THE MISSION OF THE WATCHFUL SHEPHERD U.S.A. IS TO DISEMINATE INFORMATION TO AGENCIES AND COMMUNITY LEADERS REGARDING A PROGRAM TO PREVENT CHILD ABUSE AND TO UNITE FAMILIES. WATCHFUL SHEPHERD WILL PROVIDE ALL SUPPORTIVE SERVICES AND TRAINING IN SETTING UP A WATCHFUL SHEPHERD ORGANIZATION THROUGHOUT THE U.S.A.THE WATCHFUL SHEPHERD PROGRAM PROVIDES AN ALARM SYSTEM FOR CHILDREN AND FAMILIES REFERRED BY THE COURTS AND CHILD PROTECTION SERVICES
The Watchful Shepherd program grew out of an inspiration to apply a practical solution to family violence and the abuse of children. It was a melding with technology focusing on protecting innocent life that had not been done or considered due to cultural norms of autonomy and secrecy. The most fundamental unit of our society, the family, which normally has been viewed as a place of safety and nurturance has often been overwhelmed and eroded by the many problems which exist in society today. In that legal and moral framework, the Watchful Shepherd is providing a powerful tool to immediately stop abuse while treatment programs help to confront and interrupt family violence. In 1993, the Watchful Shepherd program was initiated to provide the Washington County , Pennsylvania Child Protective Services Unit with an electronic monitoring device to enhance our efforts to protect children in potentially dangerous family situations. The guidelines of the program evolved without an initial working format except for the recognition that there were cases available for referral through the County Child Protective Services Unit. The identified cases were determined by consultation between the agency caseworker, supervisor and the Watchful Shepherd Coordinator. Court Orders from Juvenile Court and the Court of Common Pleas Custody Division also have provided judicial sanctions when necessary for programming. It is explained to the families and the child victims that Watchful Shepherd would provide them with a wristband that could activate an electronic device that is installed in their home. The same "Lifeline" technology has been used extensively with senior citizens in signaling emergency personnel for medical attention. This activates a computer monitoring system at our National Emergency Response Center on a 24-hour a day basis. The Watchful Shepherd program is an important response to child protective service agencies and the courts that are strapped with the contradictory double mission of preserving family unity while protecting children. While society remains unclear as to how they desire government intervention into family life, the Watchful Shepherd program stands as a means to see to the needs of children who are caught in a process that is beyond their control. In addition to protecting a specific child from abuse in the home, the Watchful Shepherd also has proven beneficial for other family members where domestic abuse is pervasive. The loud sound the device triggers and the ensuing knowledge that authorities have been notified is often enough deterrent to prevent situations from becoming volatile. Such security translates into significantly less day-to-day anxiety for the child and the entire family. In reality there remains much sentiment and legal mandates to take risks to preserve family unity. Particularly in these instances the Watchful Shepherd program can provide an extraordinary tool to keep a child safe. Over an approximate fifteen-year period the Watchful Shepherd program has served thousands of children and families. While considering that the average placement cost for a child in a group home care facility ranges in the thousands of dollars per year and upwards, the implications of the economic impact on agencies is obvious. It is believed that the Watchful Shepherd program can provide a significant budgetary impact while achieving the ends of keeping a child safe while family preservations programs are in effect. Finally, since 1993 there have been noreported cases of child abuse in the homes where the Watchful Shepherd unit is implemented. Records indicate that there are very few false alarms. These children and families go to bed at night with us holding their hand. They can sleep at night because they know they are safe, that someone who cares is always close by. All children and families are the beneficiary of Watchful Shepherd USA . Watchful Shepherd and the community's work to fund the equipment and all families are provided the equipment free of charge. The only requirement is that there are children in the home. We invite all communities to implement our program and with our training and coordination we will make a difference in the lives of many in that community. We are presently implemented in the following counties in Pennsylvania : Allegheny, Butler , Washington , Greene, Fayette, and Lebanon . All training and materials are provided by Watchful Shepherd USA at no cost to the community.
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- Donna Nardine
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