Fredonia launches Child Advocacy Studies certificate program

Roger Coda
students with teacher

A new Advanced Certificate in Child Advocacy Studies (CAST), designed to better prepare educators and other professionals to respond to child maltreatment, has been approved for Fredonia.

Fredonia anticipates enrolling its first students in Child Advocacy Studies during the Summer of 2021. Admission requirements include a master's degree or current enrollment in a master's degree program.

Child Advocacy Studies is uniquely housed in Fredonia’s College of Education to better serve educators who, as front-line professionals, are the most frequent source of reports of suspected maltreatment of children. Child Advocacy Studies programs at other schools are typically found in social work, psychology or another academic department.

Interim Dean of the College of Education Anna Thibodeau indicated the program is designed to address an unmet need in the educational system.

College of Education faculty members Drs. Laura Geraci and Carrie Fitzgerald developed the 16-credit, five-course program over a three-year period. They say it addresses a chronic need, expressed by professionals, for training that goes beyond what’s traditionally offered in a limited child abuse course taken by teacher candidates. 

“We both taught the child abuse one-credit course and felt we never had enough time. The students were very engaged, but they wanted more information. They really want to know how to deal with children who experience trauma,” Associate Professor Fitzgerald explained.

Approval of the new Fredonia CAST program, which is part of the Open SUNY online degree curriculum, coincides with recent passage in New York of Erin’s Law, Associate Professor Geraci said. Erin’s Law requires public schools to teach practical and age-appropriate instruction in preventing child sexual abuse and exploitation to students from kindergarten through eighth grade.

The mission of Child Advocacy Studies is to educate professionals who respond to child maltreatment to provide ethically, culturally sensitive services, to demonstrate interdisciplinary collaboration and to manage cases competently. Educators, law enforcement, nurses and others who work with maltreated children often have minimal education in child protection. 

Fredonia’s Child Advocacy Studies curriculum, taught exclusively online over a 12-month period, consists of five courses: CAST 501 Child Maltreatment: Perspectives on Child Maltreatment and Advocacy; CAST 502 Global Child Advocacy; CAST 503 Professional and System Responses to Maltreatment; CAST 504 Trauma-Informed Practices with Vulnerable Populations and CAST 505 Child Advocacy Research Studies.

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