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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.

This excellent post was shared most recently on the Darkness to Light blog (as well as Momastery’s Facebook page and originally appearing here), and it’s one that needs to be shared as many other places and with as many other people as possible: 

My beautiful cousin, who I’d not seen in 35 years, and I set out to dance on our grandfather’s grave. Our first dilemma was, of course, song choice. You have to have the right song. We bandied a few song titles about, Alanis Morrisette was a front runner.

Obviously.

We drove to the town where he lived, and where he is buried. We drove to the town where we were abused. Driving down the picturesque New England roads, I felt a little faint. Mary felt a little barfy. We pulled into a store parking lot, and Mary spent some quality time behind a dumpster, hurling. It happens.

We weren’t entirely sure where the cemetery was, so we pulled into a police station to I said, Let’s do it.ask for directions.

I said, jokingly, We should go in and file a police report. Mary said, What would happen if we went inside and filed a police report?

We walked in, after Mary barfed again, and there was a darling older police officer behind the glass window. Mary told him we were looking for the cemetery- and I had a moment of, We’re probably not REALLY going to do this. Then my beautiful cousin, who is the bravest person I know, said- And we would like to report a crime.

That got his attention.

She said, Our grandfather sexually molested us 35 years ago, and we want to report him.

We were ushered into a conference room, where a young officer came in to talk to us. He handles all of their sexual assault and rape cases. He introduced himself, sat down and proceeded to ask us questions about what happened. Names, addresses, dates. I called my sister, Aimee, and put her on speakerphone. We were all crying.

Aimee, I said, He’s writing it down.

We said, This happened to us, and he listened. He WROTE IT DOWN. He wrote it down.

I cannot begin to tell you how powerful that was.

He said several times, I don’t want to open any wounds, so if you don’t want to answer this, that’s okay. Finally I said, The wounds are all still open. Obviously. What do you want to know?

I found myself saying, to a police officer, I was raped. I never thought that would happen.

Then Mary asked a question I would not have thought to ask, but the answer to which I really needed. She said, What would have happened to him, if someone had reported it? The officer told us the procedural things, he said he would have interviewed us, he would have interviewed our grandfather, he would have corroborated what he could. And then, he said –

I would have driven down the street and arrested him.

That is what should have happened.

We know there is nothing to be done. We know there will be no consequences, and no justice. Life is staggeringly unfair, sometimes.

But there is a record. We walked into that police station holding the jagged shards of our story, of our childhood, and said, LOOK. THIS HAPPENED. And Officer Paul Smith bore witness. He wrote it down.

In few days, the police report will be available, and Mary will go get three copies. Or, if she makes good on her threat to send it out in lieu of a Christmas card next year, maybe many more. But, at least three. We will each have a copy.

We asked Officer Smith if anyone else ever comes forward about our grandfather- because we know with absolute certainty there are MANY more victims- to please give them our information. We want to meet them.

At that point we thought we were still going to go to the cemetery. Officer Paul offered us a police escort.

I think it is important to note, in the face of so much awfulness, that people really are mostly very good. He was so kind. He took it so seriously. He honored our loss.

Mary decided she’s not quite ready to dance on his grave. That’s okay. We’ve found each other again. We’ve got nothing but time.

That’s where this was supposed to end.

Then I got a call this morning, from Officer Paul. He said, Can you come in? I have something I want to tell you guys.

So.

Mary and I just got back.  We were at the police station for hours.  Talking to a mama.  About her daughter.  She told us what happened. Officer Paul wrote it down.

Read the full post from Darkness to Light 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

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

blogblock_simpleconnectionsEver since launching our Kids Need Connections campaign last spring, we’ve had countless discussions with service providers, families and staff about how to build the connections that we know are so critical for happy, healthy and safe children.

One of the tools we’ve developed is a series of Children’s Stories that Build Resiliency, a list of children’s books with questions to help adults and children connect and engage in discussions to build resiliency.  And we often hear from child welfare professionals about other games, workshops and more that can help build those connections as well.

But a recent blog post — from a business website, of all places — reminded us that making a connection can often be so SIMPLE.  Here are some of our favorites (with a few notes from us on how it might apply to children, too!)

[Re-posted from Young Entrepreneur Council and wework.com: “10 Habits of People Who Connect With Anyone”]

#1 Smile. This is by far the fastest way in the world to create a connection.

#4 Be genuine. There is only one type of connection — one you genuinely care about.

#6 Pay attention. The easiest way to be interesting is to be interested. Find excitement in what you can learn from others. Hear what they say. Listen and learn about what matters to them — not so you can say something back as soon as possible, but so you can get a window into their world. People (especially kids!) want to tell their story. Be the person excited to hear it (or they’ll stop trying to tell it to you).

#8 Be open to conversation. Embrace conversation with those around you. (Be a safe, open place for your kids to come when they want to talk.)

# 10 Be uniquely YOU. Be vulnerable and open. Share your real story and goals…Talking about the weather does not build connection. Being real does. (Sharing your feelings and being open with your kids is a GREAT way to make them feel cherished and trusted.)

You can read all 10 tips from the original blog post on wework.com here.

How will you be building connections with kids this week?

Today we welcome Hon. Tim Lovain as a guest blogger to share his experience working on an initiative to be intentional as a community when it comes to planning for and supporting the children of Alexandria, where he is a Councilman.

Photo via Patch.com

Photo via Patch.com

In June, the Alexandria City Council and the Alexandria School Board approved the Children and Youth Master Plan for the City of Alexandria.  The Master Plan is the result of hundreds of hours of discussions within the Alexandria community over many months.  It provides a blueprint for Alexandria as it seeks to improve outcomes for children, youth and families in our community.  The Plan’s Vision is that “All of Alexandria’s children and youth can succeed today and tomorrow”.  It sets five goals to meet that vision, multiple strategies to accomplish those goals and specific sets of action steps to support those strategies.

This Master Plan also supports SCAN’s efforts.

Its very first goal is that “every child will be physically safe and healthy”.  Its first strategy is to “support the related efforts of public and private entities to improve the health, wellness and safety of children, youth and families”.  It prescribes an action step to “support the efforts of organizations working to decrease and mitigate the effects of child abuse and exposure to violence, and to improve the safety of environments for children”.

I was proud to be a member of the Alexandria Children, Youth and Families Collaborative Commission that produced the initial draft of this Master Plan, and I was pleased to help shepherd it through to approval by City Council.  I believe that it will strengthen our community’s efforts to help our children and youth thrive and will increase appreciation and support for the critical work of SCAN and other organizations in that effort.

Living in a community where children are considered a priority is a gift, and also a responsibility– to do exemplary work in the prevention of child abuse, to lift up children and families in new, innovative ways, and to share our experiences and resources with others.

I’m proud to be a part of it all.

– Tim Lovain, SCAN Board Member
City Councilman, City of Alexandria

 

 

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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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