A successful APA program that has been proven to reduce child abuse is now going international. APA’s Parents Raising Safe Kids program, known as ACT, has
expanded to 78 communities in 18 states and now has programs
in Colombia, Brazil, Greece, Japan and Peru, by international
members of APA. ACT leaders are hoping to expand to China in
the next few years.
ACT started in the United States in 2001 as a way to reduce
violence against children by giving parents better tools — emotionally and practically — to deal with common parenting issues.
Research has shown that ACT improves parents’ anger management and prosocial problem-solving, as well as reducing physical
punishment (Journal of Primary Prevention, 2011).
For Nahoko Nishizawa, PsyD, who was part of the team that
launched the first Japanese version of ACT in Yokohama, part of
the program’s effectiveness lies in the fact that it helps parents
think deeply about their own childhoods to change how they
interact with their children.
“Many of the programs in Japan don’t address a person’s
emotions or what they carry from their own childhood,” says
Nishizawa. “[The parents] realize how important that is, to
process your own experiences and the effect of your own
parenting. It’s very powerful.”
Nishizawa, who is a faculty member at the California School
of Professional Psychology at Alliant International University,
says that the preliminary feedback she’s gotten from the parents
on the first pilot program launched in Yokohama has been
overwhelmingly positive. The first official program began in
That enthusiasm may be due to the fact that the ACT program
One benefit of the program is its affordability. The training
is universal and relevant to parents across the globe, says APA’s
Julia da Silva, PhD, who spearheaded the U.S. ACT program and
the international expansion. “The program is for every parent.
In more poor countries, parents don’t have the resources we
have here, or the legislation, the public programs. They’re more
isolated. So, they are grabbing ACT as an opportunity to be part
of something, to connect, and learn to be better parents.”
In the United States, the program has five regional centers that
each year train a total of 2,500 professionals to be ACT facilitators.
These facilitators then take the research-based program curriculum
back to their communities to teach parents the evidence-based
ACT methods in two-hour sessions over eight weeks.
materials cost $90, which includes facilitator training manuals
and the materials for parents.
The program works in much the same way in the other
countries, says da Silva. Professionals from other countries who
wish to become ACT-certified typically come to the United
States for ACT training. Occasionally, she and her colleagues
have traveled to train facilitators in their home countries, as was
the case in da Silva’s home country, Brazil.
ACT may be tailored to fit the conventions and norms of
each country, says da Silva. In Greece, for example, it is often
too taxing financially for facilitators to travel for ACT training
in the United States. So, Pantelis Proios, a mental health
professional who runs Greece’s ACT program, traveled with two
other ACT experts to train would-be facilitators in schools and
community centers nationwide. The program has thrived in
Greece, Proios says, adding that the program is flexible enough
to be used with the parents of kids of any age. “So far it’s worked
very well,” he says. “We’re very optimistic.”
More recently, APA has established a partnership with a
child abuse prevention organization in San Francisco interested
in translating and adapting the program for Chinese-American
parents in the Bay Area. Evaluation results of this pilot program
will guide a future plan to expand the program to China.
Meanwhile, says da Silva, the parents’ stories of growth —
and of how their children are flourishing — are offering happy
endings every day, both internationally and nationally. Recently,
she met a father from Fairfax, Va., whose wife had taken part
in the program, whose gratitude for ACT brought tears to da
Silva’s eyes. “He said to me, ‘I came from an abused family and
didn’t want to do this cycle anymore. So did my wife, but she
didn’t know any other way. I tried to change her for all the years
we’ve been married. But ACT did something I couldn’t, and she
changed. Thank you so much for this.’” n
Alice G. Walton, PhD, is a writer in New York City.
If you’re interested in starting an ACT program in
your community or country, contact ACT director
Julia da Silva at firstname.lastname@example.org.
International ambassadors are tailoring APA’s successful
violence prevention program to suit their countries’ needs.
BY ALICE G. WALTON