in Cumberland, New Castle and Dover.
“This certificate has been two years in the making,” said Johanna Bishop, Director of the Behavioral Science program at Wilmington University. Bishop credits Lori Sitler, Assistant Professor, with bringing the idea for this certificate to Wilmington University. “It is a passion of hers. This certificate will offer our students a cutting edge educational opportunity,” said Bishop. Professor Sitler has many years of professional experience working with crime victims and currently serves as a board member for the Children’s Advocacy Center of Delaware, a non-profit agency that conducts forensic interviews of suspected child abuse victims.
Once given the green light to turn the idea into a reality, Sitler and Kenville-Moore traveled to the National Child Protection Training Center at Winona State University in Minnesota for training. The weeklong training session on “Implementing CAST at Your University” brought together national experts. Returning with fresh ideas Sitler and Bishop went about convincing Wilmington University’s Faculty Senate. Advocates in the community encouraged them. Wrote Randall Williams, Executive Director of Children’s Advocacy Center of Delaware, “I firmly believe Wilmington University has the resources, the vision and the determination to successfully implement and sustain the CAST curriculum. The University has a solid reputation in Delaware and beyond and the professors leading the CAST effort are extremely dedicated to and knowledgeable about the interdisciplinary...response to child abuse.”
In April, Faculty Senate approved the new CAST program. Despite the recent, horrific cases of child abuse in the news, there still remains hope for change. “Delaware law is clear,” said Lori Sitler, Assistant Professor. “All citizens of our State are mandated to report suspected child abuse and neglect. The CAST certificate will help our students recognize and respond to the signs of abuse so that, as professionals in the field and parents in our community, they will be able to intervene appropriately. We can prevent this from happening. Education is key.”
Any person with knowledge of the abuse or neglect of a child should call the Child Abuse and Neglect Report Line at 800-292-9582.
To learn more about the CAST certificate at Wilmington University visit http://www.wilmu.edu/behavioralscience/childadvoc_cert.aspx.