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It’s estimated that one in every 122 people in the world has been uprooted from their homes due to conflict or persecution. Here in an increasingly diverse Northern Virginia, we see the impact of immigration, reunification and the refugee crisis on local children and adults. How can we support these families in our community? How can we provide resources to parents and children?

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That was the discussion at a joint meeting of our Allies in Prevention Coalition and the Loudoun County Partnership for Resilient Children and Families, where more than 90 service providers gathered to discuss the special experiences, needs and challenges of immigrant and refugee families. What were the key takeaways for service providers moving forward?

  1. Understand the differences between “Immigrant” and “Refugee.” Patricia Maloof from the Catholic Charities Diocese of Arlington provided an excellent overview for meeting attendees, including the unique challenges faced by each group. While immigrants make a choice to leave and have options, refugees are fleeing danger, have little time to prepare and often cannot return home. She also touched on another important reminder: “There is diversity within these populations,” said Dr. Maloof, not the least of which is a wide variety of experiences leading up to their immigration or fleeing.
  2. Build on the strengths of families. Immigrants and refugees provide valuable contributions to the economy, education and richness & diversity of a community. Every one of our panel members highlighted the rich diversity that immigrant families can provide to our communities, and underscored that we must overcome our own biases to better assist them as they navigate life in the United States.
  3. Help immigrant parents understand the unique challenges they face. When parents feel isolated, parenting—even life in general—can feel hopeless. Be sure parents understand what they are experiencing is common. Then help them find tools that work for them and their kids. “They can tell their kids, ‘I will give you time and space to get used to life here’,” said panel member Maria Mateus, a Parent Liaison from Fairfax County Public Schools. “They should tell their child they want them to feel safe.”
  4. Get families connected. Parents and children—often far away from their immediate family members—need supportive networks that speak their language, understand their cultural nuances and can act as extended family and friends. They also need to connect with community agencies, which can be frightening. Panel member Lisa Groat, from Ayuda, discussed the ins and outs of how to make sure that families we work with know which benefits they are eligible for as they begin to establish a new life in the United States.
  5. Learn more about the immigrant and refugee experience. Local experts addressed a variety of topics at the meeting, including things like arranged marriage and immigration law. One attendee said that simply being exposed to a discussion about arranged marriage for the first time was incredibly enlightening. “Remember that survivors are resilient,” said Casey Swegman from the Tahirih Justice Center, who led this part of the discussion. We need to be open to learning more about these families so we can better support and celebrate that resiliency.

This is a discussion that will certainly continue among service providers, community members and families in Northern Virginia, thanks in large part to the work of the organizations who participated on our panel. Also consider exploring the Support for Immigrant Parents page on our Parent Resource Center, where you can find fact sheets to share in English and Spanish, as well as listen to a Parenting Today radio show on the topic with Shirley Jones from HACAN.

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2015 Allies in Prevention Quarterly Meeting: Co-Parenting

Parenting is learned.  Parenting is tough.  Parenting changes every day because not only do parents change every day but children do, too.  Parents look to professionals in the human resource fields for help.  The best we can do for those families that we work with and that are a part of our lives is to give them support, model good parenting techniques and sound advice whenever possible.

Now imagine that the parents you are helping are separated or going through a divorce. You should still give them support, model good parenting, and provide sound advice whenever possible but you may also have to remind them that parenting is about their children, not about their relationship with one another.  Fairfax County Public Schools Family and School Partnerships joined us for a discussion on Co-Parenting with our Allies in Prevention Coalition, and shared some helpful tips for effective co-parenting that we encourage you to share:

  • Support a positive relationship between your child(ren) and your co-parent.
  • Make your child’s transition from each home as peaceful and organized as possible.
  • Treat your co-parent with respect – whether you feel it or not.
  • Communicate often and share child-related information in a timely manner.
  • Avoid unnecessary changes in the agreed upon schedule.
  • Respect the time your child spends with your co-parent and avoid making plans for your child that may conflict with time at the co-parent’s home.
  • Work as a parenting team, but respect boundaries between your two homes and personal lives.
  • Resolve parenting disputes from a child-focused perspective.
  • Keep your child(ren) out of the middle of disputes and adult matters (such as money).
  • Encourage extended family to respect the co-parenting plan you develop and not to take sides or say disparaging things about either parent.

What if one parent is incarcerated, or one is overseas, or the relationship between the parents is so contentious that parenting is not happening?  That is when parallel parenting should happen.  The parallel parenting model is more formal, and may even involve a third party to resolve disputes and handle communications.  Parallel parenting typically happens when parents’ feelings are “parent-focused” and not “child-focused.”

Regardless of the situation, there is evidence to support that a child needs both parents in their lives.  Human service professionals need to provide those resources to parents so that the ultimate goal is a healthy and happy child.

Creative Resources:

  • “Co-Parenting” Tips (plus downloadable fact sheets in English and Spanish) on SCAN’s Parent Resource Center.
  • Our Family Wizard, a website offering divorced or separated parents an array of tools to easily schedule and track parenting time, share important family information, manage expenses as well as create an accurate, clear log of divorce communication.
  • The Co-Parenting Toolkit, a book packed with new strategies including advanced versions of selected time-tested solutions from its partner,  Mom’s House, Dad’s House.

Do you know of resources that might be helpful in working with separated or divorced parents? Please comment below!

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

 

http://www.amazon.com/An-Unexpected-Journey-Divorced-Co-Parenting/dp/0615704220

Every spring, SCAN celebrates five individuals from each region of Northern Virginia at its annual Allies in Prevention Awards Luncheon. The award winners (there have been more than 60 since the awards began in 2003!) have come from all walks of life — from social workers and foster parents to judges and doctors — and each have made unique efforts to prevent child abuse and strengthen families in their communities and beyond.

This year, five more individuals were selected by a task force of SCAN’s Allies in Prevention Coalition and they are another remarkable group of heroes for children and families:

  • Laurie_BandWLaurie Meyer was the founding Team Leader for Alexandria’s Community Wraparound Team in the Department of Community and Human Services until 2014. For 24 years — she began as a social worker in 1990 — she provided incredible children’s behavioral health services for the most at-risk children in her community. The Community Wraparound Team she founded and her development of its programming have transformed how the city serves (and thinks about) its most at-risk families. “As far as I’m concerned,” noted one community partner, “Laurie is the center of Alexandria’s System of Care.”  Studies note that whenever possible, the best place for children is in their community with family-driven and youth-led service plans. Laurie knew this, and worked with intense dedication to create a system of care that was best for the children. In 2008, Alexandria had 66 children in congregant care. Today, there are only six. “We recognize that without Laurie’s wisdom and leadership,” said her nominators, “this would not have been possible.” Even during personal illness, Laurie remained committed to the children and families of Alexandria. Last September, she passed away at the age of 53 leaving behind a husband and three daughters as well as many close family members and colleagues. But the children of Alexandria will be touched by Laurie’s work and compassion for generations to come.
  • Jennifer_BandWJennifer Landis-Santos is a Parent & Youth Workshop Facilitator, Program Coordinator and Mental Health Therapist for Arlington County. In that multi-faceted position she administers a grant from the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Families (which she won) to help the county provide parenting classes and other programs for youth and families, and also coordinates the Strengthening Families parenting program in Arlington. But her passionate commitment to children goes far beyond her work in Arlington. Jennifer also founded Career Definitions, a project which provides tools to help youth plan for future careers, stay connected with parents during the college application process and go on “Career Tours,” opportunites for students to see jobs up close in the DC area. Focused on positive interactons between children and parents, the initiative helps youth believe in themselves and strengthens families to provide support. “Jennifer’s dedication to serving families, generous commitment to helping children and her respect for ALL persons is reflected in the response the families have to her work and initiatives,” noted her nominator. Jennifer also sits on the board of HACAN (Hispanics Against Abuse and Neglect). She and her husband, Carmelo, have two young children.
  • Cheryl_BandWCheryl Keiper has witnessed some incredible changes in Fairfax County over the past three decades. Today she supervises the county’s Parent Education Programs, but her experience also includes work as a CPS caseworker and a Foster Care & Adoption specialist. Perhaps it’s those first experiences that ignited her passion for prevention through parent education. “I have never known anyone who believes in the importance and impact of parenting programs as strongly as Cheryl,” notes her nominator. For 16 years, Cheryl has managed a rapidly growing parent education program in the county. In 2000, the county offered 13 classes and reached 127 families. Last year, it was 40 classes reaching nearly 400 families! But it’s not just about numbers; Cheryl was committed to improving the programming for an increasingly diverse community. Under her leadership, the county added three African American Culture curricula, a variety of new targeted classes for specific parenting groups and Spanish-language classes. Cheryl’s belief in connections with families kept her facilitating classes even when she was managing the program, and when her workload grew she remained committed to visiting every class in person. Her work with faith-based organizations, community centers and schools also helped grow the program and provided a wonderful example of private-public collaboration. This May, Cheryl will retire after 39 years serving children and families, but her inspiration will continue to impact the program. “For Cheryl,“ notes her nominator, “serving families has not just been a job; it has been her passion.”
  • DONNA_BandWDonna Fortier has long been an active citizen in Loudoun County. But four years ago, she took a bold new step. While working as the Director of Community Affairs at Inova Loudoun Hospital, Donna became aware of a staggering statistic — though living in one of the nation’s richest counties, over 1,100 children were identified as precariously housed, homeless, or at risk. She immediately launched the Mobile Hope Program to improve access to care and break down service barriers, while working to meet the daily needs of this often “invisible” population. Donna soon left her position with Inova to focus on growing Mobile Hope, knowing that the program could forever impact at-risk youth in Loudoun County. “Donna’s passion to protect children is evident in everything she does,” notes her nominator. Last year Mobile Hope served more than 550 diverse youth every month in Loudoun County, distributing thousands of clothing and hygiene items as well as more than 11,000 meals and bags of food. In addition, Mobile Hope provides services that can reduce family stress. “Our job is to help these young people so they don’t become invisible,” notes Donna. “We strive to make their lives easier so they have an opportunity to succeed.”
  • Kristiana_BandWKristiana Poole is a Victim Advocate for Quantico Marine Base’s Family Advocacy Program (FAP), and in just three short years has made an incredible impact on both its programs and the families it serves. Bringing experiences from Child Protective Services and Empower House, where she was a community victim advocate, Kristiana now facilitates the highest number of groups ever offered by the FAP. In addition to workshops and classes, she is also the primary abuse prevention trainer for the base’s two Child Development Centers. Kristiana also piloted a SAFE Dates program for students last year, and has been instrumental in other programs for children including a psycho-educational group called Stepping Up to the Challenge and a REAL Talk for Girls Group. “Kristiana always presents as enthusiastic and flexible,” notes her nominator, “with a contagious positive attitude towards her duties.”  Those duties have included everything from absorbing cases and on-call duties to organizing a training on human trafficking with Department of Homeland Security. During Kristiana’s work, Marine Corps Headquarters recognized Quantico FAP as leading the USMC in providing direct services to children.

So many of the people working in child abuse prevention are going above and beyond in their efforts with children, parents and families across Northern Virginia. The Allies in Prevention Awards are one small way we can celebrate and lift up the stories of those making the connections for children that are changing lives. We encourage professionals to stay connected with SCAN by joining our Allies in Prevention Coalition and using our Kids Need Connections campaign in their own communities.

11050284_10152739148935735_1822931701725045529_oThis month SCAN’s Allies in Prevention Coalition held a quarterly meeting with one question in mind: How can we be more intentional about making the time and effort to connect with the kids in our lives? 

As discussion continued, it became clear that as resource providers, we think about this almost constantly. But we’re thinking about it as parents and colleagues as well. Are there simple ways — both in our work with children and families and in our own families — that we can make connections more possible? Are there simple games and activities that can help us build our connections on a daily basis, whether it’s with the children in our own lives or those we serve as professionals?

Yes!

SCAN Public Education Manager Tracy Leonard led a vibrant discussion of ideas, including suggestions like:

  • Simple “Bright Beginnings” and “Happy Ending” questions to use every day around the dinner table, in the classroom, etc. that help spark discussion and guide adults to listen to their children
  • “I’m Special” body tracings, where children are given an outline of their bodies to fill in with words and pictures detailing what they like about themselves
  • Children’s Stories that Build Resiliency, such as The Invisible String by Patrice Karst, with questions to discuss how a child is connected with others in their life as well as an activity (making an invisible string bracelet) to reinforce the discussion in a lasting way

For a complete list of the activities covered in Tracy’s presentation, download the Activities with Intention PDF here.

In April, we’ll kick off the 2015 Northern Virginia Child Abuse Prevention campaign during National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Stay tuned for more about our Kids Need Connections campaign, a special focus on fathers and connections, and many more ideas about being intentional as we build connections with the children in our communities. (Follow the campaign on social media with #kidsneedconnections!)

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

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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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