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How the Memphis Child Advocacy Center is working to prevent child sexual abuse and raise awareness of red flags

The 'Stewards of Children' course is also recommended for those leading youth-based organizations, with reminders of specific child protection recommendations.

MEMPHIS, Tennessee — Once it was over, Rickey Johnson became a believer.

"It would amaze you to know how two hours of your time, two hours of your day, could protect and help a child for the rest of their life," Johnson said.

He's talking about the 'Stewards of Children' child sexual abuse prevention training course, led by those at the Memphis Child Advocacy Center.

"It deters predatory behavior from the jump. It allows employees to familiarize themselves with certain things of what child abuse looks like, how to report it," Johnson said.

The Porter-Leath HR retention specialist said the course is a requirement for all 700 of its local workers, including teachers.

"A lot of people in the community entrust our children to us, so it's very important that child is protected while in our protection," Johnson said.

The training is currently offered on Zoom but will return soon in-person. It outlines how parents can recognize and prevent child sexual abuse and pick up on certain red flags.

"One thing is a child who is unwilling or scared to go somewhere where they used to spend time - that may be a neighbor's house, that may be an after-school program," Memphis Child Advocacy Center Executive Director Virginia Stallworth said.

Stallworth added the course is especially valuable for those in youth-serving organizations.

"Most of those folks are doing it for the right reason, but some of them are using it for access to children," Stallworth said.

The training also reminds parents of the importance of requiring background checks and screenings and banning certain interactions involving kids.

"We know that 80% of child sexual abuse incidents happens in a one adult, one child scenarios," Stallworth said.

To date, 27,000 people completed the training locally, inching closer to the Memphis Child Advocacy Center's goal of 35,000 countywide.

For additional information on how to participate in an upcoming Stewards of Children course or additional resources, click HERE.