WhitePaper_BuildingResiliencyChildrensStoriesThis fall, SCAN published its first white paper for child and family welfare professionals. A resource focused on building resiliency in children through books, it includes research, directives, references and calls to action. It is the next step in a multi-year initiative to use SCAN’s “Kids Need Connections” campaign to educate and empower local parents and community members to BE those positive connections for children through tangible steps and projects.

> Download the white paper here: Building Resilient Children, One Story at a Time

This first white paper was written by Tracy Leonard, SCAN’s Public Education Manager. In October, Tracy will be a guest at Beatley Central Library where she will put this research into action, leading a story time and showing caregivers how to use books as powerful tools to build resiliency and connect with children.

Additional white papers will be developed in the coming year. In the meantime, we invite you to explore the other resources for professionals we have developed to date, including Connections Assessments, Build Up/Tear Down Jenga game and Children’s Book Lists & Worksheets.

blogblock_corporalpunishmentRecent headlines are bringing attention to the issue of corporal punishment. Surveys show that many parents in the U.S. use physical punishment to discipline their children, even though it has been shown to be no more effective than non-violent alternatives, and the harm it can cause is real.

After 20 years of robust research, pediatricians, social workers, and other service providers know that corporal punishment is linked not only to physical injury, but also to aggression and antisocial behavior, delinquency, domestic abuse later in life, a wide range of mental health problems, disruptions in parent-child attachment, and even slower cognitive development and decreased academic achievement. As of 2012, no studies have found it to have any long-term positive effects.

It is true that our society has been gradually shifting away from corporal punishment as a means of disciplining children. However, it is still widely accepted and practiced in the United States. Physicians and other service providers have a responsibility to provide support and education to parents concerning the health and well-being of their children. But it can be a tough subject. Many parents who use corporal punishment do so because they were physically disciplined as children. We also have to consider the variations in child-rearing practices across diverse cultures. And sometimes parents resort to physical punishment due to stress and frustration, and then feel guilty afterward.

So what is the best way for service providers to have these conversations in a way that respects parental rights, is culturally competent, and is not stigmatizing? Here are some ideas:

  • During regular check-ups or check-ins, ask about the child’s behavior the same way you would ask about the child’s sleep pattern or diet.

“How are things going with managing her behavior? Have you noticed any particular behavioral problems?”

These questions offer a natural opening for parents who might be hesitant to bring up any difficulties they are having with their child’s behavior. Ask the parent what kind of discipline they have used to address the issue. If they are using physical punishment, it is likely that it is not working. This is an opportunity for a general conversation about normal development. Knowledge about child development may help the parent understand what could be sparking their child’s behavior, and give them realistic expectations about their child’s abilities to control their impulses, evaluate risk, and understand consequences. Also, normalizing the experience of parent frustration and identifying positive parenting skills may decrease the likelihood that the parent will resort to corporal punishment the next time.

“When my son was her age, I can’t tell you how many times I had to tell him not to climb on the table; I would get so frustrated with him. But usually, when young children don’t follow rules it’s not because they are trying to be defiant; they just haven’t developed those skills yet. Just be patient with your daughter and take precautions to keep her safe and she will learn.”

If the situation calls for you to address the issue more directly, here are some additional tips:

  • Recognize that the parent’s use of physical discipline is not uncommon, and that many of our parents and grandparents used physical discipline in our upbringing.
  • Explain that strong research has shown that corporal punishment is no more effective than other forms of discipline, but that it carries many risks.
  • Offer alternatives. Take time to learn more about the child and brainstorm alternative forms of discipline that might be a good fit for their unique personality and skills, their environment, and particular problem behaviors.
  • Share resources in the community that they might find helpful. If possible, refer parents to a specific person in an organization, and suggest that they mention that they were referred by you.
  • Offer sincere support and offer a follow-up appointment or phone call. We like this radio show from the American Academy of Pediatrics, which you could consider sharing with parents.

Have you worked with families who are working to transition from corporal punishment to more positive forms of discipline? What resources or tips can you share?

The newest data from Kids Count, a project of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, is nothing short of staggering.  There are so many factors to consider when service providers are trying to use best practices to help children grow up in safe, stable, nurturing homes.  Or, when granting organizations and foundations are trying to determine what groups of children are at high risk or underserved.


Virginia may rank 9th overall, but what does that mean? 

There are 1.8 million children (ages 0-17) in Virginia.

  • 728,000 are in the 5 to 11 age range
  • 15.5% live in poverty
  • 41.2% receive free or reduced lunch at school
  • 9.7% do not have health insurance
  • 17% have one or more emotional, behavioral, or developmental conditions
  • 5,664 are confirmed by Child Protective Services as a victim of maltreatment

Which number do you settle on?  An overall ranking of 9? Our economic well-being rank of 11?  A family and community rank of 12?  A health rank of 11?

Or, don’t settle on a ranking at all. Instead, focus on 1: 1 child at a time, and 1 connection for that child at a time.

Think of it – what would 1 connection for one of the 5,664 abused and neglected children in our commonwealth have meant?  Perhaps that number could have been 5,663. And wouldn’t that matter in a big way to that one child? Her family? Her community?

Numbers can feel equal parts cold and overwhelming. Perhaps we need to think about it like this: Every child counts. Which means every connection you make can count, too.

Learn more about SCAN’s Kids Need Connections campaign here.







blogblock_simpleconnectionsEver since launching our Kids Need Connections campaign last spring, we’ve had countless discussions with service providers, families and staff about how to build the connections that we know are so critical for happy, healthy and safe children.

One of the tools we’ve developed is a series of Children’s Stories that Build Resiliency, a list of children’s books with questions to help adults and children connect and engage in discussions to build resiliency.  And we often hear from child welfare professionals about other games, workshops and more that can help build those connections as well.

But a recent blog post — from a business website, of all places — reminded us that making a connection can often be so SIMPLE.  Here are some of our favorites (with a few notes from us on how it might apply to children, too!)

[Re-posted from Young Entrepreneur Council and wework.com: "10 Habits of People Who Connect With Anyone"]

#1 Smile. This is by far the fastest way in the world to create a connection.

#4 Be genuine. There is only one type of connection — one you genuinely care about.

#6 Pay attention. The easiest way to be interesting is to be interested. Find excitement in what you can learn from others. Hear what they say. Listen and learn about what matters to them — not so you can say something back as soon as possible, but so you can get a window into their world. People (especially kids!) want to tell their story. Be the person excited to hear it (or they’ll stop trying to tell it to you).

#8 Be open to conversation. Embrace conversation with those around you. (Be a safe, open place for your kids to come when they want to talk.)

# 10 Be uniquely YOU. Be vulnerable and open. Share your real story and goals…Talking about the weather does not build connection. Being real does. (Sharing your feelings and being open with your kids is a GREAT way to make them feel cherished and trusted.)

You can read all 10 tips from the original blog post on wework.com here.

How will you be building connections with kids this week?

SCAN’s Public Education team spent time this summer developing a new page on SCAN’s website specifically for the faith community. Why? Because they have an important connection to the children and parents in our communities–and they are often in unique positions to safely provide support, compassion and love. We hope to connect with as many faith groups of all kinds as possible in the coming months, giving them the tools and resources to help them strengthen families and protect children in their congregations and beyond.

blogblock_faithgroupsHere are just a few of the tools and suggestions we provide to faith groups:

  • Share the Kids Need Connections campaign with your Faith Community here.
  • Share SCAN’s Parent Resource Center here.
  • Invite a SCAN Spokesperson to your Faith Community via our Speakers Bureau here.
  • Become a ‘Pinwheel Partner’ for Child Abuse Prevention Month in April here.
  • Schedule a Training to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse here.

Can you think of other resources that might be helpful for faith groups? Comment below or send us an email. And be sure to visit  our Faith-Based Resources page and download the Faith-Based Resources flyer to share. Every connection with a local faith group means more chances to support prevention and strengthen families in Northern Virginia. Help us build new connections!


WORDS (noun) /wərd / ~ a unit of language, consisting of one or more spoken sounds or their written representation, that functions as a principal carrier of meaning

blogblock_sanduskyAfter watching the Matthew Sandusky and Oprah Winfrey interview (you can watch some of it here, along with thoughts from the D2L blog), it is clear that one of the key things missing in young Matt Sandusky’s life was WORDS.  No one had given him the WORDS to label his body.  No one had given him the WORDS to say NO to unwanted advances from an adult.  No one had given him the WORDS to describe his emotions and the confusion he was feeling when an adult was sexually abusing him.  And no one used their WORDS to speak up when they thought something wasn’t right in his relationship with Jerry Sandusky or when they witnessed sexual abuse happening.   There was one person who had WORDS though – Jerry Sandusky himself.  He had the words to instill fear in Matt that if he spoke up or told someone what was happening then the police would take him away and bad things would happen to him.

All Matt knew was that he came from a poor and broken family and he so desperately wanted a father in his life.  He wanted it so badly that he was willing to live through the sexual abuse and justify it in his young mind.  This is no excuse though.  There are many adults who came in and out of Matt’s life that could have given him the WORDS to feel empowered, it didn’t have to be from a mother and father who failed him.  There were many chances for healthy and safe child-adult connections that simply did not happen.

Make sure you know the 5 Steps to Protecting Children:

Step 1: Learn the Facts

Step 2: Minimize Opportunity

Step 3: Talk About It

Step 4: Recognize the Signs

Step 5: React Responsibly

WORDS are powerful.  Let’s make sure that every child has the WORDS they need to grow up safe, healthy, and happy.

- Tracy Leonard

p.s. Interested in learning more about SCAN’s work with Darkness to Light and how we provide trainings in child sexual abuse prevention across Northern Virginia? Please contact me today: 703-820-9001.


blogblock_supervisionIt’s a question we often hear from parents and caregivers–when is it “okay” to leave my child at home alone? Busy schedules, challenges with after-school care and so much more often make this a tough decision. Simply put, there is no easy answer. Every child is different, regardless of age. Every home situation is different, regardless of location or neighbors. And every jurisdiction is different in our area when it comes to regulations and guidelines.

We suggest that parents begin talking about and preparing for a child to be left alone before a decision has to be made. There is no magic number when a child reaches the perfect age to be left unsupervised, so even community guidelines (which often share ages from 10-15 as a safe range in particular instances) aren’t always applicable or safe. It’s often best to — when a child is responsible enough and open to the idea — begin slowly, leaving him or her alone for gradually longer periods of time (starting with as little as 15 minutes.)

To help families have this discussion, we recommend visiting the Supervision Guidelines page on our Parent Resource Center, where you can find a fact sheet in English and Spanish, as well as links to local jurisdictions for their resources and support.

What is your experience with child supervision guidelines? What is helpful and/or harmful?  Are there other tools and resources we should be sharing with families? Please comment below to share.


Today we welcome Hon. Tim Lovain as a guest blogger to share his experience working on an initiative to be intentional as a community when it comes to planning for and supporting the children of Alexandria, where he is a Councilman.

Photo via Patch.com

Photo via Patch.com

In June, the Alexandria City Council and the Alexandria School Board approved the Children and Youth Master Plan for the City of Alexandria.  The Master Plan is the result of hundreds of hours of discussions within the Alexandria community over many months.  It provides a blueprint for Alexandria as it seeks to improve outcomes for children, youth and families in our community.  The Plan’s Vision is that “All of Alexandria’s children and youth can succeed today and tomorrow”.  It sets five goals to meet that vision, multiple strategies to accomplish those goals and specific sets of action steps to support those strategies.

This Master Plan also supports SCAN’s efforts.

Its very first goal is that “every child will be physically safe and healthy”.  Its first strategy is to “support the related efforts of public and private entities to improve the health, wellness and safety of children, youth and families”.  It prescribes an action step to “support the efforts of organizations working to decrease and mitigate the effects of child abuse and exposure to violence, and to improve the safety of environments for children”.

I was proud to be a member of the Alexandria Children, Youth and Families Collaborative Commission that produced the initial draft of this Master Plan, and I was pleased to help shepherd it through to approval by City Council.  I believe that it will strengthen our community’s efforts to help our children and youth thrive and will increase appreciation and support for the critical work of SCAN and other organizations in that effort.

Living in a community where children are considered a priority is a gift, and also a responsibility– to do exemplary work in the prevention of child abuse, to lift up children and families in new, innovative ways, and to share our experiences and resources with others.

I’m proud to be a part of it all.

- Tim Lovain, SCAN Board Member
City Councilman, City of Alexandria



IOM_childabuseneglect_infographicThe research on child abuse and neglect continues to develop every year. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) and National Research Council (NRC) recently released an update to a 1993 report on the state of child welfare research. The new report, New Directions in Child Abuse and Neglect Research, focuses on child abuse and neglect as a serious public health issue and examines the research advances over the last 20 years, as well as remaining gaps in knowledge.

A great infographic summarizing the report can be found here. Here are the key points from a recent report webinar:

  • Neurological development is a new area of research that has blossomed in recent years. Child abuse and neglect can literally change parts of a child’s brain and its functioning, especially if the abuse occurs during certain critical periods, is severe and lasts a long time. Researchers noted some children fare better than others as a result of differences in resilience. SCAN is working to build resilience in children and families throughout Northern Virginia through our Kids Need Connections efforts.
  • Researchers noted that physical abuse and sexual abuse have fallen considerably over the last two decades, but there is no evidence of a decline in neglect. Why are different types of abuse and neglect following different patterns? The researchers called for more long-term research to figure out why this trend is developing and how we can reduce neglect more effectively.
  • Over last 20 years, we’ve learned a great deal more about promising programs to help prevent abuse and neglect. Approaches like early home visiting, parenting programs and public awareness campaigns can all make a difference. We’ve also learned more about how to respond to abuse victims, such as with trauma-focused therapies and practice.
  • From a policy perspective, many child abuse and neglect laws are not based on research and little evaluation has been done on the impact of policies like differential response, mandated reporter changes and safe haven laws. The report identifies four areas to look to in developing a coordinated research approach: a national strategic plan, a national surveillance system, a new generation of researchers, and changes in federal and state programmatic and policy response. The researchers also outline questions to guide future research.

While the report perhaps raises as many questions as it answers, SCAN is thrilled to see the continued progress of child abuse and neglect research, and we look forward to continue using the results to guide our work with children, families and communities moving forward.

- Lindsay Ferrer

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

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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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