Published author, passionate speaker, and child sexual assault prevention expert.
Feather Berkower, Founder of Parenting Safe Children, is a licensed clinical social worker and one of the nation’s leading experts in child sexual assault prevention. She has dedicated her career — which now spans over three decades — to educating parents and youth professionals on how to make their communities “off limits” to child sexual assault.
Using her community-based approach, she has trained over 150,000 school children, parents, and youth professionals across the United States.
And it all started in 1985 when Feather, then an undergraduate student at San Francisco State University, saw a movie that changed her life—and in turn, the lives of thousands of families—forever.
The movie, which dealt with child sexual assault, lit a fire in her heart that continues to burn to this day. She knew, from that very moment, that this was going to be her life’s calling.
“This has to stop,” Feather recalls thinking at the time. “I have to do something. I want to be the one to get this kid out of there and make her life better. I want to be that social worker.”
Feather then followed her passion through internships at Berkeley’s Child Assault Prevention (CAP) Project and San Francisco’s Child Sexual Abuse Treatment Center, a master’s degree in social welfare from the University of California at Berkeley, stints of counseling traumatized middle school children in Palo Alto, an adolescent unit at a Colorado psychiatric hospital, and a mental health agency in Colorado — which sent her back to California to complete CAP’s certification training program.
She then managed a regional chapter of CAP, delivering school-based curricula. Right around this time, Feather had a revelation: that while educating kids is important, it’s ultimately up to adults—talking to and working with other adults—to protect children from sexual assault. So she shifted her focus from educating children to educating adults.
The sheer scale of the problem, as well as Feather’s passion and newfound conviction that in the end, adults are the ones that need to speak up for children and prevent abuse, led her to found Parenting Safe Children, co-author “Off Limits,” and spend time in prisons and out-patient treatment groups speaking with male and female sexual offenders. By interviewing offenders, she learned how they were able to assault children—so that she could use that knowledge to help prevent future assaults.
Now, Feather shares that knowledge—along with all the prevention strategies she’s learned throughout her career—with parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and youth professionals at her live workshops world-wide, and through her pre-recorded online workshop.
These workshops empower adults to keep children safe from child sexual assault. Feather makes a difficult and highly sensitive topic less scary, and consistently impresses audiences with her knowledge, commitment, and warmth.
Feather also emphasizes the importance of having body-safety conversations, as well as building one’s Prevention Team™—a concept she pioneered in the field.
To get to where she’s at now, Feather has had to overcome a once-debilitating fear of public speaking, many layers of red tape to gain access to prisons and interview offenders, frequent physical burnout, and that sinking feeling those in the ‘helping’ professions inevitably get: the realization that one, by one’s self, cannot save everybody.
And yet, she’s nowhere near done—and won’t be, until she fulfills her vision.
What is her vision? In her own words:
“My vision is that conversations about body safety are as normalized as ‘Hey, my child’s allergic to nuts, so when she’s in your care, please don’t feed her nuts.’ I dream that all adults with children in their lives can be comfortable having these important body-safety conversations… so we can end child sexual assault once and for all. This is my dream.”
So, how does she intend to fulfill her vision?
Through Parenting Safe Children workshops, Feather educates about one thousand people a year. Participants in her workshops share what they learn with family, friends and caregivers —building their Prevention Team™ and spreading their knowledge with thousands and thousands more people. Then, before you know it, the conversation is normalized—and if these caregivers are talking to a sex offender or anyone with ill intentions towards kids, they just might think “You know what, I’m not going to choose that child; I don’t have access.”
And that’s how she’s helped create communities that are ‘off limits’ to child sexual assault.
When Feather isn’t tirelessly working to educate people on preventing child sexual assault, she enjoys spending time outdoors hiking in Colorado and playing with her horse, Elvis.
She describes her horse as “my solace,” adding that “he’s honest, and he wears his heart on his sleeve.”
Just like Feather.