About ACT

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The ACT Raising Safe Kids Program was developed and is coordinated by the American Psychological Association’s Violence Prevention Office. Launched in 2001 and revised in 2006 and in 2011, the ACT Program teaches positive parenting skills to parents and caregivers of children from birth to age 8.

The program is based on research showing that…

  • It is in the early years that children learn the basic foundations for life.
  • Parents and caregivers can be the best positive teachers and role models OR the perpetrators of violence, abuse and neglect against their own children.
  • Exposure to abuse and neglect early in life can have serious long-term emotional, cognitive and behavioral consequences for children and youth.

That's why...

  • ACT focuses on the important role of adults in shaping children’s early environment and experiences.
  • ACT helps parents and caregivers build strong safe families that protect children from violence and its long-term consequences.

ACT Raising Safe Kids aims to:

  • Mobilize communities and educate parents and caregivers about positive, effective parenting.
  • Strengthen families and improve parenting skills and practices to create safe and healthy environments that prevent child maltreatment and protect children and youth from trauma and its long term consequences.
  • Establish partnerships with a variety of organizations and agencies.
  • Train professionals to take the program to families and caregivers in their communities.

What makes ACT special?

The design approach and components outlined below help make the ACT Program stand out among other interventions with similar objectives.

  • Universal approach
    ACT has been designed as a community-based intervention for groups of parents and caregivers from all backgrounds, regardless of their level of risk for abuse.
  • Cultural adaptation
    The program is culturally sensitive and adapted to diverse groups and communities. Materials were carefully translated to reflect cultural and language specificities and are available in English, Spanish, Portuguese, Greek and Japanese. It is being implemented in almost 80 communities in the U.S. and in 5 countries.
  • Flexible delivery
    ACT can be hosted by a variety of organizations and implemented in diverse settings from schools to prisons, churches, community centers, childcare centers and mental health clinics.
  • Who can deliver
    Professionals from a variety of fields including social workers, early educators, counselors, psychologists, nurses, teachers and clergy can be prepared to deliver the program.
  • Cost effective
    ACT materials and training fees are very affordable compared to other parenting interventions. Comparative study has shown that ACT presents better outcomes. In addition, the program can be integrated into the host organizations’ existing interventions and services for parents adding to their portfolio with minimum cost.
  • Evaluation
    The program is well evaluated by senior researchers. Several research studies conducted, including two randomized controlled trials, demonstrate that ACT is a promising, evidence-informed program.
  • Benefits
    Parents enjoy the hands-on, participatory fun sessions, learn and use positive parenting skills, use less harsh discipline, make new friends, connect with community resources, and build happier safer families. Organizations adopt a cost effective program that helps them make a difference in their communities.

Program Curriculum & Materials

The research-based curriculum is delivered in eight 2-hour sessions — on average — by ACT Facilitators, professionals trained by the program. The curriculum is organized in eight modules as following:

  1. Understanding Children’s Behaviors
  2. Young Children’s Exposure to Violence
  3. Understanding and Controlling Parents’ Anger
  4. Understanding and Helping Angry Children
  5. Children and Electronic Media
  6. Discipline and Parenting Styles
  7. Discipline for Positive Behaviors
  8. Take ACT to Your Home and Community

ACT Facilitators will need the ACT kit to prepare and conduct the program sessions; materials in the kit include:

  • ACT Facilitator Manual
  • Parents’ Handbook
  • Brochures for participants
  • Evaluation and Instruments Guide
  • Children’s Activities Guide
  • Motivational Interviewing Manual
  • ACT attendance card
  • A DVD containing the ACT public-service announcement
  • CD with the PowerPoint Slides and homework sheets
Proof that ACT works

Numerous studies of ACT conducted over the years have found that ACT can be considered a successful model to disseminate early violence prevention knowledge and skills to adults and as an evidence-informed program to help parents and caregivers raise children without violence. Specifically studies showed that:

  • Parents enjoy the interactive classes, and apply at home what they have learned.
  • Participants report the program as non-judgmental and an ideal opportunity to improve their parenting skills.
  • After completing the program, parents are less likely to use harsh verbal and physical discipline, and children show less aggression.
  • Parents also show increases in nurturing behavior, anger control and knowledge of their children’s developmentally appropriate behaviors.
Becoming an ACT facilitator

An ACT facilitator is a professional coming from fields such as psychology, social work, nursing, early childhood education, among others, prepared and certified to facilitate the parenting program groups using the program standardized curriculum, materials, processes and protocols and has completed all the requirements as determined by the APA Violence Prevention Office. They also involve their organizations and get support to include the ACT program in their portfolio of activities for families.

Classes for parents and caregivers

Parents and caregivers should contact the ACT coordinating site closer to them to get help in finding a parenting group for the program. Site coordinators can also help parents by making materials and resources on parenting, discipline, bullying, bedtime routines and others available to them. 

There are also many ACT materials available for purchase by parents and caregivers.