More About the Author
In 1985, when her family was young, in a public place with people standing all around, Irene van der Zande protected a group of small children, including her own two, from a man who was threatening to kidnap them. She stopped him by yelling and by ordering a bystander to help. The kids were fine. What they saw was that Irene yelled, and the bad guy ran away - but Irene wasn't fine. She kept wondering, "What if he'd knocked me down?" "What other children did he go on to assault?" "How will my kids be able to protect themselves when they go out into the world on their own?"
She took a self-defense workshop to answer the first question. But she kept meeting people who would tell her stories that started with the words "If only.." "If ONLY, when my youth group leader dropped all the kids off except for me and started to touch me in a way that my parents had told me never to let someone touch me, if ONLY I had known how to stop him. If ONLY, I had known how to tell my parents what happened. My life would have been so much easier."
Prior to this experience, Irene's career had been as a community organizer who helped develop services for many nonprofits working with people of all ages facing difficult life challenges due to poverty, prejudice, and disabilities. She had also just written a book called "1,2, 3... The Toddler Years", which is used in early childhood education programs across the US and has been translated into Chinese and Dutch.
Irene's plan was to go on writing about child development, but, as she looked at the 15 girls in her Girl Scout troop, Irene thought about the rape crisis center statistic of 1 in 3 girls being sexually assaulted before they were 18 years old, and she thought to herself, "That's FIVE of them! Which five girls is it okay with me that this happens to?" The answer of course, was, "NONE of them!"
Realizing that she couldn't be with her kids all the time, Irene gathered educators, mental health professionals, law enforcement officials, martial artists, health care providers, and other parents to establish Kidpower in 1989. She has served as the executive director, primary author, and trainer for the organization ever since. She has directly taught thousands of children, teens, and adults all over the world to take charge of their emotional and physical safety. She has also trained thousands of parents, educators, and other caring adults in what they need to know and do to protect their kids - and in how to use Kidpower's Positive Practice Method (TM) to make it fun for kids to learn to stay safe.
Today, Kidpower Teenpower Fullpower International is a global nonprofit leader dedicated to providing effective and empowering child protection, positive communication, and personal safety for all ages and abilities. Kidpower programs have protected over 3 million children, teens, and adults from bullying, abuse, harassment, assault, kidnapping, and other violence through greater awareness, action, and skills. In collaboration with many partners world-wide, each September Kidpower leads International Child Protection Month to honor, support, and inspire adult leadership in protecting young people from harm and preparing them to take charge of their own well-being.
Irene is an inspiring speaker, a dedicated leader, and a prolific author whose writing is filled with humor, memorable stories, and practical advice. Her many books include 1,2, 3 ... The Toddler Years; The Kidpower Book for Caring Adults: Personal Safety, Self-Protection, Confidence, and Advocacy for Young People; Bullying: What Adults Need to Know and Do to Keep Kids Safe; the Relationship Safety Handbook for Teens and Adults; One Strong Move: Cartoon Illustrated Self-Defense Lessons; Earliest Teachable Moment: Personal Safety for Babies, Toddlers, and Preschoolers; the Kidpower Safety Comics, the Kidpower Youth Safety Comics, and the Fullpower Safety Comics series; and training manuals for educators.