Child Advocacy Studies (CAST)

About This Program

Target Population: Undergraduate/graduate students and frontline professionals seeking continuing education

Program Overview

CAST focuses on developing students’ understanding of the factors that lead to child maltreatment and the existing responses to incidents of child abuse and neglect, so they work more effectively within multiple systems and institutions that respond to these situations. Students learn about the various professional responses to child maltreatment and develop a multidisciplinary understanding of the most effective responses. Learners completing the courses in this program will be better equipped to carry out the work of different agencies and systems (e.g., healthcare, criminal justice, social services) as they advocate on behalf of the needs of children as victims and survivors of child abuse.

Program Goals

The goals of CAST are:

  • Recognize child maltreatment.
  • Identify existing prevention/intervention systems and supports.
  • Develop effective multidisciplinary responses.
  • Foster resilience for a long-term career.
  • Establish better outcomes for at-risk or maltreated children.

Logic Model

View the Logic Model for Child Advocacy Studies (CAST).

Essential Components

The essential components of CAST include:

  • Enrollment in the following:
    • Perspectives on Child Maltreatment & Advocacy+
    • Professional & Systemic Responses to Child Maltreatment
    • Responding to the Survivor of Child Abuse*
      • +This course is the minimum offering to be delivered for an institution or program to be considered as a CAST implemented entity.
        *This course may, alternatively, be replaced with Global Child Advocacy Issues.

  • CAST coursework consisting of:
    • Lectures and guest presentations covering best practices in the field of child maltreatment prevention and intervention
    • Preprogram-postprogram assessment to determine knowledge/competency growth potential
    • Assessments tethered to short-term mastery of subject matter
    • Research-based capstone or internship opportunities to place student into the field for professional exposure to career pathway of their choosing in a child-serving system
  • Delivery occurring with medium-sized classes (~30 students per cohort)
  • Experiential learning that may entail mock activities including but not limited to:
    • Home inspection/walkthrough
    • Evidence collection; corroborating evidence evaluation and prioritization
    • Multidisciplinary team (MDT) investigation
    • Communications with victims, non-offending caregivers (e.g., interviews)
    • Interrogation of potential suspects
    • Court testimony
      • Mock learning activities are tailored to any child-serving profession (e.g., medical/social work/educator simulations).
  • Flexible integration into varying instructional modalities and schedules (e.g., 8-week, 14-week)
  • Access to a suite of resources for CAST deployment, including an open education resource drive for teaching materials and Zero Abuse Project (501(c)(3) nonprofit facilitating the program) no-cost consultation and assistance with course development
  • Can be used with other target populations:
    • Frontline professionals may engage in CAST continuing education/graduate coursework to become more skilled in their occupation, as it relates to assisting children in need.
    • Likewise, CAST programs may partner with support system leadership for curriculum committee involvement, as adjunct or guest lecturers, or for internship/research opportunities.

Program Delivery

Recommended Intensity:

A typical course is equivalent to 3 credit hours or 3 face-to-face contact hours per week. Accommodations for continuing education, however, may occur in accordance with institutional policies.

Recommended Duration:

Each course ranges from 8–15 weeks in duration, traditionally. Again, continuing education requirements may allow for deviation from this expected duration range.

Delivery Settings

This program is typically conducted in a(n):

  • School Setting (Including: Day Care, Day Treatment Programs, etc.)
  • Virtual (Online, Telephone, Video, Zoom, etc.)

Homework

Child Advocacy Studies (CAST) includes a homework component:

Given that CAST is an academic program, various assessments (i.e., reflection papers, examinations, etc.) may be deployed.

Languages

Note: Materials can be translated upon request.

Resources Needed to Run Program

The typical resources for implementing the program are:

Projectors, learning management system, collaboration with local frontline agency, or space available for performing experiential learning exercises. A classroom (online or physical) is necessary. Computer access is typically a component, as well.

Manuals and Training

Prerequisite/Minimum Provider Qualifications

Academic credential as required by an educational institution (e.g., MS/work experience/licensure; PhD or equivalent).

Manual Information

There is not a manual that describes how to deliver this program.

Training Information

There is training available for this program.

Training Contact:
Training Type/Location:

Online, virtual training for faculty

Number of days/hours:

Typical training for new CAST faculty is 1 day, approximately 4–8 hours depending on level of familiarity with content.

Implementation Information

Pre-Implementation Materials

There are no pre-implementation materials to measure organizational or provider readiness for Child Advocacy Studies (CAST).

Formal Support for Implementation

There is formal support available for implementation of Child Advocacy Studies (CAST) as listed below:

Zero Abuse Project is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in St. Paul, MN, that facilitates CAST implementation at the national level. The organization has a CAST Director dedicated to training and technical assistance of faculty who wish to deploy CAST at their college or university. Support is variable based on need of the CAST program and may include curriculum evaluation and mapping, content development, collaboration/networking, and strategic planning. Consultation is available beyond implementation and continues for the lifespan of the CAST program, with contact between program and CAST leadership occurring quarterly or on an as-need basis. Support is made available via online conferencing, emails, and calls.

Fidelity Measures

There are fidelity measures for Child Advocacy Studies (CAST) as listed below:

An accreditation-style, optional approval pathway is available for CAST programs that wish to demonstrate their academic leadership at the national level. Approval requires a 2-day site visit and evaluation of coursework, faculty, student perceptions, and administrative support. If successfully approved, a CAST organization may acquire an external certificate from Zero Abuse Project for CAST program completionists. Approval recognition lasts five years and may be reacquired through a subsequent site visit at the end of that period. No training is required for approval assessment, though an auditor needs to be a CAST faculty member and use the Zero Abuse Project quality assurance manuals and subsequent assessment rubrics to objectively and uniformly assess a program for approval.

Implementation Guides or Manuals

There are implementation guides or manuals for Child Advocacy Studies (CAST) as listed below:

The CAST implementation manual is a tool to help faculty explore pathways to program deployment and includes rubrics for evaluation of content, to ensure CAST coursework and learning outcomes are consistent. Access to the manual can be provided by emailing the program contact (see bottom of the page).

Implementation Cost

There are no studies of the costs of Child Advocacy Studies (CAST).

Research on How to Implement the Program

Research has not been conducted on how to implement Child Advocacy Studies (CAST).

Relevant Published, Peer-Reviewed Research

Knox, M., Pelletier, H., & Vieth, V. (2013). Educating medical students about adolescent maltreatment. International Journal of Adolescent Medicine and Health, 25(3), 301–308. https://doi.org/10.1515/ijamh-2013-0066

Type of Study: Pretest-posttest study with a nonequivalent control group (Quasi-experimental)
Number of Participants: 89

Population:

  • Age — 19–29 years (Mean=22.82 years)
  • Race/Ethnicity — 63 Caucasian or White, 16 Asian, 3 Black/African American, 6 Other, and 1 Hispanic
  • Gender — 49 Female and 40 Males
  • Status — Participants were first year medical students.

Location/Institution: A large Midwestern College of Medicine

Summary: (To include basic study design, measures, results, and notable limitations)
The purpose of the present study was to examine the effects of training first year medical students using a Child Advocacy Studies Training [now called Child Advocacy Studies (CAST)] elective course. Measures utilized include demographic and information regarding age, gender, ethnicity, and total number of hours of prior training in maltreatment. Results supported all five of the study’s hypotheses and indicate that the CAST program may be an effective method of better preparing future physicians to address child and adolescent maltreatment. Limitations include small sample size; groups in the present study were not equivalent with respect to participant sex, with the comparison group having a higher proportion of males; disproportionate drop out in that all the noncompleters were from the comparison group; lack of standardized measures sample was restricted to only one school; and lack of follow-up.

Length of postintervention follow-up: None.

Pelletier, H. L., & Knox, M. (2017). Incorporating child maltreatment training into medical school curricula. Journal of Child & Adolescent Trauma, 10(3), 267–274. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40653-016-0096-x

Type of Study: Pretest-posttest study with a nonequivalent control group (Quasi-experimental)
Number of Participants: 89

Population:

  • Age — 19–29 years (Mean=22.82 years)
  • Race/Ethnicity — 63 Caucasian or White, 16 Asian, 3 Black/African American, 6 Other and 1 Hispanic
  • Gender — 49 Females and 40 Males
  • Status — Participants were first year medical students

Location/Institution: a large Midwestern College of Medicine

Summary: (To include basic study design, measures, results, and notable limitations)
This study used the same sample as Knox et al. (2013). This study examines the efficacy of a modified version of the Child Advocacy Studies Training [now called Child Advocacy Studies (CAST)] program that is tailored to meet the educational needs of medical students. Measures utilized include demographic and information regarding age, gender, ethnicity, and total number of hours of prior training in maltreatment. Results indicated that CAST students demonstrated improved accuracy at the conclusion of the CAST program and 6 months later. Limitations include small sample size; groups in the present study were not equivalent with respect to participant sex, with the comparison group having a higher proportion of males; disproportionate drop out in that all of the noncompleters were from the comparison group; lack of standardized measures; and sample was restricted to only one school.

Length of postintervention follow-up: 6 months.

Parker, J., McMillan, L., Olson, S., Ruppel, S., & Vieth, V. (2020). Responding to basic and complex cases of child abuse: A comparison study of recent and current Child Advocacy Studies (CAST) students with DSS workers in the field. Journal of Child & Adolescent Trauma, 13, 357–364. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40653-019-00297-7

Type of Study: Pretest-posttest study with a nonequivalent control group (Quasi-experimental)
Number of Participants: 89

Population:

  • Age — Not specified
  • Race/Ethnicity — Not specified
  • Gender — Not specified
  • Status — Participants were recent graduates and senior students and child protection professionals.

Location/Institution: University of South Carolina Upstate Child Advocacy Studies (CAST) program and Department of Social Services (DSS)

Summary: (To include basic study design, measures, results, and notable limitations)
The purpose of the current study was to examine the efficacy of Child Advocacy Studies (CAST) elective course. Measures utilized include demographic and information regarding age, gender, ethnicity, and total number of hours of prior training in maltreatment. Results indicate that in the case of sexual abuse, the current CAST students and CAST graduates performed at the same level as DSS caseworkers. On the more complex polyvictimization scenario, the current CAST students and CAST graduates performed significantly better than all levels of DSS caseworkers in identifying systems that respond to child maltreatment and in identifying psychological and emotional abuse. Limitations include small sample size; groups in the present study were not equivalent with respect to participant sex, with the comparison group having a higher proportion of males; disproportionate drop out in that all of the noncompleters were from the comparison group; lack of standardized measures sample was restricted to only one school; and lack of follow-up.

Length of postintervention follow-up: None.

Additional References

Johnson, L. (2015). An innovative approach to providing collaborative education to undergraduate students in the area of child maltreatment. Journal of Interprofessional Care. 29(3), 271–272. https://doi.org/10.3109/13561820.2014.947361

Morris, S. (2020, August). Northwest Arkansas Community College: Child Advocacy Studies Program sends students into the workforce as seasoned professionals. League for Innovation in the Community College. https://www.league.org/member-spotlight/northwest-arkansas-community-college-child-advocacy-studies-program-sends-students

Vieth, V. I., Goulet, B., Knox, M., Parker, J., Johnson, L. B., Tye, K. S., & Cross, T. P. (2019). Child Advocacy Studies (CAST): A national movement to improve the undergraduate and graduate training of child protection professionals. Mitchell Hamline Law Review, 45(4), Article 5. https://open.mitchellhamline.edu/mhlr/vol45/iss4/5

Contact Information

Tyler Counsil, EdD
Agency/Affiliation: Zero Abuse Project
Website: www.zeroabuseproject.org/child-advocacy-studies
Email:
Phone: (651) 760-3273

Date Research Evidence Last Reviewed by CEBC: February 2021

Date Program Content Last Reviewed by Program Staff: September 2021

Date Program Originally Loaded onto CEBC: September 2021