What’s the purpose of the line?
Who calls the line?
How do callers discover the line?
What do callers talk about?
How many calls does the line handle on a typical day?
Is the line really available 24/7/365? What happens overnight?
What qualifications are required to be a TALK Line Volunteer?
How are TALK Line volunteers trained?
What time commitment is required to be a TALK Line Volunteer?
How can I become a TALK Line volunteer?
What other ways can I get involved at the Prevention Center?



What’s the purpose of the line?
Research by The Center for the Study of Social Policy suggests that five protective factors significantly decrease the likelihood that children will be abused:

  • Parental Resilience: managing stress and functioning well when faced with challenges, adversity, and trauma.
  • Social Connections: positive relationships that provide emotional, informational, instrumental, and spiritual support
  • Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development: understanding child development and parenting strategies that support physical, cognitive, language, social, and emotional development
  • Concrete Support in Times of Need: access to concrete support and services that address a family’s needs and help minimize stress caused by challenges.
  • Social and Emotional Competence of Children:  family and child interactions that help children develop the ability to communicate clearly, recognize and regulate their emotions, and establish and maintain relationships.

The TALK Line strives to strengthen each of these protective factors — particularly parental resilience and social connections — by offering round-the-clock telephone support to parents and caregivers. A team of staff and volunteers are trained to be compassionate listeners, providing emotional support by reflecting feelings and reserving judgement. By helping parents to effectively cope with stress, the TALK Line advances the Prevention Center’s mission to prevent child abuse and reduce its devastating impact.

Who calls the line?
The majority of callers are parents and caregivers based in San Francisco with at least one child age 12 or under. We handle fewer calls from parents of teens or parents living outside of the greater Bay Area. We refer callers with adult children or callers outside of our region to local and national community partners whose services better match their needs.

Occasionally, staff members from other community organizations call on behalf of their clients, and extended relatives or family friends call with concerns about a situation with a child that is not in their care. Less often, community members call with general questions about keeping kids safe or to report an incident. Callers who suspect that a child in San Francisco is being abused are encouraged to make a report by calling the Family and Children’s Services (FCS) Hotline at (800) 856-5553.

How do callers discover the line?
Many callers are clients of the Prevention Center in other capacities. They might call the TALK Line at the advice of one of our counselors, case managers, or community educators. The opposite is also true and the TALK Line is often an entry point to bring clients into our in-person services. We partner with local schools, healthcare facilities, courts, other nonprofits, and government agencies to spread awareness for the line. Callers are referred to us by their children’s teachers, pediatricians, social workers, and more.

What do callers talk about?
The primary objective of the TALK Line is to offer parents and caregivers a supportive resource to cope with stress. Stress can come from many aspects of life — parenting, employment, relationships — and the conversations on the TALK Line reflect this. Callers sometimes discuss topics specifically related to parenting like soothing a colicky baby or supporting a child who’s having challenges in school. Other times, callers discuss sources of stress that relate to parenting in a more abstract way like conflicts with an ex-partner, financial hardships, addictions, or mental health concerns. For the most part, the TALK Line is a “warmline” rather than a hotline in the sense that few callers dial in during a state of emergency. TALK Line callers discuss the gamut, from a crisis to the challenges of everyday life.

How many calls does the line handle on a typical day?
In 2016, the TALK Line handled 11,203 incoming and outgoing calls. That’s about 30 calls per day.

Is the line really available 24/7/365? What happens overnight?
Thanks to a team of up to 50 trained volunteers, the TALK Line runs 24 hours per day, 365 days of the year. Volunteers handle calls between 8:00 a.m. and 11:00 p.m. in person at our confidential call center. Overnight calls are handled remotely.

What qualifications are required to be a TALK Line Volunteer?
Any adult with the compassion and calm to offer caring, non-judgmental emotional support to parents in distress has the potential to be a great TALK Line volunteer. TALK Line volunteers are most helpful when they can listen objectively and empathetically to a parent’s story, ask open-ended questions, and reflect feelings. A TALK Line volunteer needs the ability to be a solid and supportive container for whatever emotions callers are going through in the present moment. Key qualities and experiences we look for in volunteers are:

  • A high degree of empathy for others
  • Exceptional listening skills
  • Parenting experience or experience working with kids
  • Emotional steadiness necessary to handle exposure to difficult, potentially triggering topics
  • Spoken fluency in one or more languages most prevalently spoken by TALK Line callers: English, Spanish, Cantonese
  • Experience working with diverse populations
  • Background or interest in human services or related fields

Our current pool of TALK Line Volunteers is comprised of recent college graduates, working professionals, clinical psychology interns, stay-at-home parents, career-changers, retirees, and more.

How are TALK Line volunteers trained?
Volunteers complete 30+ hours of classroom instruction and hands-on training led by professional psychologists, TALK Line staff, and veteran volunteers. Training begins with reading material and lectures on topics related to child abuse and neglect, child development, and the challenges of parenting. The bulk of training teaches volunteers to be compassionate listeners through a series of role plays. During role plays, a training facilitator acts out a mock call, a volunteer practices responding, and the facilitator offers on-the-spot coaching. Volunteers have multiple opportunities to observe and participate in role plays and discuss strategies to address common pitfalls faced on the line throughout the course of the training. The final phase of training allows volunteers to listen and respond to live calls with the support of veteran volunteers and TALK Line staff.

What time commitment is required to be a TALK Line Volunteer?
Volunteers spend about four hours per week in person at our confidential call center answering calls. They spend an additional one hour per week meeting with a supervisor to debrief difficult calls and discuss strategies for working with ongoing clients. Volunteers are encouraged to attend optional, quarterly training seminars to refresh skills for handling calls and build community with fellow volunteers. All TALK Line volunteers are expected to commit to one full year on the line.

How can I become a TALK Line volunteer?
RSVP for an upcoming volunteer information session or email volunteer[@]sfcapc.org to express interest today! All volunteers must complete an application, interview process and background check prior to training.

What other ways can I get involved at the Prevention Center?
We need volunteers to care for children, support educational workshops, prepare meals, help out in our office, host donation drives, and more! Check out the volunteer page on our website, RSVP for an upcoming volunteer info session, or email volunteer[@]sfcapc.org to get involved!