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: http://www.d2lblog.com/2015/08/25/first-line-of-defense/#sthash.NvPhyeFB.dpu

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
tleonard@scanva.org

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
mmorales@scanva.org

BlogBlock_StrengtheningFamilies

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.

REMEMBER:

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
tleonard@scanva.org

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 medicalxpress.com 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: http://medicalxpress.com/news/2015-07-mothers-physician-advice-infant-position.html]

student-849822_1280SCAN has been fortunate to have the support of interns to help not only in our day-to-day operations but also when research and program implementation are needed. It was through the hard work of our intern Megan Sharma last summer that we were able to get the support and materials written for our newest initiative, Operation Safe Babies.

Many managers in the non-profit world are afraid of interns because it can mean “more work” and someone else to supervise. But if you can put that thinking aside and change your perception of interns, they can prove to be an invaluable asset to your organization and help you do even more to support your mission.

This summer, we have interns supporting us from George Mason University (Rebecca) and the Institute on Philanthropy & Voluntary Service program through The Fund for American Studies (Allison). We asked them a few questions to better understand their role as interns within a human services setting, and share some of their thoughts on how interns and employers can get the most out of the experience:

  1. How do you relate your own expectations to your intern site and intern supervisor? What if your expectations aren’t being met, what would you do?

ALLISON: I relate my expectations to my supervisor during meetings that we have to check in about how projects are proceeding and what is coming up in the future. If my expectations were not being met, I would ask if and how it might be possible to incorporate them into my assignments.

REBECCA: I try to use the interview process to express my expectations and to get a solid understanding of what the intern site’s expectations will be before accepting an internship, if that is possible. If my expectations are not being met, then I try to find a way to express that appropriately to my supervisor and discuss what changes, if any, can be made to try and meet my expectations.

  1. What is one thing you want your internship supervisor to know about you?

ALLISON: I would want my supervisor to know how my past experiences can be best utilized on the job, but perhaps more importantly, what skills and learning experiences I hope to take away from my time interning. Most young people I know take internships (especially when unpaid) to develop the skill sets they believe will be valuable in the field or industry they hope to pursue.

REBECCA: I am self-motivated enough that with adequate support I can learn any skills I did not have before starting this internship.

  1. What makes for a successful internship?

ALLISON: A successful internship is one in which there is an open dialogue between the intern and supervisor and the intern is actively and consistently challenged without being overwhelmed.

REBECCA: I believe adequate support and supervision, as well as a supportive relationship between the intern and supervisor, make an internship successful.

  1. How can an organization best support your internship experience?

ALLISON: An organization can best support your internship experience by encouraging conversation about how things are going on both sides, and being supportive but still offering honest criticism. Internships provide great opportunities to experience a given workplace without too much pressure, so it’s a perfect opportunity for the intern to learn what he or she does well as well as where he or she needs to further develop skills.

REBECCA: An organization can best support interns by providing the support they need through consistent feedback and supervision. Interns should feel like they are truly valued by the organization and that they are contributing to the organization’s work.

  1. What are effective ways that an internship supervisor can engage you in the work they are asking you to produce?

ALLISON: Knowing what skills an intern hopes to strengthen and allowing him or her to incorporate those aspects into projects is a great way of maintaining his or her engagement. Also, maintaining that open communication so as to provide opportunities for him or her to ask questions and clarify any confusion can prevent stalls and / or disengagement.

REBECCA: Taking time to thank interns for their work, even briefly, and providing feedback are effective ways to engage interns in their work.

  1. What impact do you hope to make at SCAN?

ALLISON: I hope to aid the individuals here in their work, complete my assigned projects, and hopefully provide the insight that can come from having different perspectives.

REBECCA: I hope to create meaningful and useful materials to support the Parent Education Program’s work with caregivers and children.

A new report from the Human Rights Projects for Girls and Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality calls for an overhaul of the U.S. criminal justice system “to identify and treat sexual abuse trauma that lies at the root of victimized girls’ arrests, particularly girls of color.”

This summer, we’ve trained HUNDREDS of adults in how to recognize, react and respond to child sexual abuse through our standing as “Partner in Prevention” with Darkness to Light. We know those individuals trained will go out into our Northern Virginia communities to keep childhood safe for many. But we also know child sexual abuse prevention goes well beyond childhood – that this is about creating a community where girls and boys and grown men and women can thrive.

This article gives excellent insight as to how child sexual abuse in years past relates to women in prison today: http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/07/10/us-usa-justice-girls-idUSKCN0PK19I20150710

SummerSafety_FactSheetIt’s summer: From more time at home (with a babysitter or unsupervised) to time on vacation (swimming, outdoors, etc.), it’s an important time to share resources with the parents and families in your community. Here’s a round-up of great, local information and support to share this summer:

  • SCAN’s Summer Safety for Kids page on the Parent Resource Center. Download a fact sheet or listen to a radio show covering everything from sun safety to preventing child sexual abuse at camps.
  • SCAN’s Supervision Guidelines page on the Parent Resource Center. When can a child be left at home alone? How can we prepare as a family? This includes links to guidelines for every local jurisdiction in Northern Virginia.
  • Keeping kids safe in cars via the Child Protection Partnership of Prince William’s Facebook page.
  • Child ID App and Summer Safety Tips from the FBI via the City of Alexandria
  • Water Safety (and much more!) from healthychildren.com, a fantastic site from the American Academy of Pediatrics

Do you have a resource to share? Let everyone know in the comments section below.

072015_CASA_diversityTwelve people recently stood up in a local courtroom to be sworn-in as new volunteers in the Alexandria/Arlington CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) Program. They speak different languages, come from different ethnic communities, and work in very different professions. They are medical professionals, attorneys, human services professionals and government workers. They are highly qualified, motivated, multicultural and multilingual members of our community and – after six weeks of intensive training – they are ready to advocate for abused and neglected children desperately in need of a voice.

They are richly diverse – just like the children they will now speak for in the courtroom.

This diversity is key to appointing the best possible volunteer for each child. Speaking a native language or relating to the immigrant experience or understanding an ethnic community can be invaluable in a CASA volunteer’s work with children and families.

Through recruitment and training, we work to ensure every CASA volunteer is passionate, capable and willing to give of their time and skills. But that is hopefully where the similarities end – the best volunteer base is a diverse volunteer base.

Who do you know who could give a unique voice to a child?

p.s. In Alexandria and Arlington, we have a special need for bilingual Hispanic volunteers, African American volunteers and male volunteers. Our next Volunteer Orientation takes place on July 14th at 12:00 noon. Join us!

IMG_0627.JPGWe were thrilled to hear about Lainie Morgan’s experiences during her first volunteer experience with SCAN. Enjoy her story — we hope it inspires you to volunteer, too!

As someone who used to teach children and families in Baltimore but now supports educators from a national office and misses being in the classroom, I sought out the opportunity to work directly with my new community through www.volunteermatch.org. SCAN’s mission and activities seemed to align well with what I’d learned supporting family resiliency strengthening for 15 years, so I signed up after attending one of SCAN’s monthly volunteer orientations.

Paired with the class of children five years and older, I assumed that the kids would come begrudgingly, antsy after a day of school, and be completely uninterested in the curriculum. Instead, students asked if they could come more than once a week, ran to the door each evening excited to start, greeted me with a big smile and stories of their week, and for the most part, engaged fully with our class. I was truly taken aback by how much the kids opened up and shared their talents and enthusiasms. From computer coding, patiently helping younger students and balancing with closed eyes to reading eagerly during snack, inventing new ways to explain an idea and really witty humor, these students have a ton to offer and build upon.

One week, our lone second grader gave me a card she’d made to celebrate her graduation from ESOL. I felt so special after she’d thought about me at school and wrote this beautiful note that I decided to write all the kids individual cards for the next class so they could enjoy that same feeling. During the volunteer debriefing that same evening, a parent educator asked if I’d share my observation about how well one of the kids was doing with her parent the following week. It can be hard for parents to recognize all the gifts children have when they spend a lot of time with them while managing the frustrations and annoyances of everyday life, so I was happy to reflect back what I was experiencing with the kids.

The next week each student got a letter describing what I’d noticed them doing especially well and how their presence in class specifically contributed to what we were all getting out of it. I also made a copy for each family, so that parents and caregivers could see how their kids were thriving. Parents and students alike were more excited than I expected; families talked about how grateful they were to hear such a glowing report and kids were surprised they’d achieved so much. One student gave me a big hug, another recited back to me one of the talents I’d mentioned in a later class, and a third made his own thank you card for me.

Strong self-esteem and consistent connections with a supportive adult greatly impact a child’s development. I feel extremely privileged to get to contribute even a tiny bit to that by working with the children touched by SCAN’s Parent Education Program. I would strongly encourage others to get involved as well; matching your talents with SCAN’s various needs ultimately puts you in a place to serve the needs of children and parents right here in our community.

– Lainie Morgan, SCAN Volunteer

p.s. SCAN’s next Volunteer Orientations this summer will be held on July 14 and August 6. Register 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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