About the ACT Raising Safe Kids Program
The ACT program was developed and is coordinated by the Violence Prevention Office (VPO) of the American Psychological Association (APA). In operation since 2001, the program underwent major redesign and review of its materials in 2006.
The program is based on research showing that:
- The early years are a critical time in development when children are learning basic skills that have long-term effects on their lives.
- Exposure to adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), such as maltreatment, can have serious and long-standing impacts on brain development, emotional, cognitive, behavioral development and on health.
- Parents and caregivers are teachers, protectors and advocates for their children.
The ACT program is an early prevention intervention focusing on parents and caregivers of young children. Its purpose is to teach positive parenting skills and practices that help create stable, safe, healthy, nurturing environments and relationships that protect children from adverse experiences such as abuse and neglect and their lifelong consequences.
Recognition of Program Effectiveness
The program is rated by the California Evidence Base Clearinghouse as having “Promising Research Evidence”; listed as effective for parent skills training by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services/Head Start Office in the “Compendium of Parenting Interventions”, as a program that has evidence to help parents; and listed by World Health Organization as one of only three parenting programs in the “Handbook for Parenting Programmes” and by the CDC Division of Violence Prevention
Strengths of the ACT Program
- Has universal approach and can be administered to groups of parents and caregivers from all backgrounds regardless of their level of risk as abusers.
- Has the flexibility to be hosted by a variety of institutions in an efficient and cost-effective manner.
- Is affordable and easy to implement.
- Can be integrated into an organization’s existing interventions and services for parents.
- Can complement interventions focusing on bullying prevention, and intimate partner violence, and can be integrated into wider community-based efforts to prevent violence.
- Has a strong evidence base demonstrating the program effectiveness. Major outcomes include improving positive parenting skills, reducing coercive, harsh, negative parenting practices, increasing positive, nurturing parenting, increasing parental control and regulation of their emotions and reducing children’s conduct problems and bullying.
ACT Program Delivery
The program achieves its goal through:
- Partnerships with a variety of organizations in the United States and overseas such as social service and mental health providers, hospitals, childcare centers, schools, universities and churches.
- Engagement of trained and certified professionals (social workers, nurses, early educators, psychologists, teachers, counselors), coordinators/master trainers and Facilitators to deliver the program curriculum to groups of parents and caregivers in a variety of settings.
ACT coordinators/master trainers are professionals with an advanced degree (MS, MSW, MFT, LPC, RN, MA, MD, PhD, PsyD) in fields such as mental health and counseling, social work, education, school administration, nursing, health or primary care and/or have longstanding experience in conducting training for professionals and program management. The ACT coordinators/master trainers are responsible for organizing and conducting the two-day workshops in their communities or states to train and certify ACT facilitators – those who will conduct the parenting program groups. They attend invitational-only online training provided by the APA Violence Prevention Office once a year.
ACT facilitators are professionals with a minimum of an associate degree, but a bachelor’s degree from fields such as psychology, social work, counseling, health care, nursing and education, early education, among others, is preferred. Previous experience conducting classes for groups of adults and class-management skills is expected. They are responsible for organizing and conducting the ACT program nine sessions/classes for groups of parents and caregivers of young children. They are trained at two-day workshops conducted by ACT coordinators/master trainers in various sites throughout the U.S. and overseas.