The Gettysburg Times: Local prevention educator named Blue Ribbon Champion for Safe Kids

An Adams County child abuse prevention educator was recently recognized with a Blue Ribbon Champion for Safe Kids Award by the Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance (PFSA).

Crystal Long, a forensic interviewer and the sole child abuse prevention educator from the Adams County Children’s Advocacy Center (ACCAC), was among four recipients who received the honor at a ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda in Harrisburg on April 2.

Long said she was “in complete shock” when she learned she was one of the award recipients.

“This is the most meaningful award that I could have ever received in my career,” Long said.

Working with children and families in various ways for more than a decade including about five years in her current role, Long said she has “never been recognized.”

“It is a significant accomplishment for me. It highlights the importance of the work I do every day and reinforces that child abuse prevention education is necessary,” Long said. “It’s also valuable to children and to our community by empowering kids with the tools to help keep them safe and to know how to speak up by raising awareness to help reduce child abuse.”

Angela Liddle, president and chief executive officer of PFSA, credited Long’s prevention work in keeping many Adams County families safe.

“She has a heart for children and works every day to ensure that they, and the adults around them, receive the educational services needed to prevent and stop abuse,” Liddle said in a PFSA press release. “She is the embodiment of how community educators truly make a difference in the lives of others.”

Long has provided prevention education to over 4,500 Adams County children from kindergarten through sixth grade this current school year, she said.

Through her job, Long has learned how “children are not responsible for keeping themselves safe from abuse. Adults are responsible.”

Long said she utilizes programs from the Monique Burr Foundation, which is “age and developmentally appropriate.”

While evidence-based and trauma-informed programming has given her confidence during presentations, the most difficult part of the job is when a child or multiple children approach her afterwards to disclose something has happened to them, she said.

The ACCAC has “a 360-degree approach toward the goal of ending child abuse in our community,” according to Long.

That approach includes multiple pieces to the puzzle, with prevention education for Adams County schools, pre-kindergarten and daycare programs, community education for Adams County children and families, and collaboration among the multi-disciplinary investigative team and other organizations dedicated to children and families, Long said.

Additionally, the ACCAC’s approach also supports the child and families through “forensic interviews, medical exams, family advocacy, service referrals, court accompaniment, and translation services” as well as mental health therapy with “free in-house trauma therapy and psychoeducational support groups for girls and adult survivors,” added Long.

In 2023, Long said the ACCAC provided intensive support to 225 child victims.

Elida Murray, ACCAC executive director, said the Blue Ribbon Champion for Safe Kids Award “recognizes and validates all the work” Long has done in child abuse prevention.

“She is the sole educator that goes to all our schools,” Murray said. “She is absolutely devoted to doing that work and is a forensic interviewer for us.”

Murray said she believes children respond to Long’s “kind” and “generous spirit.”

“As a small advocacy center, we are really proud we are able to do this level of work and this community is so supportive of us to do that work,” Murray said, adding that April is Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Month.

Three factors have kept Long going in the field, including her passion for educating children, the investment by the schools, pre-kindergarten and daycare programs, and the supportive environment provided by the ACCAC, she said.

“I love working with and teaching kids. I feel I found my niche in teaching prevention education,” Long said. “I have a purpose and it’s meaningful.”

Early on, Long originally studied to be a school teacher in college, but learned it wasn’t for her.

Instead, she chose to go into social work because she sought to help children and families.

Through prevention education, Long said she found “the perfect balance” with teaching kids and helping families.

Lincoln Elementary School Counselor Amanda Staub said she witnessed Long’s “effectiveness as a prevention educator” through her job and as a community member.

“When a simple sticker on a chair in the playroom of my basement sparks safety conversations and uniform language among my own children and their friends from other schools, that is how you truly know that what she does for our community is so powerful and effective,” Staub said.

Staub said she was “delighted” to hear of Long’s recent recognition.

“She truly deserves to be honored for her dedication to the children of our community and I am so honored to have the privilege of collaborating with her through the school,” added Staub.

Conewago Township Elementary School Counselor Lisa Miller noted how Long adapted her lessons during the pandemic while utilizing the video-conferencing platform, Zoom, to ensure the information was still reaching students.

“This program could easily be the only access to this education, making her an asset to our children and families,” Miller said.

From The Gettysburg Times, April 17, 2024

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