Penn State Shenango hosts child abuse prevention program on campus

Two people stand in front of a classroom full of students and faculty members

Mercer County Behavioral Health Commission Children's Specialist and Forensic Interviewer Derek Stotsky, along with Mercer County Children and Youth Services Associate Director Maggie Saxe, provide training to Penn State Shenango HDFS students.

Credit: Liz Izenas

SHARON, Pa. — Penn State Shenango’s Human Development and Family Studies (HDFS) department, in conjunction with the Mercer County Children’s Advocacy Center and the Mercer County Behavioral Health Commission, recently hosted Stewards of Children, an evidence-informed, child abuse prevention program, on the local Penn State campus.

The two-hour training session, facilitated by Derek Stotsky, a Children’s Specialist and Forensic Interviewer, teaches adults how to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to child sexual abuse. The program was offered during the campus’ HDFS 412 course, Adult-Child Relationships.

“When approached to host, it was evident that this training could benefit our students by increasing their confidence in knowing how to prevent sexual abuse and react skillfully should it occur,” said Roxanne Atterholt, instructor and baccalaureate program coordinator for HDFS. “It is the goal of our department to continue this collaboration not only to educate our students, but to offer community members access to these courses, as well.”

According to information from Stewards of Children, child sexual abuse likely is the most prevalent health problem children face, with the most serious array of consequences, and 1 in 10 children will experience sexual abuse before their 18th birthday.

“Child sexual abuse is difficult for many of us to discuss openly,” said Stotsky. “Not only is it a painful topic, but societal taboos about human sexuality have also gotten in the way of our dealing directly with the problem. Our mission with the Stewards of Children program is to end child sexual abuse by educating and empowering adults in education, youth serving organizations, and communities to protect children.”

“The Stewards of Children program gave our students unique insight into the long-term effects of this type of childhood trauma and how important adults are to protecting children from abuse,” said Alice Long, HDFS faculty member and instructor of the Adult-Child Relationships class. “Knowledge like this is essential for our students and gives them an edge when they seek employment as HDFS professionals. I gained a lot from the program, and several of the students who attended have told me how much they appreciated it and would like to have similar opportunities in the future.”

For more information about Penn State Shenango’s HDFS program, contact Roxanne Atterholt at 724-983-2953. To learn more about Stewards of Children, visit