window-932760_1280September was Kinship Care month and also the first annual Kinship Symposium sponsored by the Northern Virginia Kinship Group.  And like all other awareness months, it is more than that to those 2.7 million children that are cared for by relatives and close family friends.

What is kinship care?  Child Welfare Information Gateway defines it as “the care of children by relatives or, in some jurisdictions, close family friends (often referred to as fictive kin).”   There are certainly benefits of kinship care: children placed in kinship care maintain a family connection and a sense of belonging and self-worth.  And there are also challenges.  Those challenges include complicated family relationships, a lack of resources and legal services, accessing medical care and enrolling children in school, as well as general anxiety over social services and systems that should be helping the child.  (Heidi Redlich, Director of Kinship Care Policy, ABA Center on Children and the Law.)

When service providers are more aware of the challenges and how to effectively tackle them head on with the family, then the child has an even greater chance of thriving within the kinship care situation and their chances of entering foster care are reduced.  According to Dr. Joseph Crumbley, LCSW, service providers should address the following with the families:

  • Loss
  • Roles/Boundaries
  • Guilt
  • Embarrassment
  • Projection/Transference
  • Loyalty
  • Child Rearing Practices
  • Stress Management/Physical Limitations
  • Bonding and Attachment
  • Anger and Resentment
  • Morbidity and Mortality
  • Fantasies
  • Overcompensation
  • Competition
  • Intrusion

This is definitely an area in which a greater understanding is developing and those who work with children and advocate on behalf of children need greater exposure.  Laws are changing as we realize the lack of financial support and legal rights these families have.  Families that are trying to do right for children.

At our Advocacy Day on November 17th, we will be talking about kinship care in Virginia.  To register to attend, please go to

– Tracy Leonard, Public Education Manager

One year ago this week, SCAN published its first white paper. In an effort to provide a deeper understanding of some of the complex issues we address in prevention and advocacy work, we continued to develop more in-depth tools for resource providers and child welfare advocates in our community. Since last fall, we’ve published two more papers. SCAN’s current list of White Papers includes:

  • Building Resiliency Using Children’s StoriesCover_Stories
  • An overview of resiliency in children, the importance of connections with adults and specific tools and techniques for using reading, stories and specific books to build resiliency in a variety of settings. A Call to Action at the end of the paper includes “6 Steps to Build Resiliency in the Children in Your Life.” Download the white paper here.


  • The Power of Fathers in the Lives of Children
    Why are fathers important in a child’s physical, social and emotional development? Fathers are underserved in many parent-focused resources, but their involvement has a great impact on outcomes in children. A Call to Action at the end of the paper includes “10 Steps to Help Fathers Connect with Children.” Download the white paper here.


  • Operation Safe Babies: Reducing Child Fatalities in Northern Virginia
    Inspired by SCAN’s new Operation Safe Babies initiative, we explore the impact of Severe Head Trauma (SHT) and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS/SUIDS) on child fatalities as well as the power of educating new parents in safe sleep, soothing techniques and seeking parent support. A Call to Action at the end of the paper includes “7 Steps to Keep Your Infant Safe During Their First Year of Life.” Download the white paper here.

We have plans to develop additional white papers in 2016. What topics would be helpful in your work with children and families?

Attendees included representatives from three local child advocacy centers: Center for Alexandria's Children, SafeSpot Children's Advocacy Center in Fairfax, and the Loudoun Child Advocacy Center.

Attendees included representatives from three local child advocacy centers: Center for Alexandria’s Children, SafeSpot Children’s Advocacy Center in Fairfax, and the Loudoun Child Advocacy Center.

This past week, SCAN’s Allies in Prevention Coalition hosted a Darkness to Light supplemental training and panel discussion at Charles E. Beatley, Jr. Central Library in Alexandria. More than 40 service providers came from around Northern Virginia for the meeting. What subject drew so many people? The Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children.

The short video training from Darkness to Light started the event with a shocking statistic: more than 90% of children who are commercially sexually exploited have been sexually abused in the past. 

“Most of my work/agency work focuses on what happens after abuse occurs,” noted one attendee. “But I learned a lot about prevention and will be looking in to how I can incorporate this with children and families.”

The panel discussion after the video training included Detective Betty Sixsmith from the Alexandria Police Department, Besty Young from Prince William County schools, and Detective Cervantes Armstrong from Prince William County Police.

Being aware of the warning signs of child sexual abuse and the sexual exploitation of children is a key take away from the training. As Detective Armstrong noted “The grooming process…it’s all around us. We see it every day.” As service providers it is about learning how to recognize those signs and then take the action to prevent the abuse from occurring or continuing.

It is incredibly important to be able to recognize the warning signs and to have open conversations with children and teens. As panelist Betsy Young stated about victims, “They have a smokescreen and if you take the time to listen and connect with them, that screen fades.” Once you recognize and are aware of abuse you can take the necessary steps to provide support services and resources.

Resources & Support Services to be aware of:

Call to Action! What can you do to further awareness and education on the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children?

  1. Attend a Darkness to Light Stewards of Children training. Contact Tracy Leonard ( for a schedule of upcoming trainings.
  2. Host a Darkness to Light Stewards of Children training to provide more education within your organization. Contact Tracy Leonard ( to schedule a training.
  3. Go to and take the training online.
  4. Download our Human Trafficking Fact Sheet for Parents and share it with your colleagues and the parents and families with whom you work.

If you see something, say something. Be a voice for children.

WhitePaper_OperationSafeBabies-COVEREarlier this week, a group of local service providers gathered in SCAN’s Community Training Room to learn about Operation Safe Babies.  Although many come in to these events with some knowledge on safe sleep and abusive head trauma, there are always new issues discussed and important ideas shared. Everyone walks away with valuable information and resources to share as they work with the parents and caregivers in their communities.

As we continue to expand our circle of Operation Safe Babies partners this fall — including organizations like The Center for Alexandria’s Children, Arlington County DHS and Fairfax County Health Department — what better time to publish our NEW white paper: Operation Safe Babies: Reducing Child Fatalities in Northern Virginia? This is the third in a series of white papers SCAN has published for service providers this year, and focuses on SIDS & SUIDS, Abusive Head Trauma, and Education & Prevention, as well as 7 excellent “Calls to Action.” I hope you will take a moment to download and share this important resource.

Do you have questions about Operation Safe Babies? Please don’t hesitate to contact me to learn more about how we might be able to work together in your community to support parents and keep infants safe. As the white paper notes:

“It is important to make sure that new parents have a support network in place made up of family and friends that they can call on for support.”

We are ALL a part of those support networks. How will you take action to keep babies safe?

– Tracy Leonard, SCAN Public Education Manager

National Preparedness Month 2009We recently taped a Parenting Today radio show on how families can be prepared for emergencies. (Stay tuned for the show to appear on iHeart Media stations soon!) From severe weather to active shooter situations, parents can take steps now that can make a difference if/when those traumatic moments arrive. Officially known as “Emergency Preparedness,” it means planning ahead, having supplies on hand, and being ready when an emergency occurs. The goal is to stay safe and connected during a disaster, as well as be better able to recover after an emergency.

If you work with families — or have a family of your own — we encourage you to go through this basic list, check out the resources mentioned below and proactively plan for the worst to keep your children as safe and calm as possible in the event of an unexpected emergency:

  1. Create a family emergency plan. Know safe places to go as well as how you plan to communicate with one another, and develop a list of important information for every member to carry at all times (cell phone numbers, doctor numbers, etc.) Talk about the plan with your children every year, and adjust as they get older. If you have pets, be sure to consider their wellbeing as well. offers great Family Emergency Plan templates here.
  2. Check with your childcare center, school and workplace about the emergency plans they have in place. Request a copy and adjust your family plan to reflect their procedures and guidelines.
  3. Practice emergency drills. It can be as simple as walking down the block to a neighbor’s home that’s been designated as a safe meeting spot, or drawing a map together of your house with exits marked in case of a fire. Actively work with your kids to go through simple steps that will give them the knowledge to stay calm and make the best choices in case of emergency.
  4. Build a “Go Kit” together. This should include basic items to keep your family safe and connected in case of emergency (loss of power, stranded, etc.) Examples of items to include are water, non-perishable food, radio, flashlight, batteries, first aid kit, fuel for vehicle, etc. Be sure to consider special needs for families such as diapers, formula and medications. Volunteer Alexandria, the lead agency in Alexandria for the recruitment and management of unaffiliated volunteers during an emergency, has a great list here. So does FEMA. Keep in mind, every family’s kit could be different according to medical issues, special needs, mobility, etc.
  5. Know how to communicate with one another. Have a radio and extra chargers for devices; download the Ready Virginia Mobile App for alerts and updates. Experts suggest that you text or email instead of calling when possible – this is more likely to work if phone lines are overwhelmed or down. Be sure to program “In Case of Emergency” (ICE) contacts into everyone’s devices so emergency personnel can contact those people for you if you are unable to use your phone.

Of course, the hope is that disaster won’t happen – but if it does, you can work now to make sure your family is as safe and prepared as possible. In addition to the links we’ve mentioned, there are many more great resources for families online at and at local agencies like Volunteer Alexandria.

D2L_1000trainedEarlier this week, we opened our Community Training Room to 10 adults for Stewards of Children, a child sexual abuse prevention training program from Darkness to Light. The class included parents, a lawyer, a nanny, SCAN board members, CASA volunteers, teachers and more. It was a perfect reflection of why we feel our work in child sexual abuse prevention is so important: It is EVERY ADULT’S responsibility to help protect EVERY CHILD.

That night marked an important milestone for SCAN: we have now trained more than 1,000 adults to recognize, react and respond to child sexual abuse in our community!  What a perfect opportunity to share what’s going on in — and what others have been saying about — our work:

  • SCAN has given six trainings to hundreds of people this summer alone, with organizations ranging from summer camps and recreation centers to parenting groups and Head Start programs.
  • “Very great job,” said one trainee. “It was incredibly moving and great exposure to this issue.”
  • Public Education Manager Tracy Leonard and Executive Director Sonia Quinonez are the two approved facilitators on SCAN’s staff, but we also train other facilitators in the community and currently manage a group of about 10 across Northern Virginia, in addition to working with the Center for Alexandria’s Children to train individuals in Alexandria.
  • “This training was very insightful,” said another trainee. “It provided needed information to ensure protection from abuse of children in my life and those under my care.”
  • Darkness to Light is our national partner in this work, and has recently been in the news for its work with TLC in producing “Breaking the Silence,” a documentary on child sexual abuse following the unfortunate abuse that occurred in the family featured in the cable channel’s series 19 Kids and Counting. You can watch the documentary here.

1,000 adults trained. A reason to celebrate! Because we know that adults are the first line of defense – a primary line of defense. Primary prevention aims to prevent an injury before it occurs. In a recent D2L blog post, Paula Sellars, M.S.W., writes: “A safe adult is a trained adult.” We encourage you to read her full post here:

And we invite you to consider when YOU will become a safe adult — and adult who will take on their responsibility to protect the children in their community. Be a part of the next 1,000 we train at SCAN! 

BlogBlock_WorkshopsSince SCAN began offering fee-for-service workshops, we have held more than 26 of them and trained more than 525 people across Northern Virginia. The topics have been varied (everything from Darkness to Light [Child Sexual Abuse Prevention] to Positive Parenting to Operation Safe Babies to Using Children’s Stories to Build Resiliency to Child Care Workers as Mandated Reporters.) The audiences have been diverse too, ranging from parents and caregivers to school teachers and human service professionals, and the delivery method can be flexible (evening, weekend, workday, one-hour, two-hour, power point, interactive).

Every time we host a training, we are reminded: There is value beyond measure in getting a group together where everyone’s motivation is the well-being of children. Who can you bring together? And when can SCAN join you?

We have several staff and volunteers who are able to provide workshops on a range of topics as well as staff who can work with you to tailor a workshop topic that meets your group’s needs.  This will continue to be an area that we focus and expand upon and we hope YOU and the organizations in your community will be a part of that growth.

– Tracy Leonard, Public Education Manager

IMG_1343-2Last month, SCAN held a training for facilitators who will lead a new parenting program offered by SCAN’s Parent Education Program: Strengthening Families. Strengthening Families is an evidence-based program focusing on building positive relationships between parents and middle-school children. Charlie McLaughlin from the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth led the three-day training with lots of energy and enthusiasm. Here are our Top 5 Tips from the training:

  1. Give love and set limits.

Balancing showing love and setting limits for children can be hard. Some parents focus on setting limits for their middle school children and think that they do not need as much attention and affection as when they were younger. Other parents are afraid to set limits because they want their child to feel loved.

Children need both love and limits. Parents still need to show affection and tell their child that they love them. Parents also have a responsibility to set limits to keep them safe and teach them right from wrong. Parents should teach their child that actions have consequences and that certain behaviors are acceptable and others are not.

To keep a balance between love and limits, parents should speak openly about what the rules and expectations are and what the consequences will be for breaking those rules. If a child does not follow the rules, the parents should calmly follow through with the consequence. When children are following the rules, parents should be sure to compliment their child and thank them.

  1. Understand each other’s challenges.FullSizeRender-6

Some children may think that parents have easy lives. From their point of view, parents get to earn money, set house rules, stay up as late as they want and go anywhere, anytime. They may not understand how hard parents have to work to earn money, how stressful paying bills and taking care of all of the housework can be, and how much they may worry about their child.

Some parents may think that their children have easy lives. They do not have all of the responsibilities of paying bills or doing all of the housework. They do not have to work full-time jobs or give rides to their children. Parents may not understand how stressful it can be to try to balance school work (which can be really hard), after-school activities, friends and family. Youth also may have to deal with bullying or peer pressure to drink or use other drugs.

Both parents and youth need to be aware of the challenges everyone in the family is facing, so that they better understand each other and appreciate the challenges other family members are facing.

  1. Actively listen to your child.

Parents should listen to their children and let them finish talking before reacting. Sometimes parents respond before a they can completely explain something that happened. If a child tells his parents that one of his friends was caught cheating, the parents may jump in and respond at that point. If the parents respond by reminding the child that cheating is wrong or saying the child can’t spend time with this friend, then the child won’t have the chance to explain that he reminded his friend that cheating is wrong and tried to stop him. He will probably not come to his parents again with a problem because he may think that his parents do not listen to him and do not trust him to know that cheating is wrong.

Parents should let their child explain everything that happened to make sure they know the whole story before reacting. This can be difficult, but it shows the teenager that their parents will listen to them. When children feel their parents listen to them, they are more likely to come to them for help.

  1. Use “I statements.”IMG_0614

Parents should also make sure that they are clear with their children about what they are feeling. One effective way of doing this is using “I statements.”

“I statements” follow this format: “I feel ___ when you ___ because ___.” This is followed up with what the parent wants the child to do differently in the future.

Using “I statements” makes it clear how the parent feels without putting blame on the child. Parents should use “I statements” in a calm voice, and they should be willing to listen to their child’s response.

  1. Plan family meetings.

Making time to meet as a family can be difficult because of people’s busy schedules. However, family meetings are an important opportunity to address issues that come up and celebrate accomplishments. Having regular family meetings means that families do not only talk to each other when something is going wrong. Having a set for a family meeting that all family members participate in strengthens each family member and the family as a whole.

SCAN is very excited to begin this new program, and our facilitators are looking forward to meeting and working with parents and their children this Fall! Please contact us if you’re interested in learning more.

– Marisol Morales, Parent Education Manager


Anyone can report suspected child abuse or neglect, but if you are identified in the Code of Virginia (§ 63.2-1509) as a mandated reporter or you have received training in recognizing and reporting suspected child abuse and neglect – then you are a mandated reporter. Over the summer, we have trained mandated reporters everywhere from summer camps to childcare centers to schools.

As a mandated reporter, you are required, by law, to immediately report your suspicions to the local department of social services or to the Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline. The purpose of mandated reporting is to identify suspected abused and neglected children as soon as possible so that they can be protected from further harm.

When should I report?

When you suspect that a child is being abused or neglected. You do not need proof.  You make a report when you suspect or have reason to suspect that abuse or neglect is occurring.  If you wait for proof, it might be too late.

What if I do not report?

If you, as a mandated reporter, fail to report as soon as possible but no longer than 24 hours after having reason to suspect a reportable offense, you can be fined.

What are my rights as a mandated reporter?

Under the Code of Virginia, a mandated reporter who either makes a CPS report or participates in a court hearing that results from a CPS report, is protected from criminal and civil liability unless it is proven that the person acted with malicious intent.

What if I am not sure abuse or neglect has occurred?

If you are not sure about what to do, you should discuss the situation with your local department of social services, child protective services unit, or with staff at the Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline.

If a child has told you about abuse or neglect, this is enough for you to call.

What do you do when you witness an adult behaving aggressively with a child?

  • Avoid negative remarks or looks.  When you intervene, try to keep the conversation positive otherwise; it could make the situation worse.
  • Start a conversation with the adult to direct attention away from the child.  The goal is to start a conversation that moves the adult away from the negative interaction they were having with the child.
  • Divert the child’s attention.  If you can, talk about anything positive that the child is doing; use that as a way to start the conversation.
  • Look for an opportunity to praise the adult or child.  By finding a way to compliment either the child or the adult, you can potentially diffuse the situation and reframe it for the adult.
  • Use humor, experience or friendliness to break up stressful moments.  As long as it is done in a way that does not belittle either the parent or child, acting in a lighthearted way can offer perspective, a change of pace, or the reframing that can help diffuse a situation.
  • If the child is in immediate danger, TAKE ACTION.  If the child is at risk of being physically harmed or in need of any assistance, offer it to them as soon as possible.  This includes taking actions like calling over a security guard or calling the police if the situation requires intervention.
  • Make a report if you suspect abuse, a child has disclosed to you that they have been abused, or you have witnessed abuse.


When children have strong, healthy relationships with nurturing adults, they become safer, stronger & happier.

Positive adult-child connections are critical to keep children safe and nurture their growth and development.

Kids with meaningful connections are more resilient in the face of daily life challenges and even more severe trauma.

Still have questions?  Please contact SCAN or any of your local Child Protective Services offices to get more information, more training, and to dispel any myths that you or your staff may have.

  • SCAN: 703-820-9001
  • Alexandria CPS: 703-746-5800
  • Arlington CPS: 703-228-1500
  • Fairfax  CPS: 703-324-7400
  • Loudoun CPS: 703-771-5437
  • Prince William CPS: 703-792-4200
  • Manassas CPS: 800-552-7096

– Tracy Leonard, Public Education Manager

A report recently published in Pediatrics and funded by the National Institutes of Health spotlights a troubling statistic: 20 percent of new moms said they did not receive advice from their doctors regarding current recommendations on issues like safe sleep and breastfeeding. This reflects a greater challenge we’ve noted in our community — new parents often feel isolated, in need of resources and hungry for connections that can make them more nurturing parents. Our new Operation Safe Babies initiative is one way SCAN is working to address the issue in Northern Virginia.

We’re sharing a portion of the original article here: 

Many new mothers do not receive advice from physicians on aspects of infant care such as sleep position, breastfeeding, immunization and pacifier use, according to a study funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Health care practitioner groups have issued recommendations and guidelines on all these aspects of , based on research which has found that certain practices can prevent disease and even save lives.

The study authors surveyed a nationally representative sample of more than 1,000 , inquiring about infant care advice they received from doctors, nurses, family members and the news media.

Roughly 20 percent of mothers said they did not receive advice from their doctors regarding current recommendations on breastfeeding or on placing infants to sleep on their backs—a practice long proven to reduce the risk of  (SIDS). More than 50 percent of mothers reported they received no advice on where their infants should sleep. Room-sharing with parents—but not bed-sharing—is the recommended practice for safe .

The study appeared in Pediatrics and was conducted by researchers at Boston Medical Center, Boston University, and Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut.

“Earlier studies have shown that new mothers listen to their physicians,” said Marian Willinger, Ph.D.., of the Pregnancy and Perinatology Branch at NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), which funded the study. “This survey shows that physicians have an opportunity to provide new mothers with much-needed advice on how to improve infant health and even save infant lives…”

[Read the full article and more details about the original report here:]

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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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