Abstract: Disrupting Child Abuse: Engaging Social Workers As Change Agents to Advance School-Based Prevention Programs (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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237P Disrupting Child Abuse: Engaging Social Workers As Change Agents to Advance School-Based Prevention Programs

Tuesday, January 19, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Marisol Diaz, JD, Research Analyst, Southwest Interdisciplinary Research Center at Arizona State University, Phoenix, AZ
Wendy Wolfersteig, PhD, Director, Arizona State University, Phoenix, AZ
Background/Purpose: In the fight against child maltreatment, it is imperative to increase the application of evidence-based prevention practices. School-based programs are effective and offer promising outcomes yet there is a need for more rigorous research on community-designed programs as there are often limitations in comparing across populations and programs. In this 5-year study, Childhelp along with the Southwest Interdisciplinary Research Center (SIRC) at Arizona State University, worked attentively to test the efficacy of the Speak Up Be Safe (SUBS) Curriculum. SIRC strategically collaborated with the social workers at a large and diverse school district (District) in the Southwest to help with the pilot study, curriculum revisions, and randomized controlled trial (RCT). Due to the lack of structure and diverse nature of people and organizations that develop curricula, often designers and teachers have few conversations with one another. SIRC engaged the social workers before, during, and after the study to capture knowledge that is essential to adapting and strengthening school-based programs. This partnership fostered positive outcomes for both the RCT, which produced statistically significant results, and the District, which hired more social workers accordingly after the study, going from ten to nineteen in one year.

Methods: The social workers were trained online per the delivery and nature of the SUBS curriculum and SIRC staff conducted training on how to administer the surveys for both the pilot and RCT. The District consists of 19 schools (3 were selected for the pilot, 13 were randomly assigned for the RCT) and the demographics of the RCT sample were 90% minority and 80% qualified for the free/reduced lunch. After the pilot and prior to the RCT, the social workers provided focus group feedback on the challenges per pilot and curriculum implementation. These comments were incorporated into the revised lessons and surveys. The RCT employed a pre- post- and six-month follow-up design for kindergarten to eighth grade students (n = 2,797). The control schools were provided the curriculum free of charge the following year.

Results: RCT results demonstrated that the intervention group, compared to the control group had statistically significant differences in safety knowledge scores between groups by grade level at the time of follow-up. These positive findings demonstrate that the curriculum is suited for a diverse student body, and can be effective as a universal prevention program. Further results confirm that facilitator engagement and pre-implementation discussions to review protocols in the event of a disclosure are essential. Engaging the social workers made it much easier to recruit and retain research participants, as well as discuss suggestions on how to make the proposed intervention easier to implement and sustain.

Conclusions/Implications: This study furthers the contribution and need for high-quality child abuse prevention curricula and advances promoting best practices in conducting a community-based RCT. Furthermore, in terms of real world impact, the social workers found value in teaching the lessons to help normalizing the conversation around uncomfortable topics, as well as becoming a safe adult for many students needing to disclose.