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Seminar to highlight youth safety

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Local agencies to participate as part of Child Abuse Awareness Month

By Ben Orcutt-borcutt@nvdaily.com

FRONT ROYAL -- Several local agencies will participate in a seminar on child safety being sponsored by Harmony Place.

The seminar, "Keeping Children Safe from Predators," is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 12:40 p.m. on April 2 at the Warren County Community Center, located at 538 Villa Ave. April is Child Abuse Awareness Month.

Melissa A. DeDomenico-Payne, executive director of Harmony Place, which was formerly known as the Warren County Council on Domestic Violence, said the seminar will be divided into two 90-minute sessions, with professionals on hand from different agencies to discuss the safety of children.

"The Virginia State Police may be speaking on the sex offender [registry] website," DeDomenico-Payne said. "The local law enforcement will likely be speaking on how they investigate crimes once something is reported to them, and I know the Front Royal [Police Department] is also going to speak on some online safety issues. Warren County Public Schools is going to be doing a presentation on online safety.

Another group slated to participate is Safe Sanctuaries, an organization that promotes child safety in churches, she said.

"There's also going to be private counseling groups who set up to notify the community about services they provide and Harmony Place, of course, as their local sexual assault crisis center," she said. "So we'll be talking a little bit about the services we provide and having some information there, and we're hosting the event."

While people may be familiar with the "To Catch a Predator" segments on "Dateline NBC," DeDomenico-Payne says there is other information the public should be aware of that will be available at the seminar.

"Different community agencies are addressing the issue in different ways, and so you as a community member might kind of know what law enforcement does, but not really know for instance what Safe Sanctuaries is or vice versa," she said. "And if you're living in the town, what you understand about your local police department may be different than somebody in the county. So having all those resources available is important and also understanding more and more about online safety because it is such an open market for predators."

The Warren County Department of Social Services also will be on hand to discuss the cases it handles, DeDomenico-Payne said.

"They also will talk about finding safe child care because they of course do license the local child-cares, so they'll be speaking about that as well," she said.

There will be opening remarks and refreshments at 9 a.m., with the first 90-minute session set to begin at 9:30 a.m.

There will be a 10-minute break and then the second 90-minute session will begin.
Participants can attend all or part of the event.

The seminar is free, and those who wish to attend should call 635-9194, ext. 23, by March 28. Free child care also will be offered for up to 20 children of registered participants.

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