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OCU Begins Child Advocacy Program
OKLAHOMA CITY — A new course at Oklahoma City University helps put advocates onto the frontlines of the battle against child abuse. The Child Advocacy Studies Training program will be offered as an undergraduate minor degree and a certificate course. The interdisciplinary program begins in the fall semester. “Many individuals who respond to and investigate child maltreatment cases do so armed only with the skills they learned on the job,” said Melissa Hakman, OCU psychology professor and one of the designers of the program. “There are not many people in the field with formal training, making this course all the more important.” There aren’t many child advocacy programs in the country, either. When Hakman began assembling her proposal, she found only three other programs in the U.S. The program at OCU is modeled after the Children’s Advocacy Studies Training program at Winona State University in Minnesota. Hakman pointed out the variety of disciplines involved in the coursework, so students with a broad range of career interests will likely find it of interest. Child advocacy encompasses topics drawn from psychology, social sciences, criminology and law. Students studying to become police officers, nurses, teachers or for other careers that work with children may find the program useful. Course topics include professional responses to child maltreatment, global child advocacy issues, sociology of child poverty and more. The minor degree requires 21 hours of courses and the certificate program requires 11 hours. Classes are taught by professionals from multiple disciplines at OCU. Lectures are also given by faculty from the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center on Child Abuse and Neglect as well as other professionals working in the community. Hakman hopes that an additional benefit of offering the program is to increase awareness of the issues. While putting together the proposal for the program, she learned that more than 100,000 children in the state were allegedly abused in 2009, according to the Oklahoma Department of Human Services. And that estimate could be much lower than the actual number, as an independent study found that 65 percent of social workers, 58 percent of physician assistants and 53 percent of physicians did not report all suspected cases of child abuse. “Cases of child abuse need to be reported right away, and taking the proper steps is very important,” Hakman said. “We’ve learned that rates of abuse drop sharply if cases are identified and reported early.” Learn more at www.okcu.edu/childadvocacy