By Sadie Hunter
Since volunteering and becoming part of the staff at Chaucie’s Place in Hamilton Co., an advocacy organization that works to prevent child sexual abuse and suicide, Lisa Ridder has educated tens of thousands of kids.
On Jan. 12, Ridder was named director of the organization’s Smart Steps program, a program that teaches body safety to elementary-age kids in schools and child care facilities all over the state. She is now working in her fourth school year educating students. In November, she celebrated her third anniversary working at Chaucie’s Place.
“Pretty much how I spend most of my days is traveling around to the different schools,” Ridder said. “I usually visit one school a day, and I have a phenomenal team of volunteers … They’re trained volunteers that meet me at the school, and we give presentations to children in their classroom.”
The program takes place in kindergarten, second grade and fourth grade classrooms. Once the presentation is over, students have the opportunity to ask questions. In the fourth grade rooms, students are asked to fill out a talk slip.
“Basically, it just asks them a question. They have to check the answer that best describes them, like, ‘Yes, I have been touched on a private part,’ or, ‘No, I have not.’ Then the (school) counselor and I, based on who says yes, will visit with those children one-on-one to have an easy conversation to figure out exactly what’s going on. Based on those conversations, we either make a report to (the Dept. of Child Services), or we don’t. Last year we made 10 reports to DCS. It’s probably going to be double that this year.”
Already in this school year, Ridder said 12 reports have been made to DCS. In the 2014-15 school year, the program was presented to nearly 19,000 kids, a 17 percent increase over the previous year. Ridder said the program will easily reach 20,000 this year, as they teach it in 92 elementary schools and childcare facilities.
“The program not only impacts children directly, but also their friends and their siblings and anybody they’re going to share their knowledge with. If you can teach one child and stop it with one child, think of the ripple effect it has,” Ridder said. “The program teaches child sexual abuse, but it also gives children a voice, which a lot of times they don’t realize they have. It empowers them to say no to unwanted touches, especially from someone they know, love and trust. Ninety percent of the time, it’s someone they know. An educated child will know from the first inappropriate touch that it’s wrong, and they need to tell somebody. I fully believe that.”
All public Hamilton Co. school districts, including Noblesville Schools, along with Our Lady of Grace in Noblesville participate in the program. New this year, Noblesville Schools began offering the program to Kindergarten classes and previously had the program in second and fourth grade.
Ridder said the education often transcends to teachers and parents as well, giving them an open door to be able to discuss the otherwise touchy subject with their children. Before going into a district to teach the 25-minute program to classrooms each year, Ridder and volunteers hold a parent night. For adults, Chaucie’s Place offers Stewards of Children training, teaching adults how to discuss child sexual abuse and react to a child’s disclosure of information. At Noblesville Schools, all educators go through the Stewards of Children training.
For more, visit www.chauciesplace.org.
Meet Lisa Ridder
Family: Husband, Kurt, and daughters, Kate and Hope, both students at Our Lady of Grace Catholic School.
Background: Worked in sales and marketing before Chaucie’s Place. Previously lived in California before moving to Indiana. Has lived in Hamilton Co. since 1998.
Career at Chaucie’s Place: “I started off as just a general volunteer (in 2012). I liked what they were doing. I liked that they were on the prevention education side of it. I honestly wasn’t even looking for a job … but then there was an opening for a prevention education coordinator. That first year, we reached 10,500.” Ridder is now the director of the Smart Steps program.