When they joined to create Child Abuse Prevention Services in 1982, the Junior League of Long Island and the National Council of Jewish Women chose Alane Fagin to be the first executive director of the organization. Thirty-four years later, Fagin has maintained her position as executive director and continues to work to educate Long Island children through workshops on abuse prevention and emotional and physical safety.
“In many ways, I have to say that this has been my life’s work,” said Fagin. “It’s been an incredible experience working with schools and the community on keeping kids safe.”
Child Abuse Prevention Services (CAPS) is a small nonprofit organization based in Roslyn that aims to educate Long Island students from kindergarten to grade 12 on online safety and prevention of bullying, child abuse, sexual harassment and date rape. CAPS recruits volunteers from across Long Island and provides them with training in conducting workshops in Long Island schools.
“When we first started, we were working primarily with high schools and offered programs on child abuse prevention,” Fagin said. “In the early ’80s, child abuse was not discussed publicly, especially not in schools, so we wanted to provide students with information on child abuse so that if they were being abused without realizing it, they could get help before they became parents.”
With only six staff members, CAPS is largely volunteer based. Today, the organization has recruited around 130 volunteers across Long Island.
Instead of solely focusing on child abuse, CAPS staff members developed additional programs after realizing that abuse takes place in many forms, Fagin said. This is the point when programs promoting bullying prevention, online safety, date rape prevention and sexual harassment education were created, with each program targeting different grade levels.
After the volunteers are trained, they are sent to schools where they conduct workshops in for small groups.
“The students are much more open in these situations to a friendly stranger, as we volunteers are, than to an adult they have a close relationship with because they know that we are professionals steering them toward help,” said a volunteer, Teddy Emmanuel. “Many kids will quietly pull you aside saying that these things have happened and ask for guidance on what to do.”
Workshops can last one to three days, and CAPS provides schools that participate in the workshops with all educational materials. CAPS programs, since the inception of the organization, have been free. This year, CAPS instituted a membership program, but after a nominal fee of $250, there is no further cost for participating schools. CAPS has been used in around 150 to 200 Long Island schools and reaches about 1,000 classrooms per year.
Fagin said that many schools contact CAPS every year, inviting the group back to conduct workshops.
“The fact that we are institutionalized, so to speak, in these schools speaks volumes to the success of the program,” Fagin added.
The demand for CAPS workshops has become so great that more volunteers are needed.
“Even though 130 volunteers seems like a lot – because of the range of programs, the different age groups and the vast area we cover, we need a lot more volunteers,” Fagin said.
In addition to the school workshops and volunteer training, CAPS also holds staff development training for educators, school administrators and social workers, as well as many other types of professionals.
In 2010, CAPS launched a bullying prevention center, which includes the CAPS Bully Helpline, available on the group’s website, capsli.org. Fagin said that those who use this helpline are children or parents of children who have been seriously bullied in school or online and are looking for guidance. The emails sent to the helpline are answered by professionals that walk the students and parents through the steps necessary to solve the issue.
Fagin said, “To know that this organization has such a positive impact on keeping kids safe at home, in school, online and in the community makes this work worthwhile.”