blogblock_talkaboutCSAMany of us will roll our eyes or comment on how hard it was when we were teenagers, but can you fathom being a teenager now?  In an age where there are little to no expectations of privacy, where your personal information is readily available, and where the things you say or do can be recalled at the mere internet search of your name?  Preteens and teens very rarely will ask for help or advice, but as adults in our communities, it is our responsibility to help keep them safe.  Having age-appropriate discussions on tough topics such as sexual abuse, is not only a necessity, it could save someone’s life.

It is even more important to model healthy adult relationships.  A person’s feelings should never be the focus of a joke.

This week we’re sharing an important post from our friends at Darkness to Light (D2L), whom we’re proud to work with as a Partner in Prevention:


We must help teens understand the seriousness of child sexual abuse.”
Originally posted by Darkness to Light on July 11th

Excerpted from THINKPROGRESS

In an incident making national headlines, a 16-year-old girl from Texas says that photos of her unconscious body went viral online after she was drugged and raped at a party with her fellow high schoolers. But the victim isn’t backing down. She’s speaking out about what happened to her, telling her story to local press and asking to be identified as Jada.

After other teens started mocking her online — sharing images of themselves splayed out on the floor in the same pose as Jada’s unconscious body under the hashtag #jadapose — the victim decided to speak out. She sat down with local outlet KHOU 11 to tell her side. “I’m just angry,” Jada said.

According to Jada, she was invited to a party at a fellow high schooler’s house. The boy who was hosting the party gave her a drink that she believes was spiked with a drug that made her lose consciousness. She passed out and doesn’t remember what happened next. But then she started seeing evidence of her sexual assault circulated online, and some of her peers started texting her to ask her if she was okay.

Then, #jadapose started turning her rape into a joke. When the Houston Press reached out to one of the individuals who shared a popular #jadapose photo, he said that he didn’t personally know Jada and was simply “bored at 1 a.m. and decided to wake up my (Twitter timeline).”

Jada decided to share her name and her story with the press because she has nothing to hide anymore. “Everybody has already seen my face and my body,” she said, “but that’s not what I am and who I am.” Nonetheless, the social media firestorm has taken a toll on her. She says she now wants to be homeschooled.

The Houston police is currently investigating Jada’s allegations, and no arrests have yet been made.


40% of child sexual abuse is by older or more powerful youth. In this instance, the alleged abuse was followed by a complete breakdown of basic decency. Instead of receiving support, the victim was mocked and pictures were shared on social media, destroying any expectation of anonymity for a minor and adding further trauma to an already devastating situation.

A culture that mocks victims and rape in this case also allowed the alleged abuser to have free say on the matter – granting him rein to publicly call Jada names like “snitch” and “hoe.”

This horrifying example shows exactly why it’s so important to have regular, age-appropriate talks with kids and teens about boundaries, appropriate behavior on and offline, and sexual abuse. Today’s definition and expectation of privacy is much, much different than it was even 10 years ago. Children must be taught from a young age that rape jokes, rape photos, and anything else pertaining to the sexual violation of another person are not funny. They need to know the harm that can be done by sharing jokes and pictures that mock abuse or abuse victims.

In many cases, youth don’t understand the implications of what they’re doing. That is why it is up to us as adults to educate them on what is right.

We cannot continue to allow this to happen.



Ready to prevent child sexual abuse here in our community?


- Tracy Leonard

blogblock_clockOne of the constant challenges of parenting today is time management. Families have busy schedules, often juggling multiple jobs and endless activities, and can really struggle to spend quality time together.

How can we better support parents in their efforts to connect with their kids while still handling the stress and schedule of daily life? Here are 4 key issues we address with parents (and links to additional resources on our Parent Resource Center) that can help:

  • It is possible to balance parenthood and work. It’s not always (never?) easy, but there are steps you can take that 1.) put parenting first, and 2.) tackle everything else based on that priority. Our Balancing Parenthood & Work page has a list of these steps along with encouragement for the overwhelmed parent.
  • Develop your family’s routine. We can’t entirely avoid stress from time to time, and that’s why it is so important to develop family routines. Having a general schedule in place each day helps children feel safe and secure, and can be incredibly helpful in making sure families have quality time (dinner around the table, reading books at night, etc.) every day, even if it’s just 15 consistent minutes each day. The Importance of Routines should not be underestimated.
  • Understand what family stress is, and what it can do. If a parent is feeling stressed, their children are most likely feeling the effects. Family Stress can wreak havoc on quality time together, making healthy communication and positive discipline — keys to connecting — next to impossible.
  • Time together doesn’t have to be perfect. Family life is messy and hard and that’s okay. We work to help parents understand that just being there is the first, most important step. If a parent struggles with what to do in that time, we share The Power of Play – a great page with simple suggestions of activities, based on children’s ages and interests.

Since the launch of our Kids Need Connections campaign, we’ve talked a lot about connecting with kids to build their resiliency. And the first step always has to be to make the time to connect.

It’s about time.



resources_blogblockWe’re on the hunt for your favorite websites, online libraries, resource centers and more that can help child and family welfare advocates. We’ve dedicated a page here on the blog for collecting links to these valuable online resources,  and readers can continue to share their finds in the comments section so we can add them to the list.

Some of our go-to sites include the Child Welfare Information Gateway and National Children’s Advocacy Center Child Abuse Library Online (CALiO).

How about YOU? Where do you go for child welfare news, fact sheets, tools and more? Please comment below so we can share with our audience!


2014_06_preKMany of us support pre-kindergarten programs because they help children enter kindergarten more prepared and give parents the flexibility to work and support their families. But there is another reason child abuse prevention advocates should support pre-k:

The research shows that a high-quality pre-kindergarten (pre-k) program with a strong parent coaching component can actually help prevent child abuse and neglect.

Since the 1960s, the Chicago Child-Parent Centers (CPC) preschool program has been operating in low-income Chicago neighborhoods. The program offers pre-k for children beginning at age 3, in addition to a strong focus on parenting support. Each center has a staffed parent-resource room as well as staff members who connect families with resources to address their needs. Parents are required to participate at school and staff members also do home visits.

In high-quality, long term follow-up studies, researchers found that children in the CPC program were half as likely to experience repeated abuse or neglect and nearly half as likely to be placed in out-of-home placements like foster care, compared to similar children not in the program. (Reynolds et al., 2007) These are huge impacts, especially for a program that is not focused on child abuse prevention.

So, how are we doing on providing access to high-quality pre-k in Virginia? There is still a lot of room for improvement! The Virginia Preschool Initiative (VPI) serves about 17 percent of the state’s 4-year-olds, which is progress over the 6 percent served in 2003. While many other children are served by Head Start or private preschool programs, too many Virginia children still do not have access to a high-quality pre-k program.

Research shows that pre-k programs must be high-quality to get strong outcomes for children. VPI meets 6 of 10 quality benchmarks measured by the National Institute for Early Education Research. In addition, state funding per child has decreased each of the last 3 years. As a result, Virginia ranks 26th in the nation on access for 4-year-olds and 23rd in the nation on state spending on pre-k.

To adequately serve our most vulnerable children and potentially prevent child abuse, Virginia will need to continue investing in high-quality pre-kindergarten programs.

So how can we make a difference? SCAN is planning an Advocacy Day this November, a special opportunity to join a group of advocates in voicing our concerns and commitment to improving the resources and supports — like Pre-K — that strengthen families and ensure opportunities for our youngest members. Stay tuned for a date and details later this summer.

- Lindsay Ferrer










2014_06_D2LtrainingupdateOn December 16, 2011, SCAN held its first Darkness to Light Stewards of Children Training.  Since that time, we have had thirty-four trainings. On Saturday June 1, we held our largest training yet, training 63 members of the Open Door Presbyterian Church in Herndon.  Statistics told church members that children within their own congregation were suffering from child sexual abuse.  1 in 10 children will be sexually abused by their 18th birthday.  Members had to act.  They had to protect their children.

Three of our authorized facilitators presented the training to ODPC members, asking them questions that challenged their own beliefs and knowledge about sexual abuse.  The facilitators will continue to be there for the group as they edit their codes of conduct and policies within the church.

As of June 1, 2014, our authorized facilitators have now trained 522 people across Northern Virginia!

Think of that –

522 adults who are better equipped to prevent child sexual abuse

522 adults in our communities who can recognize signs that a child is suffering from sexual abuse

522 adults who are not afraid to act on behalf of a child because they are making choices, taking risks, and supporting one another

522 adults who have created, rewritten or are enforcing codes of conduct and policies within the organizations they serve

Our work is not done yet.  Do you know the signs of child sexual abuse?  Do you know what to do to minimize the chance of child sexual abuse happening?  Do you know what to do if a child discloses sexual abuse, if you discover it, or you suspect it?  SCAN has a network of twenty facilitators who are ready to come to you and awaken the power within YOU to prevent child sexual abuse.

Please contact me for more information.

- Tracy Leonard

photoforweb_1Resiliency. It’s a buzz word we’ve heard more about in child welfare circles in recent years, but educating our communities on what it actually means can be a challenge.

When SCAN developed its Kids Need Connections campaign earlier this year, the importance  of resiliency was at the heart of every discussion. First, how can we help parents understand what resiliency is? Second, how can we empower community members to be aware of resiliency in their community? And finally — how can we give professionals the tools they need to assess and build resiliency in children and families?

With the official launch of the campaign in April, SCAN began sharing a series of tools related to resiliency, including:

We’re also thrilled to share a brand new resource this month: Children’s Books that Build Resiliency. We’ve provided a list of 15 children’s books, each with a specific set of questions to facilitate discussion with children around resiliency.

Our plan is to continue to develop tools like this, with a focus on resiliency in children, families and even professionals in child welfare. One place we’re collecting ideas is Pinterest, on a board called “Children’s Stories that Build Resiliency,” here. We’d love to hear from you — what are some other resiliency-building resources or exercises you use in your work with children and families? Please share in the comments below!



We are thrilled to share that earlier this month we launched our brand new website. It’s full of great new ways to access our program information, search for parenting resources and learn more about SCAN. (Not to mention the fact that it’s mobile-friendly and works well on smartphones and tablets!)

The launch of the new site means our BuildingBlocks blog will now live THERE, and still bring you great information on child welfare trends, happenings at SCAN and ways to get involved. If you are a subscriber here, you have been automatically subscribed to receive updates via the new blog.

If not, we invite you to click here and subscribe today!

Today we welcome guest blogger Laura Yager, the Director of Partnerships and Resource Development for the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board.  Laura has worked in the prevention and treatment field for over 25 years, and offers an important perspective for SCAN and its supporters as we celebrate our 25th anniversary.

scan25_logoFINAL_VECTORPreventing a problem before it starts might sound like common sense. From Smokey the Bear —“Only YOU can prevent forest fires!” —to seat belt safety— “Click it or ticket!”—we’re inundated with simplified but effective messages about how we can prevent something bad before it happens.  If only protecting children could be that easy.

As a social issue campaign, child abuse prevention also has come a long way in the past 25 years.  The protection of children from harm and maltreatment has long been touted as a cultural value in the U.S.  In colonial times, adults had ideas about “right” and “wrong” ways to treat children, but the focus was less on child abuse prevention than punishment for a child’s misbehavior.

A century later, in 1875, the New York Society to Prevent Cruelty to Children was established as the first organization dedicated to child protection, its roots emerging from animal rights efforts. By 1920, the Child Welfare League of America began supporting agencies serving vulnerable children and families. In 1962, the modern age of child protection took off with amendments to the Social Security Act requiring states to organize statewide child welfare services that were in place nationwide by 1975.

Prevention has nearly always focused on raising awareness as the first step in inspiring positive change.  But the methods used have evolved, becoming increasingly sophisticated to reflect changing societal norms and values:

  • In the 1950s and earlier, scare tactics and shame were seen as appropriate ways to change/correct children’s behaviors.
  • By the 1960s and 70s, efforts to change child behavior took on a psychological focus, with an emphasis on the importance of self-esteem (i.e. “If your child feels good about him/herself, their behavior will improve.”).  While changing feelings were important components of behavior change, they were narrow in focus and only mildly effective.
  • A new focus on youth resistance skills emerged in the 1980s that had limited success (think “Just say no!”).
  • The late 1990s saw more research and scientific approaches used to determine effectiveness, including learning more about “risk factors” that put people in danger of becoming victims and “protective factors” that help buffer against risk.  We also began working across spheres of influence—peers, school systems, families—and building individual resiliency skills, such as problem-solving, relationship-building, and managing risk.
  • In the past decade, we’ve learned that focusing on preventing just one danger (whether it be substance abuse, child abuse, delinquency, etc.) is not the best approach.  Factors placing someone at risk for one problem often correlate with risk factors for others.  In response, we are moving beyond traditional “prevention programs” and are focusing on multi-faceted efforts—both practice and policy—that are geared towards the whole community.

Sonia Quiñónez is the executive director of a local nonprofit organization called SCAN (Stop Child Abuse Now) of Northern Virginia. “Our organization turns 25 years old this year,” says Quiñónez, “and over the years, we’ve seen a real shift in how people view and address child abuse and neglect, producing positive results in our community.” The real challenge, though, is securing sustainable funding to invest in prevention programs. When a crisis occurs, the ensuing public outcry almost always includes demands for more prevention efforts. Yet funding for prevention is often the first budget category cut in lean times.

Prevention begins when a child is put first.  The next evolution for prevention will be growing our community commitment to prioritizing funding, supporting parents and facilitating cooperation among agencies and organizations.

When that becomes our community’s collective common sense, that’s when we’ll begin to see significant progress in how we protect and nurture our youngest citizens. That’s why putting children first has to be more than a slogan.

- Laura Yager

Laura Yager, M.Ed., LPC, CPP-ATOD  Laura is the Director of Partnerships and Resource Development for the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board in Fairfax County, Virginia, and has worked in the prevention and treatment field for over 25 years. With a focus on community capacity building, mobilization, community strengthening, and, more recently, primary and behavioral health integration, she has been involved in the development of  prevention programs that have received national recognition including: the Leadership and Resiliency Program, named a SAMHSA Model Program in 2000 and an OJJDP Promising Program in 2003; and  Girl Power, named a NASADAD Exemplary Program in 2005. In March 2013, the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare awarded her office the “Impact Award” honorees for the Mental Health First Aid program. She is a past Chair of the Prevention Council of the Virginia Association of Community Services Boards and served on the Governor’s Prevention Advisory Council.

SCAN (Stop Child Abuse Now) of Northern Virginia is a 25-year-old nonprofit located in Alexandria, VA working to build hope for children and families through parent education, public education and child advocacy. It is the local organization affiliated with Prevent Child Abuse Virginia, Prevent Child Abuse America and National CASA Association.

We’re gearing up for a meeting with our local Stewards of Children authorized facilitators this September, and this blog post was going to be a quick, simple reminder that these professionals are available across Northern Virginia to give your community organizations powerful trainings in the prevention of child sexual abuse.

But then our national partner in this outreach, Darkness to Light, announced this week that they’re unveiling Stewards of Children version 2.0 – an even more impactful training to help adults recognize their responsibility and feel empowered to take action. And we got inspired all over again to do more outreach, taking this opportunity - referred to as a “documentary training that will change the world” – to invite every one of our friends and supporters and contacts like you to consider how you could support one of the new, two-hour trainings. How YOU can encourage a group you’re involved with to consider having a one-day training that could change the lives of the children you care about, the children who NEED YOU TO PROTECT THEM.

We hope you’ll watch D2L’s new video preview of their program, and then contact SCAN to discuss a training with your youth sports league coaches, your faith group, your Parent Teacher Association, your playgroup, your neighborhood association and so on. We’re meeting next month with our group of trained facilitators who are ready to change the way you think about the prevention of child sexual abuse, and our partners at the Center for Alexandria’s Children also have a group of facilitators available for trainings in the City of Alexandria.

For information on our work with Darkness to Light, visit

To request more information or schedule a training, contact Tracy Leonard, SCAN’s Community Education & Engagement Coordinator at

Are you a parent with a smartphone? This post is for you! Over the summer, one of our interns compiled some of the top-ranked parenting apps available on iTunes. We thought we’d share them here on the blog, and also invite you to browse our online Parent Resource Center whenever you’re searching for tips on how to handle specific parenting challenges.

It can be good to have information available at your fingertips, but we also have to put in a plug for good, old-fashioned human interaction. Every parent should have a real, live network of support: other parents, neighbors, mentors and others who can help you whether you’re struggling or celebrating as a parent.

appsSo have fun checking out the apps, but also consider learning more about our educational parent support groups here. Both could be great sources of information and support on your parenting journey!

Total Baby is touted as the most comprehensive baby logging and tracking application available, and was cited by many of the surveyed parents as a must-have. The app tracks feedings, immunizations, nap length, time nursing (and on what side), growth, allergies and milestones.

Cry Translator claims to be able to identify the reason for a child’s cry with 96 percent accuracy and within 10 seconds. Whether it’s boredom, hunger, stress or downright exhaustion, the app also provides tips on handling the child’s needs.

WebMD is free, and provides a wide variety of physical and mental health information. The app also includes a symptom checker and a drug & treatments guide.

iHomeopathy is an “at your fingertips” guide to treating first-aid emergencies, childhood ailments and common illnesses.

Easy Parenting is an app that covers many of the challenges of parenting today, including those “from pregnancy to teenage years to leaving the nest for university or work” with tips for meeting challenges along the way.

The Family Matters app is designed to help engage family members in virtual discussion. Some of the questions and activities are simple, while others go a bit deeper. You can choose from hundreds of location-driven activities as well, which makes it ideal for family vacations and travel.

Surf Balance Safe Browser combines a fun, full-screen mobile browser with unique parental control features that go beyond simple website filtering. You can guide, limit and verify your child’s web usage from your mobile device.

Do you use other apps as a parent? We’d love to hear about them in the comments below!

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SCAN works to build hope for children and families in Northern Virginia. This blog brings child welfare professionals the current trends and valuable resources that will support their work to prevent child abuse and strengthen families in Northern Virginia and beyond.



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