Frequently Asked Questions about Personal Safety Education:

Position Letter on Personal Safety Education

Parental Notification for Personal Safety Programs in School Settings

Sunflower House believes that parents are the primary educators of their children and respect the wide range of beliefs on how to best educate them.  Sunflower House partners with public and parochial schools, and schools partner with parents to provide sexual abuse safety education, including the Happy Bear Play for 4-7 year olds and Internet Safety for older children.
We believe it is the adults’ responsibility to protect children, but we also know that adults cannot be with them at all times.  We view teaching children how to protect themselves from sexual abuse to be one part of a comprehensive safety curriculum, just as fire, tornado, bullying and intruder drills teach skills to protect them from the dangers of our world.
In the book soon to be published in the section entitled “Overview of Children’s Advocacy Center Prevention Programs Supported by Research” it states the following:
“Most child abuse prevention programs are delivered in school settings, because this environment allows child abuse prevention personnel to reach large groups of children in a non-threatening environment. It is important to actively involve teachers, counselors, school staff, and administrators in child abuse prevention efforts, so that they can create a “child abuse safety zone.”  Children are more likely to report incidents of victimization to school authorities than to the police or medical authorities (Finkelhor, Ormrod, Turner, & Hamby, 2012).
The Happy Bear play, using a bear mascot to teach children to recognize, resist and report unwelcome touch was created by the Johnson County Coalition for the Prevention of Child Abuse and has been available to area schools and early education centers for over three decades.  The play is research-based and is regularly updated based on the most recent studies on child safety.
Sunflower House fully supports parental notification prior to personal safety education programs in the school setting.  To assist, Sunflower House provides the school with a sample letter and materials and requests that these be distributed before Happy Bear visits.   Most schools also provide information on their website and newsletters.  These materials inform parents on the topics discussed, statistics, a preview of the material, frequently asked questions (found at, and a handout “What to do if a child tells you about abuse”.  A video of the entire Happy Bear play can be found on Sunflower House’s website.  Parents are encouraged to contact their school or Sunflower House staff with additional questions or concerns.  We also offer a parent meeting, if desired, prior to a Happy Bear play, and are always open to parents attending the Happy Bear play or other classes offered older children.
We trust our education partners to know their parents and how best to communicate with them.  We respect parental decisions to opt their child out but do not encourage requiring prior written approval because we know that for over 60% of the children we interview at Sunflower House the alleged perpetrator was a family member.  Some schools require written permission, but most inform parents and do not require it for this reason.


Taken from the upcoming book by the CDC, section entitled: Overview of CAC Prevention Programs Supported by Research;

One criticism of school-based programs has been that these programs may have unintended negative consequences, such as anxiety or distrust of adults, but research has not validated this concern (Finkelhor, 2007, 2009). Many researchers and practitioners have stressed that it is inappropriate to place the responsibility for preventing child abuse on children and urged more involvement with child abuse prevention programs from educators, caregivers, volunteers and staff at youth serving organizations, as well as parents (Finkelhor, 2007, 2009; Wurtele & Kenny, 2012). Regardless of the criticisms which have been aimed at school-based programs over the last few decades, studies have shown that children do acquire the key concepts being taught; and these programs do result in increased disclosure and less self-blame by victims, which results in better mental health outcomes (Finkelhor, 2005, 2007, 2009). We must also consider the long-term impact of increasing individual knowledge of child abuse issues, so that future generations of adults will have a greater appreciation for the impact of child abuse and their role in helping protect all children.  Finkelhor and Daro (1997) reported the benefit of exposing children to the content in typical child sexual abuse prevention programs generally outweighs the potential for harm, and this opinion has not been refuted (Daro, 2011; Finkelhor, 2007; Topping & Barron, 2009).


Why is it important to include the names of the private parts? 

(1) Children must understand that it is “OK” to say these words when talking about safety. Some children have been taught that talking about private parts is “bad” or dirty.” This may hinder them from making a disclosure for fear of punishment for using “bad” words.


(2) Although each family may use different names to label the private parts of the body, children should learn one name that is universally understood if the child needs to ask for help. In some instances, a child’s initial disclosure is ignored when the child cannot communicate the details about the touching when he/she doesn’t have the proper language.


From Preventing Child Sexual Abuse: Sharing the Responsibility 

“We strongly encourage teaching children the names of all their body parts, including genitals. For ease of discussion, these parts can then be referred to collectively as ‘private parts.’” Happy Bear practices this philosophy.


How do parents feel about the use of anatomical terms? 

(1) In a national survey of parents of children participating in personal safety/child sexual abuse prevention programs, 85% of respondents agreed that children need to be taught the correct names of their genitals.

(2) Parents should, however, be provided with the rationale for use of these terms when their children will participate in such a program. This rationale is discussed during the Parent Meeting prior to the play.


What about Sexual Development Problems?

“There has been no research to address fully the concern about negative sexual development. However, some research has shown that program-exposed children do have more correct terminology for and positive feelings about their genitalia. Another study did not find any increase in sexual problems among adults who were exposed to prevention programs during childhood. However, prevention-education programs are not sexual education programs, and they typically have minimal discussions about sexuality of adults or children.” (Finkelhor 2007)



Finkelhor PhD, David. (2007). Prevention of Sexual Abuse Through Educational Programs Directed Toward Children. Copyright by American Academy of Pediatrics.


Wurtele, S., & Miller-Perrin, C. (1992). Prevention of child sexual abuse: Sharing the responsibility. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. ISBN 0-8032-4753-2


Conte, J.R. & Fogarty. (1989). Attitudes on sexual abuse prevention programs: A national survey of parents. School of Social Work-University of Washington, Seattle, WA. 


What is the recommended age for personal safety education?

Taken from; A Resource for Communities When Choosing A Program to Teach Personal Safety to Children from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children


Programs to reduce child victimization have the strongest effect on children who are in elementary school or younger. A study of children in kindergarten through second grade who participated in a prevention program found that the children would tell a responsible adult if they were victimized, both when forced and told by the offender to keep the encounter a secret. A study of preschool-aged children found that students in the prevention program demonstrated significantly greater knowledge and higher levels of personal-safety skills after the program than children who were not in the program.


Downloadable List of Education Resources (English & Español)  Open/download

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As a Matter of Fact: The Relationship Between Child Maltreatment and Academic Achievement
As a Matter of Fact: The Relationship Between Child Maltreatment and Adult Health
As a Matter of Fact: The Relationship Between Child Maltreatment and Child/Adolescent Well-Being


For further assistance, please call our Education Director at 913-631-5800.

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