Pediatrician works to prevent child sexual abuse

Editor: In honor of Women’s History Month, we are featuring interviews with local women leaders. These pieces were written by Baylor University students from the Department of Journalism, Public Relations, and New Media.

By Brittany Tankersley

What began as a small puppet show at the Advocacy Center for Crime Victims & Children in 2008 quickly became a way for Waco families to safely educate their children.

Dr. Soo Battle

By 2010, this puppet show became what is now called Camp Careful, a program dedicated to educating Waco families about abuse prevention. According to the Camp Careful website its mission is to “reduce and prevent child sexual abuse through child empowerment, family education, and community awareness.”

Covering topics such as “good touch, bad touch, body autonomy, and consent,” Dr. Soo Battle focuses on age-appropriate sexual advocacy education.

Battle is a board-certified, licensed pediatrician who works part-time in a pediatric practice in Waco

“I’m really teaching it in the context of how do you keep your kids safe?” Battle said. “I go over general safety rules at the beginning of the classes, so the kids understand, ‘Oh, yeah, my parents have rules to keep me safe all the time.’ So I teach it in that way. It’s not about sex. I don’t ever really talk about sexual acts. It’s more about protecting their body and what private parts are and what private means.”

Many parents are uncomfortable discussing these topics with their children. However, educating children on not only the dangers of predators but also the many questions they have can be more valuable than foregoing the awkwardness. 

“If they are asking then it is upon us as parents to teach them and give them the answers in an age appropriate manner,” Battle said. “Answer as little as you need to, to fulfill their curiosity, but don’t lie to them. And don’t make up something in a fantasy answer. Because if they think that that doesn’t make sense, or if they hear it from somebody else, then they’re in conflict with what you have told them.”

Camp Careful offers Waco families an easier way to tackle these necessary but difficult conversations via six programs varying by age groups and topics, and there are even private sessions with Battle. 

According to the Camp Careful website, over 9,000 parents and children have attended its abuse prevention sessions through public classes or private speaking engagements since 2008-2021. But why Waco? 

“We love raising our families here,” Battle said. “It’s close to things if you want the big city thing. You can go to Dallas or Austin quickly, but the small town atmosphere is here. And you get a sense of community and not all the headaches of being in a big city.”

Raised in Austin, Battle graduated from Westlake High School and then the University of Texas at Austin with a bachelor’s degree in the liberal arts honors program. She earned her medical doctorate from the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston in 2000.

Waco’s family-oriented yet still exciting lifestyle makes the city the perfect place for Camp Careful to call its home, she said. 

“There’s a million things to do,” Battle said. “From little kids with Cameron Park Zoo to the Mayborn Museum. There’s lots of organizations to volunteer in. There’s lots of churches to join, if that is your thing. There’s great schools all over. We love Waco.”

Camp Careful is one of the many organizations that call Waco its home, however, it is one of the few that deeply protect and advocate for the education and protection of its youth. 

Brittany Tankersley is a junior at Baylor University studying journalism. She is from Tennessee. 

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email Ferrell Foster at [email protected].

Sharpening your parenting skills: Correcting

by Leah Gorham, MAMFC, LPC

Welcome again to the third installment of the Child Abuse Awareness Blog Series. The past few weeks, I’ve been writing about parenting perspectives that can help us maintain our own sanity while meeting the needs of our children – with the ultimate goal of reducing child abuse. As I mentioned in the previous two posts, Dr. Kayrn Purvis utilized the TBRI® (Trust-Based Relational Intervention®) approach with the families she worked with. In the last two posts, we talked about empowering children to thrive in their environment and the importance of connecting with them. As parents, it’s also important to understand the significance of nurturing ourselves through self-care.

As any parent will know, discipline and correcting a child’s poor decisions is a daily challenge. Starting when they are young can help build a foundation for when children turn into teenagers and later into adults. Proactive strategies of teaching children good decision making skills when they are calm can be productive. I have found that I can think and speak more clearly when I am in a calm state of mind. To get there, I need to take deep breaths to refocus myself. While it takes extra time to refocus and calm down, it also keeps me from growing frustrated and having heated arguments in which I could say (or do) something I would later regret. As adults, we need to model this for children.

The goal for correction actually goes back to that of connection (remember from last week). This is a basis for all relationships – we have a deep need to feel connected with one another. I had a minister from my childhood who would always say, “Rules without relationship will lead to rebellion.” If there’s not the foundation of a relationship enabling the child to feel connected, it will be difficult to discipline and correct the poor behavior.

When you’re connected with your child, you can more easily discover the meaning behind the behavior. How many times have you found yourself scratching your head asking yourself, “Why is my child acting this way?” Don’t worry – it happens to all of us. Dr. Dan Siegel, MD (who wrote The Whole Brained-Child with Baylor graduate Dr. Tina Payne Bryson, PhD) encouraged parents to chase the why behind the child’s reactions. The more connected you are with them, the more you notice their habits, patterns, and even struggles.

There are four questions you can ask yourself following their poor behavior. The first one is “What is the behavior really saying?” We sometimes display anger despite underlying emotions of fear, embarrassment, sadness, etc. Poor behavior can often be a way to get the attention of others. As I tell many families, even negative attention is still attention. Could this behavior be correlated to a past traumatic experience that the child needs additional support for instead of just discipline? When we’re connected with our children, we learn what their triggers are and we are able to help them recognize and avoid them if possible. If we can discover the what of their behavior, it can lead to the why.

The second question is “What does my child really need?” Does your child need a healthy snack or glass of water? If the child is crying out for attention, they may need a hug or our good eye contact to help them calm down. Does your child feel unsafe and need reassurance along with calming techniques? Like before, trying to discover what the child needs is important and comes from lots of connectivity.

Another question is “How can I teach my child to get their needs met?” This is an important step because teaching our kids how to get their needs met is vital as we strive to discourage the misbehavior. Utilizing good connection through eye contact shows that we are listening to them. Lowering our tone of voice is helpful because using our angry or loud voice will likely make the situation worse. While slowing down our speech pattern is not usually a problem in Texas, some of us are from areas where fast talking is normal. Kids can struggle with this. By slowing down our speech, we can think more clearly. Doing all of these things can help to diffuse many stressful situations.

The final question to ask ourselves is “When is a good time to teach them this skill while they are calm?” It is often easy to jump to correcting our kids in the heat of the moment, yet this is not always the best time to teach them. In that heated moment, children can understand your anger to be against them personally instead of against their poor choices. Think of a good time when everyone is calm and able to think clearly – this is an ideal opportunity to discuss the behavior. Brainstorm with your child (depending on their developmental level) on the best way to strive to teach skills proactively before they occur or little while after they occur, when feelings of anger and angst have left.

These four questions are great tools for discovering reasons why children are misbehaving. There can also be logical consequences for their actions, too. I am still encouraging parents to appropriately discipline children (because we all need structure), yet understanding the rationale and exploring underlying emotions could help resolve future issues. Consider the child’s developmental ability – is what you’re asking too much for their developmental stage? Sometimes we want to kids to grow up too fast by placing expectations that are too high and unrealistic. On the flip side, setting expectations that are too low isn’t something that helps our children learn and grow. Our main goal of TBRI® is to encourage children to ask for what they want rather than throwing a temper tantrum. It is okay for a child to be disappointed in not getting what they desire. It is okay to verbalize that disappointment in a calm, respectful tone. But is not okay to throw a fit in anger over the disappointment.

The past few weeks, I’ve discussed three concepts (empower, connect, and correct) from TBRI® that help decrease child abuse and increase parent-child relationship. There is much more than can be covered in addition to what we’ve discussed here! If you want more information, feel free to reach out to STARRY (254-399-6552), as we offer free counseling for children and families. We will also be offering a Nurturing Parenting class this summer in the evenings that utilizes some of these principles. If you desire something during the day, MCH Family Outreach is a great resource. (And they love TBRI® as much as we do!) STARRY’s main objective is to nurture children, strengthen families, and restore hope. We strive to decrease child abuse and we hope you will stand with us in bringing hope to the next generation in the Waco area.

Leah Gorham, MAMFC, LPC, is the Team Lead at the STARRY-Waco Counseling office that offers free counseling for children and families. She has been a Kid’s Hope Mentor for the past five years and is currently part of Leadership Waco.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email [email protected] for more information.





Sharpening your parenting skills: Connecting

by Leah Gorham, MAMFC, LPC

Welcome to the second part of the Child Abuse Awareness Trilogy Blog.  As I mentioned last week, Dr. Karyn Purvis developed the idea of empowering, connecting, and correcting children to increase attachment and cohesion in families. She called it TBRI® (Trust-Based Relational Intervention®).

Having a newborn baby can be one of the most stressful times in a parent’s life – especially for new parents!  The late nights, early morning feedings, and excessive crying could easily make anyone feel overwhelmed.  Dr. Purvis believed that you can never hold an infant too much during the first year of their life. This is a prime development attachment stage during which a child is learning to determine who they can connect with and have a trusted relationship with.  We are all longing for the same things – we need to know that we matter, we can connect with others, and we can feel safe. In order for our physical needs to be met, we need to connect with others.  Connecting is about building a relationship or a bond with someone.  It’s similar to when you connect to Wi-Fi, which allows you to connect to the World Wide Web.  When you’re connected to your child, you get all the benefits of things they experience.

So how do we connect with our children?  Connecting with a 2 year-old will look different than connecting with a 12 year-old, but there will be some overlap.  One way to connect is through positive, healthy touch.  A high-five, hug, pat on the back, foot massage, fist bump – whatever makes you and your child feel safe.

Lack of appropriate eye contact is a common challenge in our society. Often our heads are down while we’re scrolling through Facebook, Instagram, or other social media on our phones instead of actually maintaining good eye contact with others.  Instead, we need to set our phones aside and look our children in the eyes.  This will reinforce the message that they are special and what they have to say is valuable and important. I know I’m guilty of not putting my phone down, yet it is something I’m striving to be better at by looking the person I am with in the eyes.

Along with the eye contact, proximity to the child is important. It’s hard to hear what they are saying when we’re not even in the same room.  How many times have we been upset by a child yelling at us from across the house?  Rather, move closer to them by sitting near or next to them.  It becomes easier to be open and honest with someone who is looking at my eyes, sitting near me, and holding my hand.

A great way to build the connection with your child is doing what they like to do or striving to do things together.  I recently read an article about how many parents say “no” when they could say “yes.”  Here’s an example for you.  After a long day of work, a parent comes home and settles down on the couch. As the parent is scrolling on their phone, a kid asks if he can ride his skateboard outside.  The parent immediately reacts with a “no” because it would require them to get off the couch.  Instead, the parent could say “yes” and put the phone down in order to go outside with the child.  While riding a skateboard is not for everyone (definitely not with my balance), being outside with the child and encouraging him is a great way for the parent to connect with their child.  I’m a big advocate of family board games or card games that allow for conversations, practice in the art of winning/losing well, and non-tech time.

Often times, we don’t take care of ourselves. As the flight attendant always tells us on airplanes, we have to put on the oxygen mask first.  THEN we can help others with their oxygen masks. The rationale is that we aren’t very helpful to others when we’re lacking oxygen ourselves. The same is true for nurturing.  We must nurture ourselves through savoring a cup of coffee, our daily workout at the gym, connecting with our significant other/spouse/close friend, or through meditating.  We must practice self-care.  I have found taking walks through nature to be stress relieving as I’m able to breath in the fresh air.  It can look different for each of us, yet the basis is that we must strive to nurture ourselves so we can nurture others.   Next week, I’ll finish this blog series with a final blog on correcting.

Leah Gorham, MAMFC, LPC, is the Team Lead at the STARRY-Waco Counseling office that offers free counseling for children and families. She has been a Kid’s Hope Mentor for the past five years and is currently part of Leadership Waco.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email [email protected] for more information.


Sharpening Your Parenting Skills: Empowerment

by Leah Gorham, MAMFC, LPC

In early March, a Waco man was arrested for allegedly hitting a child in the face. The story was followed with additional arrests in other instances involving individuals who had sexually abused different children. According to the Children’s Advocacy Centers of Texas, 185 children in the state of Texas become victims of abuse each day. That is a staggering statistic that keeps me wanting to serve and empower more families. April is Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month and the Child-Safe Alliance is making efforts to reduce and eventually end all types of child abuse. STARRY is honored to partner with them by providing free counseling for children and families as part of the DFPS STAR program.

Child abuse prevention is a cause that is near and dear to my heart. I work with its victims on a daily basis and have become an advocate for child abuse prevention since I was a child. I remember being in elementary school when I first realized people were capable of hurting others. While some may call it “discipline,” leaving bruises and marks is never okay. Raising kids is difficult when you’re constantly being mom-shamed on social media for letting your kids eat that extra piece of candy. (Mostly because you’re so tired of the constant whining and screaming and all you want is a little peace and quiet!) Besides, we tell ourselves, My parents did that and I turned out okay. But … did we really? The only way to change the next generation is to do a little self-work. And the result could have a HUGE impact in the lives of our children.

What is one way to help families reduce the risk of child abuse and sharpen their parenting skills? I’m glad you asked! Trust-Based Relational Intervention® (TBRI®) is the brainchild of Dr. Karyn Purvis and TCU. From her research, Dr. Purvis found that empowering, connecting, and correcting children can help reduce child abuse and increase attachment and cohesion in families – especially children from hard places. Dr. Purvis published a book called Empowered to Connect, which I highly recommend you read. Over the next three weeks, I’m going to blog about the three principles outlined in the book and how to implement them into your life (with your current family or maybe your future family).

The first principle is empower. We all desire our children to succeed in life through their actions, education, emotions, relationships, etc. Empowerment focuses on using the child’s strengths and fostering a healthy view of self. Power struggles occur in relationships because we all desire to feel in control. Giving your child choices allows him or her to share the control. A word of caution helps set boundaries for the choices. Rather than saying that they can have any kind of snack after school, give them a choices of pretzels, veggie sticks, cheese crackers, or fresh fruit as options for the snack. It will help you keep your sanity and it’ll help you be able to say “yes” to more options. This will also build your child’s confidence in the fact that that they have power and can make good decisions. When kids feel in control of a few things, they are more likely to make better decisions and poor behaviors will likely decrease. There may be underlying issues too, so don’t be afraid to seek counseling for additional support. Next week, I’ll talk more about ways to connect with your child.

Leah Gorham, MAMFC, LPC, is the Team Lead at the STARRY-Waco Counseling office that offers free counseling for children and families. She has been a Kid’s Hope Mentor for the past five years and is currently part of Leadership Waco.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email [email protected] for more information.