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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!

 

fate-of-2016-legislationOur Executive Director Sonia Quiñónez spent time meeting with Prevent Child Abuse Virginia and other regional affiliates this week. Much of the discussion focused on what’s next for children and families in the Commonwealth. We’ve blogged a few times this year about the General Assembly and what’s happening in Richmond.

Now that the dust has settled on the most recent session, it’s an important time to look at bills passed—and those that didn’t make it—as we begin talking with our partners like Voices for Virginia’s Children and thinking about how to best advocate for children and families next year. Check out this great infographic from the Virginia Public Access Project, and stay tuned for details on our plans for advocacy in 2017.

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A number of state legislators participated in SCAN’s Advocacy Day, discussing many of the issues where progress was made in 2016. 

This year’s General Assembly came to a close on March 11th, and it is important to give thanks to our elected officials who have worked diligently on behalf of Virginia’s children and youth. Back in January at the start of the legislative session, SCAN focused on three issues: early childhood education, kinship care, and foster care and youth. It is very exciting to be able to say that Fostering Futures has been included in the 2016 budget and the General Assembly made a significant expansion of home visiting programs & additional investments in the Virginia Preschool Initiative (VPI).

Voices for Virginia’s Children recently blogged about the progress and gave an excellent overview here. Here is an excerpt:

Even if there were not a lot of headlines, or committee hearings, on early childhood this session we are pleased to see that the groundswell of support from champions cultivated by the early childhood community over the last few years has translated into support for comprehensive investments in early childhood. We also know that we will keep early childhood policy on the radar in the coming weeks and months because of the various groups that will be asked to weigh in on policy recommendations in the future.

Below is the progress we made during the 2016 General Assembly Session:

Budget Items:

  • Significant expansion of home visiting parent and health education services- The final budget includes additional TANF funding- an additional $9.5 M for Healthy Families, $2 M for CHIP and $2 M for Resource Mothers over the biennium. This funding more than doubles the current Healthy Families funding.
  • Increase to early intervention (Part C) services to keep pace with referrals– The legislature accepted the Governor’s proposal to increase state funds for early intervention by $1.7 M in FY17 and $2.5 M in FY18.
  • Increase to VPI per pupil amount- Along with repurposing lottery funds to have more flexibility in the K-12 funding formula, the legislature recognized that the VPI per pupil amount had not increased since 2008 and recommended a 2% increase. The rate will change from $6,000 per pupil to $6,125. This equates to an additional $2.8 M over the biennium.
  • Statewide eligibility criteria for VPI with local flexibility– The legislature accepted the Governor’s proposal to establish a statewide income eligibility below 200% of poverty while allowing states to enroll up to 15% of their VPI students above the income cut-off if they met locally established risk factors.
  • New mixed-delivery preschool grant pilots– The legislature accepted the Governor’s proposal and approved a companion piece of legislation (HB47- Greason) to establish a two-year pilot of $1.5 M each year for testing new approaches for public-private preschool partnerships. We hope to see more of the successes we highlighted in our Preschool Partnership Stories from Alexandria and Fairfax.
  • Child Care Workforce Scholarships- The legislature recommended $600,000 the first year and $1.3 M the second for the creation of scholarships and a competency-based credentialing system through VECF.

A total of $25.4 M in new investments in early childhood education over the biennium…

[Read the full blog post from Voices for Virginia’s Children here.]

We hope you’ll take the time to thank your elected official for the progress made! Here is an example of what you can say:

The Honorable [Elected Official’s Name]

Address City, State, Zip

Dear [Elected Official],

I am writing to thank you for your support of Virginia’s children, youth, and families. Because of your support Virginia’s children and youth have a greater opportunity to grow up with the supports they need to contribute to stronger communities today and as adults tomorrow.

Sincerely,

[Your name]

— Sydna Cooper, MSW Intern with SCAN

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

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

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

Early Education and Child Care

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

Click on the following links to track related bills:

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

Foster Care and Youth

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

Click on the following links to track related bills:

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

Kinship Care

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

Click on the following links to track related bills:

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

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

— Sydna Cooper, MSW Intern with SCAN

window-932760_1280September was Kinship Care month and also the first annual Kinship Symposium sponsored by the Northern Virginia Kinship Group.  And like all other awareness months, it is more than that to those 2.7 million children that are cared for by relatives and close family friends.

What is kinship care?  Child Welfare Information Gateway defines it as “the care of children by relatives or, in some jurisdictions, close family friends (often referred to as fictive kin).”   There are certainly benefits of kinship care: children placed in kinship care maintain a family connection and a sense of belonging and self-worth.  And there are also challenges.  Those challenges include complicated family relationships, a lack of resources and legal services, accessing medical care and enrolling children in school, as well as general anxiety over social services and systems that should be helping the child.  (Heidi Redlich, Director of Kinship Care Policy, ABA Center on Children and the Law.)

When service providers are more aware of the challenges and how to effectively tackle them head on with the family, then the child has an even greater chance of thriving within the kinship care situation and their chances of entering foster care are reduced.  According to Dr. Joseph Crumbley, LCSW, service providers should address the following with the families:

  • Loss
  • Roles/Boundaries
  • Guilt
  • Embarrassment
  • Projection/Transference
  • Loyalty
  • Child Rearing Practices
  • Stress Management/Physical Limitations
  • Bonding and Attachment
  • Anger and Resentment
  • Morbidity and Mortality
  • Fantasies
  • Overcompensation
  • Competition
  • Intrusion

This is definitely an area in which a greater understanding is developing and those who work with children and advocate on behalf of children need greater exposure.  Laws are changing as we realize the lack of financial support and legal rights these families have.  Families that are trying to do right for children.

At our Advocacy Day on November 17th, we will be talking about kinship care in Virginia.  To register to attend, please go to https://co.clickandpledge.com/advanced/default.aspx?wid=113088

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

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetWhen SCAN moved its offices last month, one of the benefits was a new (larger) space for providing community trainings. As a staff, we started dreaming of the new ways this space could enlarge our circle of trained facilitators, volunteers and leaders.

Every time we train an adult, our children gain a connection that could make all the difference. 

Tomorrow SCAN will participate in Spring2Action, a 24-hour online fundraiser in Alexandria, to raise funds that will allow us to continue (and grow) our training programs. We’ll also open the new Carol Cleary Community Training Room at our first Open House since moving.  It’s a moment we’ve long been waiting for, and for good reason — we have bold dreams for this space. Expanded trainings will give us opportunities to:

  • Train people to PREVENT child abuse before it starts: Last year, SCAN reached hundreds of parents through our parenting classes and support groups. With a focus on building support networks and teaching nurturing skills, our Parent Education Program uses trainings to prepare volunteers to work with families as well as parent leaders to facilitate groups, grow trust among parents and build connections for kids and parents in their own communities.
  • Train people to STOP child sexual abuse: Since 2012, SCAN has trained more than 600 adults using the Stewards of Children program from Darkness to Light. Our goal is to educate and empower adults to understand their responsibility to protect children from sexual abuse, and then to recognize, react and respond to it in our community.
  • Train people to ADVOCATE for abused and neglected children: When an abused or neglected child enters the court system, SCAN’s Alexandria/Arlington CASA Program provides a trained volunteer to advocate on his or her behalf. This powerful program gives a voice to the child through a volunteer who is extensively trained to focus exclusively on the child’s wellbeing and best interests.

Trainings like these take space. They take time and supplies and staff support. They take incredible volunteers and people willing to attend. And they are worth every ounce of effort. We know that the people walking out of our trainings — from parent educators to “Stewards of Children” to CASA volunteers — gain the knowledge to prevent and stop abuse, or the power to speak up on behalf of children already suffering the effects of abuse and neglect.

This one room has given us the capacity to train more people, to protect more children, to impact an even wider circle of our community.

There is true power in educating and empowering more individuals in the prevention of child abuse and neglect. And it can start with just one room. And people like you.

— Sarah Self, Public Education Coordinator

#CCCTrainingRoom

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

10620434_10152489822470735_8987194809694495121_oOn Tuesday over 50 professional and community members who wish to be stronger advocates for children attended SCAN’s advocacy training event, Speak Up For Children!, a partnership between SCAN and Prevent Child Abuse Virginia.

Christie Marra from the Virginia Poverty Law Center gave an engaging presentation about the legislative process and how advocates can influence policies that impact children and families.

“An advocate’s role is to know the political climate, reach out for support, and rally the troops,” noted Christie. Participants spent the rest of the day being empowered to do just that.

Jim Pope, J.D., MSW, the Fairfax County CPS Hearing Officer, shared the story of how his work with the Northern Region Child Fatality Review Team led to successful advocacy efforts at the state level. Jim’s case study on writing and advocating for a bill to allow the team access to critical information to properly address child fatality perfectly illustrated the legislative advocacy process presented by Christie.

The training portion of the event was followed by policy and legislative panels. A panel of representatives from Youth for Tomorrow, Voice for Adoption, and the Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis spoke about how policy issues are impacting the populations they serve. The topics discussed included child trafficking, child mental health, and foster care and adoption. Participants also learned the powerful impact fiscal policy has on children and families.

“Virginia needs a different approach than a “cuts only” approach to balance the budget,” noted Jeff Connor Naylor with The Commonwealth Institute. As the panel ended, one person noted that she “gained more knowledge about Virginia’s budget process” that would inform her advocacy work in the future.

A panel of legislators from across Northern Virginia discussed potential state legislation dealing with children and families. Senator Barbara Favola and Delegates Dave Albo, Alfonso Lopez and Charniele Herring spoke with participants about everything from healthcare to poverty to child care standards.

“It was helpful to see the legislators in person and hear their perspectives on the legislative climate,” noted one participant. For many, observing the legislative panel and interacting with local lawmakers helped minimize the distance they felt between their own daily work advocating for children and the larger systems which impact that work. Many indicated that they are now much more likely to track legislation that affects their clients, and contact their legislators in the future.

So what next? Participants at the training walked away with these five tips:

1. KNOW YOUR LEGISLATOR: This easy-to-use “find your legislator” tool makes it fast and easy!

2. ENGAGE MORE with your legislators: Child welfare professionals know the issues and challenges children and families face better than almost anyone, so we need to be the one’s to speak up and let our representatives know when there is a policy issue than needs to be addressed. Legislators need us to keep them informed, and they do value our input.

3. EXPLORE THE “LOBBYIST-IN-A-BOX” TOOL: You can subscribe to this service on Virginia’s Legislative Information System (or LIS) and track up to 5 bills for free.

4. SUBSCRIBE TO SCAN’s CONNECTIONS BLOG: Stay informed on the issues and trends in child welfare both here in Northern Virginia and across the United States.

5. VISIT SCAN’S WEBSITE: Our Statistics, Policy & Research page provides current statistics on child abuse and neglect in Northern Virginia, as well as links to additional resources such as white papers and fact sheets.

As one of the participants was completing an evaluation of the training, she wrote: “I feel this training helped a lot, and I look forward to more children’s advocacy trainings in the future.”

We couldn’t agree more! Follow @SCANconnections and  #speakup4kids on Twitter for more information and updates on advocacy throughout the year.

– Kerry Desjardins
MSW Intern at SCAN and Advocacy Training Coordinator

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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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