SCAN is thrilled to once again be named “one of the best small charities” in the DC region by the Catalogue for Philanthropy, and this week we guest-blogged over on their site. Read on for their popular “7 Questions” series, written by our own Public Education Manager Tracy Leonard:

[Re-posted from CFO GoodWorks Blog, original post on 12/18/14]

Tracy 27 Questions with Tracy Leonard, Public Education Manager of SCAN

SCAN (Stop Child Abuse Now) works to stop the cycle of abuse through its parent education, child advocacy and community outreach programs. Tracy works to enhance how SCAN both engages and empowers community members to take action to stop child abuse. She facilitates SCAN’s Allies in Prevention Coalition — Northern Virginia’s only comprehensive coalition focused on child abuse prevention — as well as SCAN’s partnership with Darkness to Light.

  1. What motivated you to begin working with your organization?

SCAN and I found each other at just the right moment in time. After staying home with my two children for three years, it was time for me to go back to work. Children and children’s issues have always been a passion of mine so when I saw that SCAN was looking for a Public Education Manager, I knew it was the right fit. The position was a compliment to my background in elementary education as well as my recent Master’s Degree in Organizational Psychology. I was given the task of educating those in Northern Virginia about the scope, nature and consequences of child abuse and neglect and the importance of positive, nurturing parenting. A task that I met with open arms and an open mind.

  1. What exciting change or innovation is on your mind?

SCAN is known for its innovation in programming. One program we are planning to launch is Operation Safe Babies – an educational program that would teach new parents about safe sleep, how to soothe a crying baby, and the effects of Shaken Baby Syndrome. In addition to the educational resources, we hope to be able to provide cribs for their new bundles of joy. We are looking forward to working with other social service agencies in Northern Virginia to help reach the families they serve.

  1. Who inspires you (in the philanthropy world or otherwise)? Do you have a hero?

My parents are my biggest heroes and champions. They were young parents (17 and 18 years old) when they had me in 1973. Despite every obstacle they faced and every indicator that said they would not be successful parents or partners, they…[READ THE FULL BLOG POST ON CFP GOODWORKS BLOG HERE.]

hispanicbrothersObserved annually on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, National Adoption Day was celebrated this year on November 22, 2014.  SCAN’s Alexandria/Arlington CASA Program was able to support the adoptive families celebrating in Alexandria and Arlington.

The City of Alexandria celebrated 7 adoptive families with a total of 11 children, ages 1 to 17.  Four of those families were able to be present for the celebration involving special crafts and story time for the children.  Each family was highlighted through a heart-warming introduction specific to their family story, then they were presented to Judge Frogale who gave them a certificate recognizing the special day.  A wonderful breakfast buffet was provided for all who attended, including extended families and friends, City officials, DCHS Social Workers, CASA staff/volunteers, and other volunteers. Each family was given a frame commemorating the day and a gift bag which included a book donated by SCAN for each child.  These wonderful books were from SCAN’s resiliency book list and included an interactive list of questions and activities for each book.

Arlington County celebrated 12 adoptive families with a total of 17 children, ages 0 to 18 in a celebration at the Synetic Theater in Crystal City. The day began with Face Painting, making a family plate that described the children’s place in their respective families, a demonstration in the soft room and a performance of “The Red Balloon”. Each family took time to enjoy a delicious lunch with their children and catch up with their social workers who some families had worked with for more than 6 years. Each family was given a gift bag which included a book donated by SCAN for each child, another book entitled “Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew” and stationary. The families left with smiles on their faces, ready to start their new journeys.

As a professional who has been in the child welfare field for over 12 years, it was wonderful to see how well-matched and cohesive the families at Adoption Day were. The foster care system can be an extremely difficult transition for children and adoptive placement homes and it was amazing to see how well-trained and supported the adoptive families appeared. Adoption is a life changing process and the families were committed to their children and ready for the joy and challenges that come with parenting.

At SCAN, our vision is that every child deserves a safe, permanent home where they can thrive. We work for children to be happy, healthy and heard…Adoption Day was a beautiful reminder that there are families dedicated to just that!

- Diamond Vann, CASA Program Manager

Learn more about SCAN’s Alexandria/Arlington CASA Program here.

10620434_10152489822470735_8987194809694495121_oOn Tuesday over 50 professional and community members who wish to be stronger advocates for children attended SCAN’s advocacy training event, Speak Up For Children!, a partnership between SCAN and Prevent Child Abuse Virginia.

Christie Marra from the Virginia Poverty Law Center gave an engaging presentation about the legislative process and how advocates can influence policies that impact children and families.

“An advocate’s role is to know the political climate, reach out for support, and rally the troops,” noted Christie. Participants spent the rest of the day being empowered to do just that.

Jim Pope, J.D., MSW, the Fairfax County CPS Hearing Officer, shared the story of how his work with the Northern Region Child Fatality Review Team led to successful advocacy efforts at the state level. Jim’s case study on writing and advocating for a bill to allow the team access to critical information to properly address child fatality perfectly illustrated the legislative advocacy process presented by Christie.

The training portion of the event was followed by policy and legislative panels. A panel of representatives from Youth for Tomorrow, Voice for Adoption, and the Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis spoke about how policy issues are impacting the populations they serve. The topics discussed included child trafficking, child mental health, and foster care and adoption. Participants also learned the powerful impact fiscal policy has on children and families.

“Virginia needs a different approach than a “cuts only” approach to balance the budget,” noted Jeff Connor Naylor with The Commonwealth Institute. As the panel ended, one person noted that she “gained more knowledge about Virginia’s budget process” that would inform her advocacy work in the future.

A panel of legislators from across Northern Virginia discussed potential state legislation dealing with children and families. Senator Barbara Favola and Delegates Dave Albo, Alfonso Lopez and Charniele Herring spoke with participants about everything from healthcare to poverty to child care standards.

“It was helpful to see the legislators in person and hear their perspectives on the legislative climate,” noted one participant. For many, observing the legislative panel and interacting with local lawmakers helped minimize the distance they felt between their own daily work advocating for children and the larger systems which impact that work. Many indicated that they are now much more likely to track legislation that affects their clients, and contact their legislators in the future.

So what next? Participants at the training walked away with these five tips:

1. KNOW YOUR LEGISLATOR: This easy-to-use “find your legislator” tool makes it fast and easy!

2. ENGAGE MORE with your legislators: Child welfare professionals know the issues and challenges children and families face better than almost anyone, so we need to be the one’s to speak up and let our representatives know when there is a policy issue than needs to be addressed. Legislators need us to keep them informed, and they do value our input.

3. EXPLORE THE “LOBBYIST-IN-A-BOX” TOOL: You can subscribe to this service on Virginia’s Legislative Information System (or LIS) and track up to 5 bills for free.

4. SUBSCRIBE TO SCAN’s CONNECTIONS BLOG: Stay informed on the issues and trends in child welfare both here in Northern Virginia and across the United States.

5. VISIT SCAN’S WEBSITE: Our Statistics, Policy & Research page provides current statistics on child abuse and neglect in Northern Virginia, as well as links to additional resources such as white papers and fact sheets.

As one of the participants was completing an evaluation of the training, she wrote: “I feel this training helped a lot, and I look forward to more children’s advocacy trainings in the future.”

We couldn’t agree more! Follow @SCANconnections and  #speakup4kids on Twitter for more information and updates on advocacy throughout the year.

- Kerry Desjardins
MSW Intern at SCAN and Advocacy Training Coordinator

SCAN’s work in Public Education has been expanding its reach to include child care workers. These newly formed relationships are a perfect example of how we connect with the communities in which we live.

Through our involvement with the Child Protection Partnership of Greater Prince William, we have received funding and administrative support from the Early Childhood Partnership to train 100 child care workers in Prince William County, Manassas and Manassas Park using the Darkness to Light curriculum. There are 6 trainings scheduled before January 1 in which child care staff from large centers, home-based centers, and preschools will be trained.

Another opportunity with local child care workers came up as well — to educate them about their role as mandated reporters and more importantly, their role in protecting children.  SCAN was connected with Open Arms Christian Child Development Center in Ashburn by one of our board members, Joe Carlin.  Through this connection, we were able to provide one of our newly developed workshops to a group of over 70 child care staff at Open Arms.

Although child care staff are required to take mandated reporter training, mostly through online tools, it is important to have discussions around the topic in person and to constantly remind child care workers that they are mandated reporters and have a responsibility to protect children.  Through this training, not only did we discuss the roles and responsibilities of mandated reporters within their center, but also when they are in the community.  Their mandated reporter “hat” should not simply come off when they walk out of their classrooms.  They have an obligation to help keep all of the children in their communities safe by speaking up when they witness abuse or harsh interactions or when they have suspicions of child abuse and neglect.

It is a great responsibility to be a mandated reporter.  But children need a voice and it starts with them and it should start with you, too.

For more information about workshops – fee for service workshops

For more information about harsh interactions – fact sheet

For more information about being a voice for children – Advocacy Day

Our Alexandria/Arlington CASA volunteers are intimately aware of the local foster care system, its challenges, and its impact. As they work closely with families here in our community, we also keep an eye on foster care and adoption trends around the country, which is why this recent post from National CASA CEO Michael Piraino caught our eye. We’ll certainly remain focused in our work on Mr. Piraino’s challenge — to “ensure all children in foster care achieve positive outcomes regardless of geography, economic circumstances, or such factors as race or ethnicity” — and we hope you will too.

[Re-posted from National CASA Blog: “Ominous Trends in Foster Care”]

For several years, CASA volunteers and staff around the country have been concerned about an ominous trend. Despite a general decline in the number of children in foster care, the family courts were requesting more volunteer advocates for more and more foster youth. Additionally, the children who had CASA and guardian ad litem advocates were coming from more challenging home situations. It is a sadly familiar pattern we have seen after previous recessions.

Last year we also noted that the decline in children in foster care was leveling off. The new numbers now confirm what our volunteers feared might happen. The number of children in foster care nationwide increased in 2013 for the first time in seven years. At the same time, we have received a report that child welfare spending actually declined nationwide between 2010 and 2012. That’s the first time spending has gone down in twenty years.

This drop in spending is not accounted for by the declining numbers from 2012, according to Child Trends’ research. Plus, now that we know the number of children in care is rising again, it looks like a perfect storm: less money for services, but more children, from more difficult circumstances, coming into care…[Read the full blog post on National CASA’s Blog here.]


With October — Domestic Violence Awareness Month — drawing to a close, it’s an important time for us to remember that there is no time limit on violence in the home. It happens all year long, in every community.

And it always, always affects the children involved. 

domestic violence_squareEvery year, 3 million children in the U.S. are exposed to domestic violence. And that’s a conservative estimate. About 50% of the time, the abuser victimizes children as well as the adult partner. But even if the child is not directly abused, the ramifications of being a witness to a parent’s abuse (or just knowing it is occurring) can include everything from anxiety and depression to academic failure to homelessness.

Listen to our new radio show on the impact of domestic violence on children with special guest Nicole Acosta, from the Loudoun Abused Women’s Shelter — also known as LAWS.

Download fact sheets (in English and Spanish) and read more about the impact of domestic violence on children on our Parent Resource Center here.

SCAN produces the Parenting Today radio show throughout the year thanks to a partnership with Clear Channel Media in Washington, DC. Listen to more of our recent segments here.

adorable-22040_1280“I cannot get my baby to stop crying.”

“My baby gets cold at night, so I have to leave a blanket in her crib.”

“Why can’t I figure out what he needs? I feel so frustrated!”

Service providers working with parents hear these kinds of comments and questions all the time. It’s normal for new parents to feel unprepared for parenting, and many need to be educated in the best practices for getting their child to stop crying or keeping them safe while sleeping.

SCAN was privileged to have Megan Sharma, a student at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, as an intern this Summer.  While working with us, she researched best practices for both Safe Sleeping and Shaken Baby Syndrome, as well as what is being done about both issues in Northern Virginia.

As a result of her research, SCAN began to launch Operation Safe Babies, a program focused on the wellbeing of children from birth to the age of three.  It began with a presentation for professionals at Inova Fairfax Hospital, and our goal now is to educate parents, caregivers and families with useful messages and resources to reduce the numbers of babies who die as a result of Shaken Baby Syndrome or unsafe sleeping environments.

With Megan’s help, SCAN created two new parenting fact sheets: How to Soothe a Baby…and Calm Yourself (which includes a “My Baby’s Crying Plan” worksheet) and “Safe Sleep for your Baby” (in English and Spanish) as an initial set of tools to help parents better understand how to keep their babies safe.

Stay tuned to SCAN’s website and blog for future information regarding this important initiative as we develop more resources.

kids-borther-and-sister-358298_640Earlier this fall, 8 of our Darkness to Light Facilitators gathered for a discussion with Lisa Hunt, Executive Director of The Center for Clinical and Forensic Services, Inc.  Our facilitators gather quarterly to keep up to date on the issues surrounding child sexual abuse and to discuss topics that will help us be effective facilitators and responsive to those we train.  When we gathered in September, we met with open minds so that we could better understand sexual offenders and sexual abuse dynamics.

Dr. Hunt explained that in order to move forward in the conversations surrounding child sexual abuse, we needed to have a better understanding of the offender.  First of all, there is no “look” for a child sexual offender, there is no one profile that fits all, and sexual offenders are male and female, young and old.  However, there are common factors that can underlie the motivation for the offending behavior such as power, control, feelings of inadequacy, social skills deficits, and deviant sexual arousal.

Society’s generic views of sexual offenders are not justified or helpful.  Offenders are villainized and this can be particularly harmful for the children who love their offenders.  When we villainize the offenders, we are shutting the victim down and creating a persona about the offender that is so big the child cannot gain mastery of their abuse.

The primary goal of treating sexual offenders is that the individual will take responsibility for their behaviors, develop the necessary skills and techniques that will prevent them from engaging in sexually abusive and other harmful behaviors in the future, and will lead them to productive and pro-social lives.  Sexual offenders are our husbands, wives, relatives, neighbors and friends.  And although we certainly do not condone what they have done, we must understand that when those who offend are treated with current approaches, they are less likely to offend again.  Treatment needs to be a combination of accountability and hope.

- Tracy Leonard

photo 1 (9)Men and women who work directly with children and parents in our community often experience very different perspectives of the families they serve. Some work in the schools, others at health organizations, government agencies or any number of nonprofits. Yet many are serving families in crisis because of the same complex and tangled list of issues: domestic violence, economic hardship and immigration.

SCAN’s Allies in Prevention Coalition met last week, bringing a group of nearly 40 professionals together for a panel discussion on these topics. The goal? To share ideas and experiences across the divide of organizations and jurisdictions. What are the obstacles all families are facing? How can we better serve these families? What resources are available? How can we connect with and support one another in our unique missions?

Discussion resulted in four challenges that panel participants — from Artemis House, Alexandria Community and Human Services, Cornerstones and Mobile Hope — all touched on while they spoke. And we consider them powerful guideposts for the work any child and family advocate does in our community today:

  1. We must increase awareness. “If it’s not right in front of people, they don’t think it’s an issue,” said Dani Colon from Artemis House, a domestic violence shelter in Fairfax County. We have to keep on telling the stories of children and families living with violence, in poverty or in fear and isolation. Violence in particular does NOT discriminate, and it’s an issue widely prevalent in all communities of Northern Virginia. Awareness of the issue — and prevention — is key.
  2. We have to improve parent-child engagement. Jody Tompros, the Division Director of Family Stability and Child Health & Development at Cornerstones in Fairfax County, mentioned the critical ability to help children and parents connect when they are in crisis, rather than move apart. Members mentioned skills like shoulder-to-shoulder talking, using a softer voice and scheduling simultaneous counseling and services. How are our programs — no matter where we reach families — empowering that connection?
  3. We need to consider advocacy related to issues like affordable housing and immigration law. “There is a LOT of legislative advocacy power in this room,” noted Claire Dunn, the Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Division Chief with the City of Alexandria. It may not be the specific issue you work with on a daily basis, yet these are issues that deeply impact some of the most at-risk children and families in our community. Contributing our voice — as a group who intimately knows those affected (as well as the cost) — is a critical step in advocating for meaningful change. (SCAN’s Advocacy Day on November 18th is a great place to start.)
  4. We must look beyond today, at the kids who are aging-out of our systems. “Keeping these families together in housing is very difficult,” noted Donna Fortier with MobileHope, a new program providing food, medical treatment and other services to homeless youth in Loudoun County. As children approach 18, their access to everything from school lunches to mandatory foster care can disappear. How can our programs extend beyond just a number, providing better paths for young adult community members still in need of structures and support?

As coalition members work with children and families every day, we’ll continue our work to ask — and answer — these important questions.

  • You can learn more about the Allies in Prevention Coalition here.
  • Consider attending Advocacy Day on November 18th to lend your voice to the discussion.
  • What other questions are you considering in your work? Please share in the comments below.



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.

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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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