baby-376531_1920In October 2014, the Virginia Department of Social Services put out their Annual Report on Child Fatalities which reviews child and infant deaths in the previous year. Child fatality review teams set out to research and understand what is causing infant death in Virginia and if any of these deaths were preventable. This year, they continued to find some really interesting research in Virginia’s 109 child fatalities. 48 percent of the cases that they reviewed were sleep-related infant deaths. They also found that 95 percent of those deaths were preventable and were most likely correlated to an unsafe sleep environment. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome played a part in many of the infant deaths and could have been prevented with proper safe sleep techniques.

Listed below are helpful resources to get more information about Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and how to create safe sleep environments:

Abusive Head Trauma was another common cause of death in the state of Virginia. Abusive Head Trauma, also known as Shaken Baby Syndrome, can lead to many serious injuries, such as blindness and mental retardation as well as death. The most common cause of death that the reviewers found in the Child Fatality Study was from an external cause or injury and that was 50 percent of children. Men were identified as causing the death in 58 percent of these external injury cases. Because the report found that men were more likely to actively cause an infant’s death, one of their recommendations was continuing efforts toward strong fatherhood initiatives and programs.

Listed below are helpful resources and tips about Shaken Baby Syndrome and information about how to cope with a crying child:

The timing could not be better for Operation Safe Babies, a new initiative set forth by SCAN to promote the safety of infants. It is a program that will educate parents and caregivers on the importance of practicing safe sleep for babies, parenting/caregiving tips that can prevent Shaken Baby Syndrome, and other strategies to help keep infants safe. Through a partnership with Cribs for Kids, Operation Safe Babies will provide Graco Pack ‘n Play portable cribs to families in the coming year who otherwise could not afford a safe place for their babies to sleep. SCAN will also work to educate these families and other Northern Virginia parents about safe sleep and how to soothe a crying baby in order to decrease the risk of SIDS and Shaken Baby Syndrome.

Resources: Virginia Department of Social Services. (2014). Child Fatality Review Teams Annual Report.

fifty-shades-greyThe recently released film ’50 Shades of Gray’ is dominating the box office, but discussion around the storyline — including sex, abuse and relationships — is also filling the radio airwaves, morning talk shows and social media. Your kids are certainly hearing about it, which means it’s time for parents to decide how to react.

We encourage parents to not ignore these topics, but to start the discussion. And we like this new blog post from Prevent Child Abuse America‘s VP for Programs and Research, Dr. Janet Rosenzweig. Read the full article via Philly.com here. Here’s a sample of the great list of messages to address with older kids:

“Here’s a few topics from this movie that make a great discussion with any child, from around age 10 on:

  • In real life, it is never OK for an adult to seduce a child (Grey was introduced to sex by a friend of his mother)
  • In real life, it is never OK for people to hurt each other
  • In real life, girls want to have their own lives, their own opinions and don’t crave domination
  • In real life, if a man tells a woman (or a woman tells a man) he’s too damaged for a relationship, as Grey tells Anna early on, listen to him and run the other way.

With all of the hype about the books and movie, you may have read points like these, or thought about them yourself if you’ve read the books. As a sex educator, here’s the point I consider most important: This material was written to induce sexual arousal, and when it does, your child needs to understand that just because they experience reflexive arousal does not mean that this is the type of sex they want to have when they are mature enough to have sex.  It is a very common experience for humans to experience arousal from observing or reading about a sexual act they would never consider, and it takes honesty and maturity to understand that fact.”

> Read the full article via Philly.com here.

> Check out SCAN’s Parent Resource Center page on Sex & Violence in the Media here.

> Check out SCAN’s Parent Resource Center page (and fact sheets) on Sexting here.

Later this month, SCAN will kick off a new CASA volunteer training: many days (and nights) of classes, courtroom visits, panel interviews and more. As staff members work hard to prepare for the training, they often consider how other volunteers who have gone through the training have impacted families and given a voice to children.

LindaFranz_CASAvolunteerWant a glimpse at the power they’ve seen in a well-trained CASA? Meet Linda Franz. Almost seven years ago, SHE was the new volunteer going through intense training. Since 2008, she has worked on cases with 12 different families. In one of her current cases, one sibling has severe disabilities and Linda has gone above and beyond in making sure her medical needs are being met while she attends school. Linda has spoken to multiple people involved in the case, ensuring that a seizure plan was put into place and medication was available at the school in the instance of a seizure.

Linda also recently wrote an excellent, insightful report detailing her multiple visits with the family, the many services and treatments the family has received, her many conversations with multiple teachers and other professionals, and provided the Judge a complete, compassionate picture of her CASA children and their family. This case needed someone who would be dedicated, who would provide immediate attention, and who could dedicate numerous hours and extra energy.  Staff members say Linda was most certainly the perfect person for this family! In addition to regular visits with her CASA children — and communicating with all of the professionals involved in the case via phone calls, e-mail contact and face-to-face meetings — Linda has graciously been helping out in the SCAN office and even took on a second case when her first case slowed down.

And that’s all happening in recent months with just one family! There are 11 other families whose children have been blessed with Linda’s energy and attention, and countless more who will be served by this new class of volunteers.

Now it’s time to educate and empower them to advocate for children, too. We’re ready for more stories like Linda’s, and we’ll be sure to share those, too!

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

Shame_on_US_CoverA recent report by The Children’s Advocacy Institute and First Star entitled “Shame on U.S.” puts the blame equally on all three branches of the U.S. government when it comes to failing to protect children from abuse and neglect:

“Each branch of our federal government plays an integral role in the child welfare system, and when even one fails to perform its role in an appropriate manner, children are put at risk of harm…all three branches must be performing optimally to ensure a well-functioning child welfare system.”

The report shares that at least 686,000 American children were the victims of abuse or neglect in 2012, and a conservative estimate notes that abuse or neglect leads to the death of at least 4–5 children every day in the U.S.

Numbers like this demand attention on the national level, and also give us here at SCAN pause to think about how we — today — can improve those numbers, both as organizations working in cooperation with one another and as individual community members connecting with the children around us. There are actions that we can take, as organizations and as individuals, to protect the children within our own communities. Here are just a few:

  • Through SCAN’s CASA program, we are able to provide children with a voice and help advocate for what is in their best interest as they and their families navigate the courts.
  • Using our Parent Resource Center allows parents to arm themselves with tips for navigating through the wonderful life experience of raising children.
  • Our Public Education campaign, Kids Need Connections, encourages all of us to take an active role in a child’s life by connecting with them on all levels.

Every Child Matters offered a straightforward, helpful commentary on the report here.

View the full report — including details from every state — here.

Today on the blog we welcome Robin Hamby, an honoree at last year’s Allies in Prevention Awards as well as an active member of SCAN’s Allies in Prevention Coalition.

blogblock_01292015_alliesawards copyA good part of my career has been spent recognizing and celebrating individuals’ accomplishments. At first this meant telling a 5th grader struggling with learning problems,

“Nice job, you used descriptive words in your sentence!”

Later, as a parent myself, it sounded like,

“You are mommy’s good girl helping to pick up your toys. My how clean the floor looks.”

With grown children I now say similar things, but with my dog it’s more like,

“Thank you Humphrey for not peeing on the carpet today!”

As a Family Partnerships Specialist with Fairfax County Public Schools I daily recognize the compassionate and skillful work of our team members. When the “big money,” raises, and promotions don’t come our way, the biggest perk to us is knowing we are making a positive difference.

We also help parents as they navigate the worlds of school and community. We let them know that their parenting skills directly connect to their child’s success, now and in the future. All parents need genuine praise for the hard work of parenting. If not from a spouse, a partner, or a child, then perhaps praise from a school or community member,

“I understand you work such long hours. It is so valuable that you are able to find the time to sit down with your son to review homework.”

Last year I got the chance to be on the receiving end of a professional recognition.

It was a wonderfully motivating surprise! If I thought I was working hard prior to receiving the Allies in Prevention Award, I’m working even harder now. Believe me, that is a good thing. With the nomination and award for building connections among family, school, and community–specifically developing and implementing an immigrant family reunification program, which includes professional development, original parent education curriculum, parent led-support groups, and student support groups (Families Reunite)–came interest from myriad agencies, non-profits, neighboring jurisdictions, and even politicians. SCAN’s public relations brought my little program to the attention of many throughout the state and even the nation. We have been busy helping other jurisdictions help family members connect with each other, to their schools, and to their community.

If you know of an individual (or team) who is making a difference and making those connections, I recommend that you nominate him or her. You won’t just be nominating one individual. You will be nominating all the people that support that person at work, the folks who support her at home, and the current and future beneficiaries of that passionate work and dedication.

— Robin Hamby
Family Partnerships Specialist, Fairfax County Public Schools
Member, Allies in Prevention Coalition

IMG_7935Children’s issues are proving to be a major concern for The Virginia General Assembly 2015 session, which convened on January 14th. Over 150 pieces of legislation related to children and family issues have been introduced, and SCAN’s Legislative & Advocacy Committee is reviewing these bills and will follow them as they move through the legislative process. Kerry Desjardins, SCAN’s Master of Social Work intern, attended the Commonwealth Council on Childhood Success meeting in Richmond last Thursday. Each council subcommittee presented the top children’s issues they plan to address, many of which are in line with the most popular children’s issues being considered by the legislature. Here are a few of the issues on which SCAN is currently focusing:

 

Child care safety

This past August, The Washington Post published a two-part article on the lack of oversight of home-based day care in Virginia, raising greater awareness to long-held concerns.  As a result, Virginia lawmakers have introduced over a dozen pieces of legislation related to child care safety, including bills addressing whether or not a family day home provider’s own children should count toward the threshold requiring licensure, basic safety requirements such as smoke detectors and CPR training, and mandatory reporting to the Department of Social Services of intent to operate a family day home.

Click on the following links to track related bills:

HB 1517  /  HB 1552  /  HB 1570  /  HB 1929  /  HB 1931  /  HB 2023  /  HB 2046  /  HB 2069

SB 780  /  SB 818  /  SB 844  /  SB 898  /  SB 1029  /  SB 1055  /  SB 1069  /  SB 1123  /  SB 1124  /  SB 1168

 

Infant safe-sleeping

SCAN is also following House Bill 1515, legislation that would require hospitals to give maternity patients information about safe sleeping environments for infants. SCAN has worked to educate parents about safe sleep environments for infants for some time now, and is pleased to see lawmakers showing concern for the issue. SCAN supports the intent of this legislation and the positive impact it could have on children and parents.

Click on the following link to track related bills:

HB 1515

 

Protecting children from abuse

There are currently over two dozen bills that aim to prevent and protect children from physical and sexual abuse. These bills range from new and harsher penalties for perpetrators of child abuse, creating a supplement to the Sex Offenders and Crimes Against Minors Registry, requiring that mandated reporters complete training on how to recognize and report suspected child abuse or neglect, and creating new felonies for perpetrators of child trafficking, and more.

Click on the following links to track related bills:

HB 1353  /  HB 1441  /  HB 1505  /  HB 1526  /  HB 1527  /  HB 1533  /  HB 1884  /  HB 1954  /  HB 1964  /  HB 2007  /  HB 2040  /  HB 2092  /  HB 2138

SB 710  /  SB 911  /  SB 914  /  SB 918  /  SB 934  /  SB 976  /  SB 1056  /  SB 1057  /  SB 1074  /  SB 1094  /  SB 1117  /  SB 1138  /  SB 1170  /  SB 1188  /  SB 1213  /  SB 1253

 

Virginia’s budget

IMG_2287In December, Governor McAuliffe presented his proposed amendments to Virginia’s fiscal plan. During the 2015 session members of the Senate Finance Committee and the House of Delegates Appropriations Committee will consider the governor’s propositions as they prepare their own budget bills. The governor’s proposed changes include severe cuts in funding for several programs and services that are critical to at-risk children and families. It is a small part of his attempt at working towards a more balanced budget. SCAN is deeply concerned about the impact those cuts would have on Virginia’s most vulnerable children, and is advocating for Virginia legislators to find alternative ways of achieving a more balanced budget.

 

During the current session, child safety and well-being appears to be a top priority for members of Virginia’s General Assembly. There is great potential for achieving some critical policy changes related to children, but we must act fast. The General Assembly will adjourn in a matter of weeks. As advocates for children we must take full advantage of this short opportunity to influence policies that impact children and families. SCAN will continue to provide periodic updates on the status of such policies. To learn more about how to advocate for children and families, we encourage you to:

blogblock_01152015_broadencirclesOur Allies in Prevention Coalition is a force to be reckoned with in Northern Virginia.  Over 80 members strong, it represents all five jurisdictions of the region and every area of service for children and families. Each time the coalition meets, I see members become armed with even more information and strengthened in their resolve to do what is best for those they serve.

Our most recent meeting, held in December at the Beatley Library in Alexandria, featured a panel discussion on Strengthening Community Connections.  Coalition members had a chance to talk about the importance of connecting children and parents with the existing resources in their communities, as well as how agencies can work together to reach more families.

The panel included Sally Wood, Recreation Enterprise Manager, Prince William County Parks & Recreation, Emily Thrasher, Family Programs Coordinator, Arlington County Department of Parks & Recreation, Diana Price, Central Library Youth Services Manager, Alexandria Library, Reverend Trisha Miller Manarin, Mid-Atlantic Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, Robin Hamby, Family Partnerships Specialist, Family and School Partnerships FCPS, and Detective Kimberly Norton with the Prince William County Police Department.

The group was diverse, and that was exactly the point.

“We need to broaden our circles with each other,” said Rev. Manarin. “Even with a separation of church and state, we (service providers) need to engage the faith community.”

Det. Norton added that organizations should help to educate families about other resources. She charged members, for example, to help parents understand the harm that a phrase such as “if you’re doing something bad then the police will come and get you” could have.

Both Sally and Emily encouraged the other service providers to use Parks and Rec when the families they work with need creative ideas and new outlets for strengthening their bonds. They shared the educational, enjoyable, and even intergenerational activities Parks and Rec programs offer for families.

Another great resource for service providers? The library! Diana Price with the Alexandria Library mentioned some of the creative work they’re doing to reach out to those who are intimidated by coming to the library, such as teen book clubs that they offer right in schools.

Robin Hamby with Fairfax Public Schools encouraged service providers to build leadership skills with the parents they work with so that they become empowered to access even more resources and make more connections – from police to parks to libraries – for their children.

AIPC members left this meeting with valuable information and insight to continue building connections they can make in their communities. To help, we’ve developed this Community Resources List. We hope you’ll download the list and share it with the children and families you work with as well.

— Tracy Leonard, Public Education Manager
(Want to learn more about the AIPC? Contact me at tleonard@scanva.org!)

Last year more than a quarter million children were involved in human trafficking across the United States. And it can happen to any child in any community. There are risk groups (such as children with mental health issues, gang involvement and runaways) but local experts have seen cases with children of all ages, genders and socioeconomic groups.

Prince William County Schools has developed an outstanding program to both educate 9th grade students and the general public, as well as develop a coordinated system of care for victims of human trafficking.

This Sunday is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, and we thought it was the perfect time to share our recent Parenting Today Radio Show segment (through our partnership with iHeart Radio) with Jessica Woelkers, who works in sex trafficking prevention for Prince William County Schools.

> LISTEN TO SCAN’s iHEART RADIO SEGMENT HERE

Special thanks to SCAN’s Board President Sean Hosty for this end-of-year guest post.

SeanHosty copy

Sean Hosty and his daughter at SCAN’s Croquet Day

The end of one year and the beginning of a new year is a time for making goals and committing to changes in the future. One question we may ask ourselves is “did we give enough during the prior year?“. It’s not an easy question. On one hand, we can all give more, and on the other, we want to save more for ourselves and our families.

To help answer this question, it may be good to think about why we give to charities. Giving to charities, of course, can make a better community and can save and improve the lives of others. It can also give us an improved sense of well-being in knowing that we have made a sacrifice for others. But there are even more reasons to give! According to many studies, giving and showing compassion help us achieve a higher level of happiness and success. A recent study at Stanford University concluded that “compassion and giving may be the best kept secret to both happiness and your health”. More studies at Harvard and Stoneybrook University determined that “giving to others increased the well-being of the participants above and beyond spending money on themselves” and suggests that compassion and giving to others “helps us enjoy better mental and physical health and speeds recovery from disease”.

It makes sense that the happiest people I know are compassionate and giving of themselves. It also explains why our SCAN volunteers are so happy! A great example of two happy SCAN supporters and volunteers are Kelly and Leana, whom you can read more about here.

As you look forward to next year and decide on your goals for 2015, I wish you the happiest and healthiest year. If you’re ready to donate, simply click here. And THANK YOU for your support of SCAN and our work to prevent child abuse — and for keeping more children and families happy and healthy — in the year ahead.

Sean Hosty, SCAN Board President

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.]

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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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