brothers-1429263Dr. Avidan Milevsky presented on the topic of siblings at an Allies in Prevention Coalition meeting in 2013, and will serve as the Keynote Speaker at this year’s Allies in Prevention Awards in April. (Nominations for the award are open and must be submitted by February 12th.) Dr. Milevsky’s recent article for The Huffington Post brings to light an interesting aspect of China’s recent decision to allow multiple births — how might the sibling dynamic change a society?

[Excerpted from The Huffington Post:]

…In addition to the new policy’s impact on health, child welfare, and the broader economy, this new shift will offer the Chinese people a life-long gift that will transform their families and society in profound ways. Children born any time after the policy was implemented in 1980 were lacking an irreplaceable component of healthy childhood socialization: siblings.

As a steady, international body of research is showing, growing up with siblings offers children a matchless context in which they learn about relationships, social engagement, sharing, ownership, identity, conflict resolution, and problem solving.

The first microcosm of a complementary relationship exists with a sibling. Siblings constantly competing for attention, resources, and space offer each other a great milieu to begin learning about the world. During the course of the day, children find themselves in countless basic social situations with their siblings that can offer them a training ground for working on social and emotional development. For example, a fight about a toy, which to parents may seem like an annoyance, is actually a training ground for children to learn about property ownership, respect, self-control, and conflict resolution.

What happens in the sibling relationship is the catalyst for all future social engagements. When children talk, yell, fight, interact, share, and play with their sibling they are developing vital social understanding. These early competencies learned from growing up with a sibling will have lifelong consequences. Studies have suggested that sibling closeness in childhood is linked with social-emotional understanding, cognitive abilities, and psychological adjustment. During adolescence, sibling closeness contributes to healthy identity formation and minimization of teen problems. In adulthood, siblings may offer shared responsibility/negotiation over aging parent care, and sibling warmth is linked with well-being and successful aging. Bringing all these findings together makes it quite obvious that siblings offer a fundamental and unrepeatable life provision.

Considering the important life-long lessons we learn from our siblings about relationships, social engagement, sharing, ownership, identity, conflict resolution, and problem solving I wonder how growing up with a sibling will impact the broader Chinese society. How will growing up with a sibling impact Chinese public and international policy in the future? [Continued…read the complete article by Dr. Milevsky on The Huffington Post here.]

We look forward to hearing more from Dr. Milevsky at the 2016 Allies in Prevention Awards this April. Nominations for this year’s awards are still open! Learn more and download the official nomination form here.

no-description-1577998It’s a topic that has come up often in our Allies in Prevention Coalition
Meetings: How do parenting topics and resources apply to those raising children with
special needs?
In many cases, families are all facing the same struggles —
how to discipline, deal with sibling rivalry, find childcare — but at the same
time there are unique challenges that deserve special attention and support.

This fall, SCAN worked with community partners to develop four new fact
sheets focused on parents raising children with special needs:

We hope to continue to develop materials for this parenting community (including translating these first four fact sheets into Spanish this spring), and we encourage parents to reach out for support from organizations such as:

For school support, also reference:

  • Virginia Association of Independent Specialized Education Facilities (VAISEF) –
  • Maryland Association of Nonpublic Special Education Facilities (MANSEF) –
  • DC Association for Special Education (DCASE) –
  • National Association of Private Special Education Centers (NAPSEC) –
  • Definitely Parent Educational Advocacy Training Center (PEATC) –

What other resources can we share to support this special groups of parents? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!


Virginia State Capitol (PHOTO: Ava Reaves, 2015) Source:

Every January, the Virginia General Assembly convenes, and this year children’s issues are once again at the forefront of many discussions. The three main agenda items SCAN will be focusing on in 2016 are early education, foster care and youth, and kinship care. A significant development this year that has the potential to greatly impact children, youth and families in Virginia is Governor McAuliffe’s announcement at the joint money committee of his biennial budget, which included support for early childhood education.

Bills that have been introduced in the legislature that pertain to these issues include:

Early Education and Child Care

A major focus of this year’s agenda is the Virginia Preschool Initiative (VPI) and other aspects of early education. The bills listed below cover a range of issues from early education and childcare providers to providing funding for a mixed delivery approach, which is a major component to reforming VPI.

Click on the following links to track related bills:

  • HB 46: Establishes an Early Education Workforce Committee
  • HB 47: Funds for a mixed delivery preschool program
  • HB 242: Removes the requirement for local communities to provide matching funds to qualify for VPI funds
  • HB 500: Requires national background checks for day care providers and anyone living in the home of a day care provider
  • SB 269: Replaces the requirement that 2 members of the State Board of Social Services represent stand-alone child care center that meets state standards and a religiously exempt child care center

Foster Care and Youth

Reforming Foster Care has been a large part of SCAN’s policy agenda, and was recently addressed at SCAN’s Advocacy Day 2015. In the upcoming General Assembly, Virginia lawmakers have introduced bills surrounding issues of expansion of foster care services and maintaining records.

Click on the following links to track related bills:

  • HB 81: Expand time frame for maintain foster care records until age 22.
  • HB 203: Extends foster care services for children 18-21.
  • HB 271: Parenting time; replaces “visitation” in statutory language.

Kinship Care

Both of the bills introduced this year work towards amending and reenacting exiting laws referring to Kinship Care. (What is Kinship Care? Learn more here.) The third item is a study commissioned to have a better understanding of the feasibility in lessening the restrictions of barrier crimes in order to promote kinship foster care and adoptive placements while ensuring that they are a safe placement for children.

Click on the following links to track related bills:

  • SB 433: Kinship Guardianship Assistance program
  • HB 674 Kinship foster care; waiver of foster home approval standards
  • SJ 73 Study: Department of Social Services; feasibility of lessening restrictions of barrier crimes

The current session continues through February – will you track bills or contact your legislators? We hope so!

— Sydna Cooper, MSW Intern with SCAN

PCRG_winterspring2016_croppedSo much of what we do at SCAN is about prevention, before child abuse or neglect begins in a family.  As child welfare professionals, we know that education  and support of parents is key to empowering caregivers to ask for help, improve their skills and nurture children in the healthiest ways. But connecting parents with the resources they deserve and need–especially in a large, transient area like Northern Virginia–is not always easy.

Publishing the Parent Connection Resource Guide (PCRG) is one way SCAN helps. Twice a year, we curate an easily-downloadable directory of classes, workshops, support groups and more for parents in our region. Read the latest version here

The PCRG includes opportunities from more than two dozen agencies and organizations and organizes them by five regions: Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax/Falls Church, Loudoun and Greater Prince William. It also includes SCAN’s own programs for parents, which currently include:

  • ABCs of Parenting Class (in English) | Alexandria, VA
    THURSDAYS, MARCH 31 – MAY 19 (registration begins February 15)
    The program covers topics such as child development, praise and empathy, building your child’s self-esteem, family rules, age-appropriate discipline, alternatives to spanking, and family stress management. No eligibility requirements. Registration is required. Class includes a family meal, childcare for children ages 0 to 4, a children’s program with yoga component for children ages 5 and older, weekly raffles and educational materials.
    > Download a Flyer
  • Parent Café: Taller Para Padres e Hijos (in Spanish) | Sterling, VA
    Starting February 4, a four week Spanish-language parent workshop will cover topics ranging from creating family rules to Hispanic parents raising American children. The workshop includes a program for children 10 and older that complements parents’ sessions.  Sessions will take place in Sterling, VA from Mondays from 6:30 to 8:00 pm.
    > Download a Flyer

Learn more about SCAN’s Parent Education Program here.


Do you know what a “tipping point” is? Malcolm Gladwell’s book by the same name has championed the idea in recent years:

The tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire.

How exciting to hear that a fellow Darkness to Light partner — KIDS Center in Bend, Oregon — has reached a tipping point in their community, training 5% of the adult population in child sexual abuse prevention.

Here in Northern Virginia, a tipping point would mean 5% (or 115,000) of the 2.3 million residents would be trained. At SCAN, we’ve trained just over 1,000 people over the past four years, but we already have ambitious plans for the future: larger trainings this year in local school districts and agencies, a SCAN staff member becoming a facilitator trainer, and more facilitators available across the region. (Not to mention our friends at the Center for Alexandria’s Children who provide all trainings in Alexandria.) We’re excited for 2016, and will continue to be inspired by stories like this one from the blog:

Excerpt from KIDS Center said Monday it has reached a tipping point in creating new standards of child safety by training 5 percent of the adult population in our families, schools, and youth-serving organizations with Darkness to Light’s “Stewards of Children®” child sexual abuse prevention program. They said this lays the foundation for a proactive, communitywide approach to prevention and builds momentum toward educating and empowering all adults to protect children from abuse. Tipping points occur when issues gain momentum and ignite, and a …

Source: Crook, Jefferson counties at child abuse prevention ‘tipping point’

During 2015 SCAN remained steadfast in our mission to promote the well-being of children, improve parent-child relations and prevent child abuse and neglect.

Through new initiatives such as Operation Safe Babies, our
continued dedication to CASA, and our increasing outreach of parenting classes and workshops, we are making sure that EVERY CHILD in Northern Virginia will grow up in a safe, stable, nurturing family, with the supports they need to contribute to stronger communities today and as adults tomorrow. SCANAnnualReport_2015_page1

SCAN is privileged to have friends like you that are also looking out for EVERY CHILD. The work you do in supporting children and families is critical to keeping children safe and nurturing their growth and development.

As we look to 2016, with your help, SCAN will:

  • launch new programming that supports our Kids Need Connections community education campaign for child abuse prevention,
  • add to the over 1,000 adults trained in the prevention of child sexual abuse, to recognize the signs, and to react in a responsible way to prevent or intervene in abuse or suspected abuse, and
  • provide our communities with the tools they need to advocate for children at all levels.

We express our sincerest gratitude: for every blog post read, email answered, hour given, thought written, or word spoken on behalf of SCAN.

“Every child deserves a champion: an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection and insists they become the best they can possibly be.”   ~  Rita Pierson

Thank you!

– Tracy Leonard, Public Education Manager


(We invite you to read our 2015 Annual Report and make a year-end donation to SCAN here.)

Top10_2015More than 800 people follow SCAN’s blog, and many more connect with the blog via social media and email. We love to know what our readers are most interested in, so we took a quick look at SCAN’s most-read blog posts over the past year. Here are they are! Our Top 10 blog posts of 2015:

  1. Josh Duggar, Our Reactions, and What We Should Really Be Doing if We’re Serious About Prevention

  2. It Can Start With Just One Room: The Carol Cleary Community Training Room

  3. An Update from Richmond: Children, Families and an Update from the Virginia General Assembly

  4. What is Trauma-Informed Practice?

  5. Heroes Among Us: 2015 Allies in Prevention Award Winners

  6. Child Trafficking is Happening in Our Community: Do YOU Know How to Stop It?

  7. Without Investment We Leave Vulnerable Children — and Our Community — At Risk

  8. We All Believe in Children: How Faith Groups and Human Service Organizations Can Connect (and Why We Need to Make It Happen)

  9. A New Volunteer‘s Beautiful Perspective

  10. Celebrating 30 Years of CASA in Virginia

Were any of these your favorite? We’d love to know!


2015 Allies in Prevention Quarterly Meeting: Co-Parenting

Parenting is learned.  Parenting is tough.  Parenting changes every day because not only do parents change every day but children do, too.  Parents look to professionals in the human resource fields for help.  The best we can do for those families that we work with and that are a part of our lives is to give them support, model good parenting techniques and sound advice whenever possible.

Now imagine that the parents you are helping are separated or going through a divorce. You should still give them support, model good parenting, and provide sound advice whenever possible but you may also have to remind them that parenting is about their children, not about their relationship with one another.  Fairfax County Public Schools Family and School Partnerships joined us for a discussion on Co-Parenting with our Allies in Prevention Coalition, and shared some helpful tips for effective co-parenting that we encourage you to share:

  • Support a positive relationship between your child(ren) and your co-parent.
  • Make your child’s transition from each home as peaceful and organized as possible.
  • Treat your co-parent with respect – whether you feel it or not.
  • Communicate often and share child-related information in a timely manner.
  • Avoid unnecessary changes in the agreed upon schedule.
  • Respect the time your child spends with your co-parent and avoid making plans for your child that may conflict with time at the co-parent’s home.
  • Work as a parenting team, but respect boundaries between your two homes and personal lives.
  • Resolve parenting disputes from a child-focused perspective.
  • Keep your child(ren) out of the middle of disputes and adult matters (such as money).
  • Encourage extended family to respect the co-parenting plan you develop and not to take sides or say disparaging things about either parent.

What if one parent is incarcerated, or one is overseas, or the relationship between the parents is so contentious that parenting is not happening?  That is when parallel parenting should happen.  The parallel parenting model is more formal, and may even involve a third party to resolve disputes and handle communications.  Parallel parenting typically happens when parents’ feelings are “parent-focused” and not “child-focused.”

Regardless of the situation, there is evidence to support that a child needs both parents in their lives.  Human service professionals need to provide those resources to parents so that the ultimate goal is a healthy and happy child.

Creative Resources:

  • “Co-Parenting” Tips (plus downloadable fact sheets in English and Spanish) on SCAN’s Parent Resource Center.
  • Our Family Wizard, a website offering divorced or separated parents an array of tools to easily schedule and track parenting time, share important family information, manage expenses as well as create an accurate, clear log of divorce communication.
  • The Co-Parenting Toolkit, a book packed with new strategies including advanced versions of selected time-tested solutions from its partner,  Mom’s House, Dad’s House.

Do you know of resources that might be helpful in working with separated or divorced parents? Please comment below!

– Tracy Leonard, Public Education Manager

christmas-cookies-553457Here they are — our 5 favorite tips from around the web to help parents manage stress this holiday season:

  1. Pay close attention once per day.

“Parents find themselves scattered over the holidays. Sometimes we forget that children need our time more than ever when things become hectic. We can give the gift of attention every day, without paying a penny to a toy store. Parents will find joy in the way a child’s eyes light-up during the 15 to 30 minutes set aside to read together or play a simple board game. Those few minutes lay the foundation of connection to children, and show love more than any Lego set or teddy bear.”

> Read Dr. Kevin Arnold’s article “Tips for Holidays & Parenting: Letting Joy Win Over Stress” in Psychology Today.

  1. Remember your stress can become your children’s stress.

“It’s a stressful time for many people. And even though we love our kids and they are lots of fun, they often magnify that stress. Even worse, our stress can trickle down to them, turning a happy holiday into a Noel nightmare.”

> Get some great tips (and laughs!) from Washington Post OnParenting reporter Amy Joyce’s article “Tips to Get Your Kids Through the Holidays Graciously and Gratefully.”

  1. Take the focus off of gifts.

“We’ve always done three gifts per person for Christmas, and no more. Our kids know to expect this, which means they know there’s a finite amount to the spoils they can expect. Many other families do a “want, need, wear, read” tradition, and I dig that, too. Whatever the route you take, I find that setting—and then communicating about—a firm limit on quantity helps keep expectations realistic.”

> Check out The Art of Simple’s “How we help curb the ‘I want that!’s during the holidays” post.

  1. Don’t try to please everyone.

“Someone — a parent, grandparent or in-law –will be unhappy. But, as a rule, the children will not be — and it’s the little things that they will remember, like time spent playing a board game or teaching you to operate their toys.”

> Read this helpful Parenting Tips for the Holidays article on WebMD.

  1. Find support and take care of yourself.

“Negative memories of past seasons sometimes resurface during the holidays, often adding more stress…Surround yourself and your children with safe, supportive people. Being with others can provide strength and nurturing during a difficult time.”

> Get the Holiday Stress & Solutions for Parents Fact Sheet (in English and Spanish) from SCAN’s Parent Resource Center.

We hope you’ll share these tips and resources with parents in your community. We’d love to hear your favorite tips, too!

And don’t forget to check out the fantastic #25days25ways campaign from Prevention Child Abuse Virginia this month. They’re sharing daily reminders to help us stay focused on children and support prevention during the holiday season.



YoungAdultBooksWhen we first launched our Kids Need Connections child abuse prevention campaign in 2014, our “Children’s Stories That Build Resiliency” was a huge hit.  We have presented at various conferences and given several workshops throughout Virginia highlighting not only the 15 stories but also resiliency theory and how to build resiliency in children.

We were asked to consider coming up with a list of young adult stories that build resiliency so that we could reach an even wider audience of children, youth and the adults who connect with them, so we did.  We have only chosen 6 from the thousands of titles that are out there, but we think that you will find they address a wide array of topics, family dynamics and social issues all with the end goal of creating more resilient children and youth.

Our list is available here, along with questions that you should use as discussion points as you connect with the tweens and teens in your life.  The thoughtful questions can provoke great conversation and better prepare youth to handle life’s obstacles and develop empathy skills.  These stories–along with your listening skills–provide them with a safe environment to talk through how they might handle themselves in similar situations, and how they can relate to the strong male and female characters of these stories.

The titles would make great stocking stuffers and Holiday presents for the young adults on your list.  Just be sure to give them the questions that go along with them – that is where the true gift lies.

– Tracy Leonard, Public Education Manager

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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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