As a welfare consultant in Carolina, Puerto Rico, psychologist Shiara Francisquini-Oquendo, PsyD, saw child abuse and domestic violence almost daily. To
learn ways to curb such violence, she traveled to Miami last
October to train to be a facilitator for the Adults and Children
Together Against Violence (ACT) Parents Raising Safe Kids
program. The violence prevention program, developed by
APA and the National Association for the Education of Young
Children in 2001, teaches families and communities how to
create safe, nonviolent environments for children.
“I wanted to give our low-income families some strategies
to better discipline their kids,” says Francisquini-Oquendo.
“I wanted something that would protect the children from
violence and also help the parents set a good example.”
Francisquini-Oquendo found what she was looking for
through ACT. She learned parenting skills, positive discipline
strategies and ways to protect children from media violence that
she is now passing on to parents in Puerto Rico through eight
weeks of two-hour classes.
Since her training, Francisquini-Oquendo has taught four
groups of 25 parents each. Her classes have been a success so far,
with graduates returning to speak about how well the parenting
strategies work at home and spreading the word in their
in Brazil and psychologists there are now planning to translate
the ACT materials into Portuguese and kick-start the program.
Meanwhile, Colombian psychologist Maria Clara Cuevas, PhD,
of the University of Valle, brought two U.S. ACT experts to Cali
to train facilitators in July, and psychologists at the University
of San Martín de Porres in Lima, Peru, will begin hosting
ACT trainings and parenting groups this year. Psychologists in
Cyprus and Guatemala are interested in introducing the violence
prevention program in their countries as well, says Silva.
The program appeals to a broad range of cultures because it
uses a universal curriculum that is non-judgmental, and is for
parents from all backgrounds regardless of their level of risk for
maltreatment. In addition, the program is inexpensive and easy
to implement, Silva says.
“ACT is not just about child abuse,” says Silva. “It’s for
anyone who wants to learn more about the most effective
ways of raising children. We want to help build strong and safe
Plus, research shows it works. Last year, an independent
evaluation of the program in the United States conducted by
researchers at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte
found that ACT improved parenting skills and reduced the use
of harsh verbal and physical discipline.
communities, she says.
“These [parents] feel like they aren’t alone in facing the
Families around the globe may soon reap the benefits of
ACT, says Silva. “ACT is a universal, much-needed program.” n
challenges of raising their children in communities with high
violence rates,” she says.
For more information on ACT Parents Raising Safe Kids,
ACT has also taken off in Greece, where psychologist Pantelis
Proios introduced the program in 2007 through a partnership
with the Association of Greek Psychologists.
He and three colleagues trained as facilitators
at an ACT workshop in Washington, D.C.,
then spent months translating ACT’s
educational materials into Greek. They have
since presented dozens of violence prevention
seminars to parents, teachers and mental health
professionals throughout the country.
“There is constant demand for longer
seminars and more seminars,” says Proios.
“Domestic violence is a very big issue here
right now, and so is the effect of media on
In addition to running trainings in Greece,
Proios and colleague Artemis Giotsa, PhD,
presented ACT’s teachings at the International
Conference on Psychology in Bulgaria, where
colleagues from Italy, Romania and Bulgaria
expressed an interest in getting training to be
able to teach ACT courses.
Now, ACT is primed to expand to several
more countries, says Julia M. Silva, who directs
the APA’s Violence Prevention Office. Last
October, she presented on ACT at a conference
Want to launch
The American Psychological
psychologists who study
violence to apply for one
of its Visionary Grants,
which support original
education and intervention
projects on the topic. For
more information, go to the
Visionary and Drs. Raymond
A. and Rosalee G. Weiss
Research and Program
Innovation Fund Grants Web
page at www.apa.org/apf/
Dr. Corinne Datchi-Phillips used her
2011 APF Violence Prevention and
Intervention Grant to adapt a successful rehabilitation program for juvenile
violent offenders to enable them to
improve relationships with their families and transition back into society.