Kids in Crisis will continue to expand its nationally-recognized SafeTalk program, offered free of charge to area elementary schools.

SafeTalk, a program produced in conjunction with the International Center for Assault Prevention, teaches children about strangers, bullies and physical assault. Within the last month, five new Fairfield County elementary schools have signed on to the program; bringing to 26 the number of elementary schools and community centers offering SafeTalk to students and their families. The new schools include Hindley School, Ox Ridge School, Pear Tree Point School, and Holmes School in Darien; Cos Cob Elementary School in Greenwich; and Mead School in Stamford.

Kristen Tomasiewicz, associate director of community services at Kids in Crisis and Coordinator of SafeTalk, attributes the rise in interest to the increase in violent or abusive incidents -- particularly bullying and attempted abductions -- and the desire to take a more proactive approach.

SafeTalk is facilitated by Kids in Crisis staff members and trained community volunteers who present a nationally acclaimed curriculum approved by the International Center for Assault Prevention that focuses on empowerment, response, and communication through informational discussions and role plays within the classroom. Kids in Crisis is the only agency in Connecticut licensed by ICAP to deliver the program.

Parents and teachers are also strongly encouraged to attend SafeTalk workshops that educate adults about what their students will hear as well as strategize how to intervene, report and prevent abuse, and how to respond to and communicate with a possible abuse victim. SafeTalk workshops for adults take place prior to the student workshop.

Last year, Kids in Crisis provided 184 SafeTalk presentations to 3,680 students. Each year since the program's inception in 1999, Kids in Crisis has added schools and communities, with 2011 progressing at record pace.

"Unfortunately, children's safety continues to be a great concern," Tomasiewicz said. "But Kids in Crisis is glad to be able to help."

Individuals interested in volunteering for the SafeTalk program should contact Tomasiewicz at ktomasiewicz@kidsincrisis.org.

For more information on SafeTalk, call Kids in Crisis at 203-622-6556.

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