Research & Articles: History of the Child Lures School Program
History of Child Lures Prevention's
Think First & Stay Safe School Program
Prior to obtaining a teaching degree, Child Lures Prevention founder Ken Wooden classified fingerprints for the New Jersey State Police. Every Thursday afternoon, two colleagues joined him in checking the prints of school bus driver applicants. Wooden was appalled that each week, 10-20 of those applicants proved to be convicted child molesters.
Twenty years later, while assisting CBS News 60 Minutes on a story about child pornography, Wooden uncovered a seedy newsletter created and distributed by PIE (Pedophile Information Exchange.) The father of three young daughters, he read in disbelief a front-page column entitled, "Lure of the Month." Soap crayons were the topic: how children love them, how they are an effective and inexpensive way to get kids to undress themselves, and so forth.
Blending his investigative reporter instincts and training as a high school social studies teacher, Ken researched what was being done in schools, communities, and homes to combat crimes against children. He was dismayed at the utter lack of prevention efforts. The limited available educational resources, while well meaning, were fundamentally and dangerously flawed. Most involved the archaic Stranger-Danger approach.
There are few of us, young or old, whose parents didn't warn, "Never talk to strangers." For generations, that safety slogan has fed the imagination of youngsters, conjuring up the perception that strangers are scary monster types who prey on children. This misguided safety advice leaves kids defenseless in the real world where youngsters are far more likely to be abused by people known to them - and where sexual predators often act friendly and engaging.
Ken Wooden sought to create a relevant and effective prevention program. While lecturing at colleges and universities on his first book, Weeping in the Playtime of Others, Ken visited over a thousand convicted child molesters, abductors, and murderers in local prisons. Forcing himself to listen carefully to the response of these 'experts,' he asked them, "How? How did you get the child to trust you? To go with you? To keep quiet? How did you LURE them into abuse/abduction/murder? And, more important, how could the child have eluded you?"
After ten years of research, Wooden began to transform that raw information into a program to safeguard children. He collaborated with colleagues (and daughters) Rosemary Webb and Jennifer Mitchell to create Child Lures Prevention's Think First & Stay Safe School Program.
Where best to teach the Think First & Stay Safe School Program? Ken's background in education furnished the logical answer: the schools. Schools provide a natural forum where kids regularly meet in a safe place with caring staff. There, children who are being abused and neglected at home can also be reached. Furthermore, childhood sexual abuse is one of the leading causes of learning and behavioral difficulties among youngsters today. Its prevention helps to ensure that students are ready, willing and able to learn.
Statistics clearly document the vast scope of childhood sexual exploitation: 44,320 known child predators in prisons; 168,000 on parole; perpetrators averaging 143 victims. Why did Ken Wooden, Rosemary Webb and Jennifer Mitchell create the Think First & Stay Safe School Program? Because all those young lives, lost in a mountain of national statistics, have a story etched in sadness, betrayal, and tragedy. They did it because education is power, and they know that this program can save countless children and their families from pain and heartache.
Crimes against children, especially sexual crimes, are not easy to face. We as a society, however, are obligated to prevent them. Indeed, when it comes to protecting children, the school and community is ultimately the last line of defense.
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