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 http://www.scanva.org/D2L

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

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!

Lots of people at SCAN often work behind the scenes, including our Council of Young Professionals. The CYP is relatively new, and people often ask us about this group of 20- and 30-something supporters. CYP President Elect, Christine Chambers, had a great idea – instead of talking about members, she decided to tally some numbers and give us this quick snapshot of today’s CYP:


Still have more questions about the Council, or know someone interested in joining? You can learn more on our website here, or download the application here.

Don’t forget – you can post your questions below as well. We’d love to tell you more about the CYP!

Today’s guest post is from SCAN’s Summer Intern Iliana Panameño, who recently graduated from Union College and hopes to empower the Latino community through advocacy work and policy analysis. Her work at SCAN this summer focuses on public education and advocacy issues.

blogblock_kidsandcarsOur community has experienced two tragic deaths this month due to children being left alone in a hot car. Let’s help one another, and let’s get involved in tackling this important summer safety issue.

Mikey was the most loved and adored baby on earth.  He was our miracle baby, the last survivor of 14 embryos conceived through in-vitro fertilization.  We loved Mikey like the air we breathed…”

Mikey Warschauer’s story - from KidsandCars.org – is worth reading in full. Ten years ago, Mikey was one of the 38 children (on average) who die in hot cars each year from heat-related deaths. Many have wondered, “How can a parent completely forget that their child has been left alone in the car?” The answer is that even the best of parents or caregivers can unknowingly leave their baby sleeping in the car. According to Parents Central, most deaths due to heat exhaustion occur when there is a change in a daily routine, and your partner or caregiver who will take care of the child for a few hours, forgets that your child is in the back seat.

It is important to remember that disasters happen quickly. Here are 6 tips on how you can keep your child safe from heat exhaustion this summer:

  1. Never leave a child unattended in a vehicle.
  2. Do not let your child play in an unattended vehicle. Teach them that a vehicle is not a play area.
  3. Never leave infants or children in a parked vehicle, even if the windows are open. The inside temperature of a vehicle can rise almost 20 degrees within the first 10 minutes!
  4. Keep a large teddy bear or other stuffed animal in the car seat when it’s empty. Move the teddy bear in front of the seat when you place your child in the car seat as a visual reminder, or…
  5. Put your purse/briefcase, etc. (something you will need when you get to your final destination) in the backseat next to the baby which will force you to check the backseat when you arrive so that you see the baby is there.
  6. Make a habit of looking in the vehicle – front and back – before locking the door and walking away.
  7. If you’re dropping your child off at childcare, and normally it’s your spouse or partner who drops them off, have your spouse or partner call you to make sure the drop-off went according to plan.

“I cannot bring Mikey back…but at least I pray that the story of his death may help prevent other similar tragedies,” writes Mikey’s father in his story here. For more information on how to protect your child and others from heat exhaustion (as well as other car safety tips) click on the following links:


July is the start of a new fiscal year at SCAN and a chance to take a look at how we did last year and what our plans are for the coming year.  For me – as SCAN’s Director of Development – that means looking at our fundraising and development goals, so I thought I would put together a little summary for all our supporters who helped make SCAN’s child abuse and neglect prevention services a reality this year.  CLICK on the nifty infographic I made (below) to illustrate it all.  And of course, feel free to comment below if you have any questions!

- Karen


[CLICK on the image to see the full infographic!]

We simply can’t say enough about the incredible volunteers at SCAN. Every day, our amazing volunteers are in local courtrooms advocating for children, empowering parents at classes and support groups, and educating our community about why child abuse prevention is so important. They’re helping SCAN’s office run smoothly, attending board meetings, appearing on radio shows, managing our website and making sure our events are successful. And it’s because of those more than 260 people that we were able to change the lives of more than a thousand children and families last year.

Last month we celebrated our volunteers at a recognition party (including a pictionary-down-the-lane type game that had us all laughing…see the last photo below!)

But to be honest–we celebrate our volunteers every day we make a difference at SCAN.

We’d love to celebrate you! Ready to volunteer? Learn more here.


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At this time of year, we get a lot of questions about Supervision Guidelines and when it’s “okay” to leave children at home alone. As much as we’d love to give parents a simple answer, it’s not a one-size-fits-all question. The fact is, every child—and family—is different. Instead of an “answer,” we like to provide guidelines, questions and tips for parents as they make this important decision for their families:

blogblock_supervisionFirst, we encourage parents to ask these questions:

  • Can my child solve basic problems? Discuss “What if?” questions to see how your child would handle different situations (a knock at the door, broken glass, etc.)
  • Does my child follow directions and remember instructions?
  • Can my child say “no” to friends who might encourage him/her to break rules?
  • Does my child have trouble getting to or from school on time?
  • Can my child be away from adults without feeling lonely or afraid?
  • Does my child read and write well enough to take telephone messages?
  • Can my child ask for help from friends and neighbors?
  • Does my child understand the role of police officers, firefighters and rescue squads?

Second, are YOU ready for the responsibility of leaving your child home alone?

  • Can you stay in touch and supervise your child even if you’re not at home?
  • If not, will a trusted nearby friend or relative be accessible by phone and able to help in case of an emergency?
  • Have you discussed and posted rules? Have you prepared your home so that it is safe?

And finally, how does your CHILD feel about being home alone?
It’s important to consider their fears, anxiety and/or other reactions to the idea so you can make a decision that is best for their wellbeing and safety.

Each jurisdiction in Northern Virginia provides different age guidelines.  (Remember, these are ONLY guidelines!) In our area, most require that a child be between 8 and 10 years old before a parent even consider leaving them alone. Find your city or county below for specific age suggestions and additional resources:

Alexandria: Call 703-838-0800 or read Leaving my child alone at home (in English) Leaving my child alone at home (in Spanish)

Arlington: Call  703-228-1500 or read Arlington’s Guidelines here

Fairfax: Call 703-324-7400 or read Fairfax’s Guidelines here

Loudoun: Call 703-771-5437 or read Loudoun’s Guidelines here and here

Prince William: Call 703-792-7500 or read Prince William’s Guidelines here under “Child Supervision Guidelines”

Imagine a preschool child who has great fun on the school playground but every time he hears the teacher say it is time to go back inside, he tends to go the other direction. He’s hard to “corral” back into the building and then has trouble concentrating or focusing on the next activity. His teachers get frustrated because they see this as “acting out” and “being difficult” and they even wonder about ADHD…

But what if you also knew this little boy had been sexually abused; that even though he’s now in a safe home environment, there’s something about that hallway back into the classroom and the way the lighting changes that reminds him viscerally of the traumas he endured at such a young age. He’s too young to understand that connection but his body language and behaviors communicate for him.

  • How does knowing this additional information change your advice for those involved? Anxiety, behavior problems, concentration problems, interpersonal conflicts and physical symptoms like stomachaches can be symptoms caused by trauma.
  • Is there a better way to respond to this vulnerable child? Absolutely. The move toward trauma-informed practice is designed to help us think differently about how we address, treat and interact with children – and with parents who may have suffered trauma themselves during childhood.

blogblock_AIPCTraumaSCAN of Northern Virginia’s Allies in Prevention Coalition recently met to learn more about trauma-informed practice and how professionals working with children and families can use an awareness of the signs and consequences of trauma to more effectively address the needs of children and families with whom we work.

“There is always hope,” said Cynthia Agbayani, a panelist at the meeting from Lifeworks Outreach Services in Woodbridge. “We want to talk to children in terms of being survivors and heroes instead of victims.” Trauma-informed practice can help.   With trauma-informed practice, practitioners infuse trauma awareness, knowledge, and skills into their work with children and families. They work collaboratively, using the best available science, to screen and treat children and help them develop resiliency.

Many jurisdictions now have trauma screenings for children in the child welfare system and use evidence-based or promising interventions, such as Trauma-Focused Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT). TF-CBT adapts traditional cognitive behavioral therapy to be trauma-sensitive for children with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or other problems related to traumatic life experiences, as well as their parents. Children and parents work to develop skills for processing the trauma; managing distressing thoughts, feelings, and behaviors; and enhancing safety, parenting skills, and family communication.

Trauma-informed practice is not just about therapy – it’s a change in the way we think about behavior and the survivor’s need for healing, safety and support. “You want to demonstrate this practice and engage parents to model it as well,” said Ann Knefel, with Fairfax County DFS, who also participated on the panel.   CASA volunteers, caregivers, social workers, lawyers, therapists and others each have a role to play in ensuring children have access to trauma-informed care. To learn more about the principles of trauma-informed care, visit some of these resources:

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Every day we work to build hope for children and families across Northern Virginia. Here, we share ways for child advocates, community members and parents to build that hope, one blog entry at a time!



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