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Wondering what you can do this month to be a part of National Child Abuse Prevention Month? We’ve got you covered! SCAN and its Allies in Prevention Coalition are going to be busy across Northern Virginia, and we hope you will join us. Plant a Pinwheel Garden, make a donation during Spring2ACTion, and join us for one (or more!) of the events in our April calendar:

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(p.s. Will you forward this April Calendar (pdf) to 10 people you know? That would be a great start this month!)

On February 11th, I had the privilege of being on a panel for a special community event put on by We Support the Girls, a local organization that “recognizes the need to support child victims of sexual abuse, beginning with the initial reporting, continuing through the legal process, and ultimately sustaining as victims and their families continue to heal.”

16700629_787804918025391_4278902705935480055_oThe main goal of the event was to increase community involvement in the prevention of child sexual abuse by encouraging community members to:

  • Become engaged
  • Learn how to be a part of stopping child sexual abuse in Virginia
  • Participate in a movement to protect all girls and boys in our state from child sexual abuse
  • Get energized to advocate for the passage/adoption of Erin’s Law (allowing for age appropriate education in the schools)
  • Find out what as members of the community can be done to support victims and empower survivors of sexual abuse

 The panel was moderated by Peggy Fox, WUSA News Channel 9 and included remarks from Congressman Don Beyer and Arlington County Board Member Katie Cristol.  Joining me on the panel was Dr. Lyndon Haviland MPH, Darkness to Light, Jennifer Alvaro Mental Health Therapist, Arlington County Child & Family Services, Caitlyn Knittig Survivor/Advocate, and Angela Rose founder of PAVE.

Those attending the event walked away engaged and ready to advocate for child sexual abuse awareness for all of Northern Virginia.  As a direct result of my participation on the panel, I have two Stewards of Children trainings scheduled in Falls Church and have several adults interested in becoming Darkness to Light authorized facilitators at a training to be held in June at SCAN.  Others who attended the event were actively engaged in learning how to get Erin’s Law passed in Virginia.  As a panelist, I was able to talk about what barriers kept Erin’s Law from being passed this year in the General Assembly and also able to provide thoughts and insight on what we need to do in order to get it passed next year.

– Tracy Leonard, Public Education Manager, tleonard@scanva.org

There have been countless (and often conflicting) news stories in recent weeks about immigration in the United States. In our networks, the discussion–for years–has simply focused on how we can best care for and support these families. What is it like to be an immigrant and a parent? What are the unique fears, challenges, and needs faced by these families?

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Please consider sharing our resources with the professionals and parents in your own networks:

We also highly recommend browsing our new Parent Connection Resource Guide for parenting classes and support groups for parents facing immigration and reunification.

What resources do you depend on in your work with immigrant families?

“An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

This will be the 15th year we celebrate the heroes who work passionately for the children, families and communities of Northern Virginia. Who will we honor this April (during National Child Abuse Prevention Month) with a 2017 Ally in Prevention Award? That’s up to you!

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Nominations are now open: please submit a nomination for someone in your community who is “rising above” in their efforts to prevent child abuse, support parents or strengthen families. Who can SCAN’s Allies in Prevention Coalition lift up with this honor? Who can we celebrate as a true leader? Who is someone who sets an example for all of us in the way they protect children and put their community first?

Download the 2017 Allies in Prevention Nomination Form

Want to be inspired? You can meet last year’s honorees here. And remember, all nominations are due by February 10, 2017!

 

Last month, SCAN hosted its 5th Annual Speak Up for Children Advocacy Training, bringing together more than 40 attendees for a day of public policy education and advocacy training. Partners from Prevent Child Abuse Virginia and Voices for Virginia’s Children along with a diverse group of child welfare experts and elected officials led discussions during the day-long, interactive workshop. The group discussed effective advocacy tactics at all levels; critical legislative updates; and policy priorities for the upcoming 2017 Virginia General Assembly session. The training was sponsored in part by Verizon, and volunteers from Boeing also supported promotion, planning and facilitation of the event.

Wondering what Advocacy Day attendees are going to do next? Here are some of the action items they plan to take in th ecoming months, and you can do them too:

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  1. Attend an Advocacy Day in Richmond during the upcoming 2017 short session of the Virginia General Assembly.
  2. Work towards having Erin’s Law passed in Virginia. Read an article on Erin’s Law, including comment from Advocacy Day guest Senator Jennifer Wexton, here.
  3. Share advocacy information with others in your network. Voices for Virginia’s Children has some excellent 2017 Tools for Advocates available here.
  4. Call, write and visit your legislators. Find out who your local legislators are here.
  5. Support the families you serve in our programs. One way to support them is by finding creative ways to share their stories with your legislators!
  6. Work with other organizations, across issues, to encourage more progress. Legislators told us again and again that the more cooperation and work they see behind an issue, the easier it is for them to bring attention to it! You can learn more about SCAN’s policy focus in the comine year here, and Prevent Child Abuse Virginia shares specific Bills they are following (along with many other useful advocacy tools!) here.
  7. Thank your political representative for working on behalf of children. (See number 4 above.)

You can download an overview of Advocacy Day here, or visit SCAN’s Advocacy page on our website here for more resources from the day, including a Legislative Glossary, Intro to the VA General Assembly and a Self-Assessment tool!

 

This week we welcome Gretchen E. Downey, Prevention Expert and Best-Selling Author, as she shares her expertise on preventing suicide in – and strengthening our communication with – the teenagers in our lives. This is the first post in a two-part series:

Our hearts ache when the tragedy of teen suicide occurs in our community. Is it preventable?

The American Psychological Association states that, although it’s difficult to predict, there are warning signals to watch for – and one should always seek professional or medical help when a child is suspected of being in danger:

  • Talking about dying – any mention of dying, disappearing, jumping, shooting oneself, or other types of self harm
  • Recent loss – through death, divorce, separation, broken relationship, self-confidence, self-esteem, loss of interest in friends, hobbies, activities previously enjoyed
  • Change in personality – sad, withdrawn, irritable, anxious, tired, indecisive, apathetic
  • Change in behavior – can’t concentrate on school, work, routine tasks
  • Change in sleep patterns – insomnia, often with early waking or oversleeping, nightmares
  • Change in eating habits – loss of appetite and weight, or overeating
  • Fear of losing control – acting erratically, harming self or others
  • Low self esteem – feeling worthless, shame, overwhelming guilt, self-hatred, “everyone would be better off without me”
  • No hope for the future – believing things will never get better; that nothing will ever change

So the million dollar question… “What’s going on – why the low emotions and why are they so prevalent causing 1 in 5 US teens to seriously consider suicide and 8% of teens to attempt suicide annually? That’s nearly one tenth of our young people feeling helpless, hopeless and like life has no meaning.

For over 50 years the internationally acclaimed Search Institute has conducted research on what kids and teens need to thrive and succeed in life. They report that well over 50 million of our young people are feeling helpless, hopeless and not connected to their inner “spark,” or what gives their life meaning, connection and fulfillment. According to the Search Institute the more developmental assets a person builds, the more likely they are to succeed in school and become happy, healthy and contributing members of their community and society.

Next week, we’ll explore the teenage brain and tangible steps adults can take to help the teenagers in our lives.

– Gretchen E. Downey, Prevention Expert and Best-Selling Author

[PLEASE NOTE: It’s not uncommon for a large life event, such as the election of a new national leader, to force those who have had traumatic experiences to relive them all at once, said John Draper, Program Director with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. (Read more of John’s interview in the Washington Post article, At Suicide Hotlines, the First 24 Hours of Trump’s America Have Been Full of Fear,” November 10, 2016, here.)

Now more than ever, we need to make sure that the teens in our lives feel supported and heard. Fear of the unknown and no hope for the future, as Gretchen points out, can lead teens to suicide. We must help them find their “spark” even during a time when we struggle ourselves. Intervening is important, but modeling self care and emotional regulation are also important. –  Tracy Leonard, SCAN Public Education Coordinator]

Emma Pazos is a bilingual CASA volunteer in SCAN’s Alexandria/Arlington CASA Program. Originally from Peru, Emma is an internal auditor at a firm in D.C. She is currently on her first assigned case as a volunteer, and thus far has proven to be a dedicated, intelligent and caring CASA. We decided to sit down with her and ask why she thinks it’s vital for the CASA program to have bilingual volunteers.

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CASA: Thank you, Emma, for taking the time to give us your insight as a bilingual CASA.

Emma: I’m very happy to do it, I think it’s very important for the families we work with.

CASA: What do you believe is the most important factor in being a bilingual CASA?

Emma: Being a Hispanic person really helps break down the barrier in cultural connections, and in building rapport and trust. The family may think, ‘Here is a person that shares a similar sense of culture and may understand me better;’ even if the connection is as basic as speaking the same language. It makes a huge difference to a family who might have an entirely different exposure to and understanding of parenting and the law. This issue of abuse often occurs in families who may not have the same resources or education regarding disciplinary alternatives as you and I may have.

CASA: Are there any barriers you find unique to Spanish-speaking families?

Emma: Yes. I think foreign families have a strong fear of the legal system, law enforcement, and social services, which seems to defer a sense of trust in the system. Thus, they simply comply with what they are asked to do. They may hesitate to ask questions or shy away from learning the rights or opportunities afforded to them out of fear. Compounded by a possible legal status circumstance, families may view questions as stirring the pot and are scared it may jeopardize their opportunity at the American dream.

CASA: What have you learned as a bilingual CASA thus far?

Emma: That a family just wants to be understood. They come to this country wanting a better life for their family, but they also bring with them generational models of parenting that may have been acceptable in their internal family dynamic, but deemed unfit in this culture. It’s important that these families have a person or persons with whom they feel are not placing judgment or even perhaps a stereotyped viewpoint.

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Emma’s advocacy for the children in her case has been a significant contributing factor to the family’s proactive involvement with social services. The family has risen to the occasion and immersed themselves in the services offered. The children’s parents often comment to Emma that her dedication and unwavering promotion of their well-being has inspired them to gain trust in the juvenile court and team members active on their case. The family has been able to form a safety net with other parents in parenting classes, as well as mental health therapists. The parents have demonstrated a consistent ability to remain cognizant of their actions, and often comment how the family is now united and supportive of one another.

Emma’s skills as a bilingual CASA is a potent remainder that persons of a different culture or ethnicity that immigrate into a new country–with differing systems, language and laws that govern that society–have the right to be provided efficient guidance, support and compassion as they navigate and learn about the social system and cultural norms.

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

 

It’s a new school year and we’re excited to launch a new menu of workshops for the community! We encourage ALL groups of people to consider a workshop — from nonprofits, schools and government agencies to parenting groups, employers and faith groups. Our workshops are based on SCAN’s existing child abuse prevention and advocacy programs as well as the expertise of SCAN staff. We can often customize workshops for the specific needs of a group, and most topics are available in English and Spanish, too!

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So, how does your group want to be empowered this year?

We want to prevent CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE PREVENTION:

  • Darkness to Light, Stewards of Children2 hours, $25 per person (minimum 10, maximum 25 people)
  • Talking with Children about Safety from Sexual Abuse, 45 minutes, $150
  • Healthy Touch for Children & Youth, 45 minutes, $150
  • Bystanders Protecting Children from Boundary Violations & Sexual Abuse, 45 minutes, $150
  • Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children, 1 hour, $200
  • Child Sexual Abuse for Parents, 1 hour, $150

We want to support PARENT EDUCATION:

  • Have You Filled a Bucket Today, 1 hour, $200
  • How to Connect with Your Child and Build a Resilient Family (Managing Family Stress), 1 hour, $200
  • Wait, My Kid Has a Date?, 1 hour, $200
  • Positive Discipline: Raising Children with Self Control, 1 hour, $200
  • Tech Savvy Parenting/Internet Seguro, 1 hour, $200
  • Families Reunite (Immigrant Family Reunification, 4 weeks, 1.5 hours per night), $1500
  • Made in America: Padres Hispanos Criando Hijos Americanos (Immigrant parents raising children in the US, 4 weeks, 1.5 hours per night), $1500

We want to engage our community in prevention through PUBLIC EDUCATION:

We want to GET TO KNOW SCAN:

  • All About SCAN, @ SCAN
  • How YOU Can Help Prevent Child Abuse in Your Community
  • SCAN Volunteer Orientation, monthly – click link for more information and upcoming dates

We want to host a BROWN BAG SERIES for our employees:

  • Strategies for the Working Parent: Customize a parenting topic to compliment your human resource efforts in your office and offer support to your employees.

Don’t see a topic here you would like? SCAN can customize and deliver a 1-hour workshop for $400. In most cases we can add concurrent children’s programming for an additional fee. (Download the full SCAN Workshop Menu here.)

How can we support your organization in its work this year to build stronger families, support parents and protect children? Contact us and let’s get something on the calendar!

 

 

SCAN’s Alexandria/Arlington CASA Program is a key component of our child advocacy work, and people often ask us about the program’s unique format and impact. Today our CASA Program Director LaTeeka Turner is sharing some of the most common questions we get from child welfare professionals and child advocates about this important, effective program: 

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Q: Who are CASA volunteers (also known as “CASAs”)?

A: CASAs are trained volunteers appointed by a local Judge to help the Judge determine what is in the child’s best interest. SCAN oversees the CASA Program for the City of Alexandria and Arlington County, working closely with the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court.

Q: What does a CASA volunteer do?

A: CASAs are responsible for taking the time to find out as much information as possible about the appointed child and the child’s circumstances through reviewing relevant records and interviewing all relevant people involved in the case, most importantly, the child. CASAs then submit a written report to the Court to recommend to the Judge what they believe is best for the child’s future. In all cases, CASA volunteers advocate for safe and permanent homes for children.

 

 

Q: What kind of training do CASAs go through?

A: Each individual is subject to a thorough screening process, including background checks, interviews, and thirty-two hours of initial training to learn about the human service system, juvenile court, and issues such as substance abuse and mental health as well as the special needs of children who are involved in custody and in abuse and neglect cases. After being sworn in by the Judge as official CASAs, volunteers must complete at least twelve hours of additional in-service training each year.

 

Q: Do CASA volunteers understand the importance of confidentiality?

A: Yes! CASAs must take an oath before the Court that requires them to fulfill the roles assigned to them and to do so while respecting the confidentiality of all information and/or reports revealed to them. CASAs are trained to only share information with direct parties to the case and only the direct parties to the case will have access to review the CASA reports submitted to the Judge. 

Q: Can CASA volunteers provide direct services?

A: No, CASAs do not provide direct services to the child, such as supervising visitation or transporting the child.

Q: How is a CASA different from the Guardian Ad Litem (GAL)?

A: CASAs are unpaid volunteers and the GAL is an attorney representing the legal interests of your child. CASAs are not a party to the case and cannot bring a child’s case back before the Judge. The CASA’s role is one of a “Friend of the Court” and an impartial observer, conducting an investigation as the Judge would if time permitted.

 

Q: How do CASAs determine the child’s best interest?

A: CASAs talk with the child, parents, foster parents, other family members, social worker, teachers, attorneys, and anyone else who is important to the child. They make home visits to observe the child at least 1-2 times a month, and may also meet with the child in school or at another designated location. CASAs also review relevant records regarding the child such as attendance records or health records.

 

Q: What do CASAs do with the information that they learn about the child?

A: CASAs submit a written report to the Court detailing what he/she has learned from interviews, observations, and record reviews. The report also contains recommendations for what the CASA believes is in the child’s best interest. In all cases, CASAs advocate for safe and permanent homes for children.

Q: Who gets to read the CASA report?

A: The Judge, the attorneys, the assigned social workers, and the child’s Guardian Ad Litem (GAL). The reports cannot be shared or redistributed to others outside of the case per the Code of Virginia which sites the following:

  • 16.1274.

Time for filing of reports; copies furnished to attorneys; Amended reports; fees.

…… “All attorneys receiving such report or amended report shall return such to the clerk upon the conclusion of the hearing and shall not make copies of such report or amended report or any portion thereof.

Q: Can CASA provide a copy of their report to someone else?

A: Unfortunately, we are not permitted to share CASA reports outside of their submission to the Court.  This is a regulation from the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services(DCJS) which governs CASA and the Code of Virginia.  The CASA report is the property of the Juvenile court therefore we cannot distribute the reports and that is why they are filed at the Clerk’s office and distributed from there and the clerk’s office is charged with retrieving them from parties after the hearing.

The Alexandria/Arlington CASA Program is one of nearly 1,000 local CASA programs across the country affiliated the National CASA Program. Learn more about SCAN’s CASA Program here.

Have a question about CASA? Please comment below! 

 

 

Parents are constantly faced with the challenge of finding reputable, quality programming and care for their children.  To help make decisions easier for parents and to put your organization at the head of the class, do you have a written and posted code of conduct?  A code that lets parents–and children–know what they can expect from the adults who work or volunteer at your organization, how different situations are handled (one-on-one, toileting, transportation), and what the organization’s response is if child sexual abuse is suspected, discovered or disclosed?

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Darkness to Light offers sample documents that you can use to begin understanding what should be included in a code of conduct, and that allow your organization to begin having discussions about procedures and policies that need to be in place to keep all children safe from child sexual abuse.

Codes of conduct do not have to be simply for childcare centers or afterschool programming.  Every organization that serves youth in any capacity should have a code of conduct in place.  It isn’t enough to simply write a code, though.  A code of conduct should be prominently displayed and shared with parents.  If parents begin to expect that all youth-serving settings have codes of conduct, then there will be a true shift in the way kids are protected from those who would try to sexually abuse them.  If you work with parents, begin talking to them about questions they can ask an organization.  Questions that will help ensure their child’s safety.

Here are some questions to start with, via Darkness to Light:

  • Are parents encouraged to drop in at any time?
  • Can parents tour the facilities?
  • Are your staff and volunteers trained in sexual abuse prevention and response?
  • Do you have a code of conduct?  May I have it?
  • How are your policies disseminated and to whom?
  • Are the children aware of the rules?
  • How are older youth screened, monitored and supervised?
  • Do you train, allow and empower your staff and volunteers to report suspicions of sexual abuse?
  • If a staff member or volunteer violates the child sexual abuse prevention policy, what procedures and penalties follow?

– Tracy Leonard, Public Education Manager
tleonard@scanva.org

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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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