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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!)

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“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!

 

 

On October 5, SCAN—with support from LAWS (Loudoun Abused Women’s Shelter) and its Loudoun Child Advocacy Center—brought together 129 local human service providers to hear Dr. Chris Wilson talk about The Neurobiology of Trauma.

01172016_NeuroofTrauma.jpgThis relatively new approach allows those of us who work with children (including law enforcement, school staff, social workers and foster parents) to rethink not only how we question children but also about how we process the information that a child is giving to us.

With more than 20 years of experience in the neurobiology of trauma, vicarious trauma, victim behavior, how to be trauma informed, and group process, Dr. Wilson has worked with a wide variety of audiences and is currently a trainer for the United States Army’s Special Victim Unit Investigation Course, Legal Momentum, and You Have Options Program.

Dr. Wilson reminded those of us attending that defining trauma looks something like this:

extreme fear/terror/horror + lack of control/perceived lack of control
=
very real changes in the brain at the time of the incident and after the incident

 

When a child experiences something traumatic, the pre-frontal cortex becomes impaired, meaning “we lose the ability to control our attention, integrate data, and make logical decisions” and the hippocampus is directly affected, thus affecting how a child remembers the traumatic event.  This direct physiological impact must be taken into consideration not only when we first interact with children who have experienced a traumatic event, but also in how we continue the relationship with the child and how the child heals from the event.

Key training takeaways:

  1. We must remember that trauma is subjective because threat is subjective.  It means different things to different people and therefore, every individual’s response to traumatic events vary.
  1. Children overwhelmingly blame themselves because of their egocentrism – it’s the only context they have.
  1. Victims from 9/11 have given us a “map of danger” that didn’t exist before.
  1. It’s not the relationship that is abusive, it is the perpetrator; we need to say “she was raped”, not “she was victimized.”
  1. Use “soft eyes” not “hard eyes” when talking to children who have experienced trauma.  Make the conversation about feelings to help the child recall specific facts that may have otherwise been forgotten or repressed.

This valuable training would not have been possible without the support of our funders: Loudoun Child Advocacy Center, Northern Virginia Health Foundation, Ronald McDonald House Charities Greater Washington DC and LAWS Loudoun Abused Women’s Shelter. Thank you!

At SCAN, we strive to bring quality training and workshops to the region and to YOU at your place of work or your local community organizations.  Continue to follow us to learn more about what we are doing in the community to prevent child abuse and neglect – and how you can become involved and empowered to help.

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

 

The Arlington Partnership for Children Youth & Families (APCYF) recently launched a new “Parent Chats” initiative, an easy way for groups of parents to come together and talk about parenting:

“The Partnership believes that, when parents share wisdom with one another, we all become better parents.”

The chats can be as simple as a one-time gathering to discuss a specific topic, or an ongoing group providing support and resources. The end goal is to help create communities of parents who are interested in helping a wider circle of children and parents grow up to be happy, healthy and competent.
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How did APCYF develop tools for the program? With help from SCAN! APCYF is a member of SCAN’s Allies in Prevention Coalition (AIPC), where they learned about a Working Parent module that Public Education Manager Tracy Leonard had developed for SCAN’s new series of workshops. APCYF’s Michael Swisher adapted the module into conversation starters that help parents have intentional, supportive conversations.

Through our Public Education Program, we are able to create unique tools that allow our Allies in Prevention Coalition members the ability to adapt to the children and families with whom they work. APCYF is a perfect example of how SCAN builds capacity in our community and in our families.

p.s. Parents talk with one another naturally — and often find the greatest source of support from one another. If you know a group of parents who want to have a focused conversation on parenting challenges, share these online resources from our friends at APCYF. Download their tools for free to help spark the conversation!

How does it feel to be a kid in today’s world?  How can we help children and teens manage new 21st-century realities — from the impact of online bullying to LGBTQ issues to the tragedy of rising suicide rates among youth?  Earlier this month, we gathered in Arlington to discuss this new “Culture of Kids” with our Allies in Prevention Coalition.

14362714_10153981898095735_4241383210178593937_oPanel participants from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC), Prince William County, Fairfax County and Arlington County led the discussion, answering questions about services and needs in Northern Virginia as well as inspiring guests to take action. Their top recommendations include:

  • Ask kids about their support network. (Explain what it means to have a support network, if they don’t know.) Who would they go to if they needed help? What is the best way to get in touch with those connections? Kids should be aware of and think through this network before a crisis occurs. EXPERT TIP: Identify trusted adults. It doesn’t have to be a parent – help them brainstorm possible contacts.
  • When it comes to bullying, peer training is key. Bullying prevention programs that include peer training – kids working with kids to model positive behaviors — are more successful and tend to increase parent involvement by linking families to community resources. EXPERT TIP:If online bullying is an issue and kids need help, there are some great resources for kids (and parents) at NCMEC’s NetSmartz.org
  • Gauge (and be sensitive to) every child’s safety level. When talking to youth, we must try to understand how safe they are in their home and in their greater community. (Neighborhood, school, etc.) For example, is it safe for a gay teenager to “come out” to her family? Her circle of friends? Her school community? Sensitivity when asking questions is also key: “Are you dating anyone?” is better than “Do you have a boyfriend/girlfriend?” Even intakes should be considered — instead of a simple “gender” it might work better to include “gender at birth; current gender.” EXPERT TIP: Post a rainbow or HRC (Human Rights Coalition) sticker in your workplace so LGBTQ youth recognize a person and/or space that could be helpful for them. 
  • Don’t be afraid to have touch-point conversations with teens. And don’t be afraid to talk about difficult topics and open conversations around things like suicide: “Do you feel like hurting yourself?”, “Have you thought about killing yourself?” EXPERT TIP: Don’t talk about someone who “committed suicide” because it carries a note of guilt/crime. Instead, use “killed themselves” or “died by suicide.”

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.

On April 5, 2016, SCAN presented the 2016 Allies in Prevention Awards. As National Child Abuse Prevention Month draws to a close, we know we’ll continue to be inspired by these heroes all year long, and we hope you will too!

IMG_2683Meet Tabitha Kelly, a mother and child welfare professional who passionately works to build resilience in children and families: “When I am met with a tough decision, I consider how I would act if this were my child; I want nothing less for them than I would want for my own.”

Meet Carlos Castro, who immigrated from El Salvador and then became a father and business owner in the U.S. He now makes the children in his community his responsibility, speaking up and connecting with children and young adults at risk for everything from gang involvement to the basic need for positive adult connections.

Meet Ellen Grunewald, a 25-year veteran of the child welfare profession. Today she looks back on a career spent building connections that have led to the creation of her community’s first child advocacy center and unprecedented cooperation among agencies that will change the lives of children in her community for generations to come.

Meet Burnette Scarboro, a child advocate committed to taking every opportunity to connect with parents in ways that will build up knowledge, confidence and capacity for nurturing connections in their families. Her personal commitment to her own children’s schools blossomed into remarkable child and parent advocacy in Northern Virginia, the greater Commonwealth and beyond.

Meet The Giving Circle, a remarkable group of women in Alexandria who turned an idea to make special donations to child-focused projects in their neighborhood into a half million-dollar, unprecedented investment in the future of their community.

Read more about the 2016 Allies in Prevention Award winners here.

brothers-1429263Dr. Avidan Milevsky presented on the topic of siblings at an Allies in Prevention Coalition meeting in 2013, and will serve as the Keynote Speaker at this year’s Allies in Prevention Awards in April. (Nominations for the award are open and must be submitted by February 12th.) Dr. Milevsky’s recent article for The Huffington Post brings to light an interesting aspect of China’s recent decision to allow multiple births — how might the sibling dynamic change a society?

[Excerpted from The Huffington Post:]

…In addition to the new policy’s impact on health, child welfare, and the broader economy, this new shift will offer the Chinese people a life-long gift that will transform their families and society in profound ways. Children born any time after the policy was implemented in 1980 were lacking an irreplaceable component of healthy childhood socialization: siblings.

As a steady, international body of research is showing, growing up with siblings offers children a matchless context in which they learn about relationships, social engagement, sharing, ownership, identity, conflict resolution, and problem solving.

The first microcosm of a complementary relationship exists with a sibling. Siblings constantly competing for attention, resources, and space offer each other a great milieu to begin learning about the world. During the course of the day, children find themselves in countless basic social situations with their siblings that can offer them a training ground for working on social and emotional development. For example, a fight about a toy, which to parents may seem like an annoyance, is actually a training ground for children to learn about property ownership, respect, self-control, and conflict resolution.

What happens in the sibling relationship is the catalyst for all future social engagements. When children talk, yell, fight, interact, share, and play with their sibling they are developing vital social understanding. These early competencies learned from growing up with a sibling will have lifelong consequences. Studies have suggested that sibling closeness in childhood is linked with social-emotional understanding, cognitive abilities, and psychological adjustment. During adolescence, sibling closeness contributes to healthy identity formation and minimization of teen problems. In adulthood, siblings may offer shared responsibility/negotiation over aging parent care, and sibling warmth is linked with well-being and successful aging. Bringing all these findings together makes it quite obvious that siblings offer a fundamental and unrepeatable life provision.

Considering the important life-long lessons we learn from our siblings about relationships, social engagement, sharing, ownership, identity, conflict resolution, and problem solving I wonder how growing up with a sibling will impact the broader Chinese society. How will growing up with a sibling impact Chinese public and international policy in the future? [Continued…read the complete article by Dr. Milevsky on The Huffington Post here.]

We look forward to hearing more from Dr. Milevsky at the 2016 Allies in Prevention Awards this April. Nominations for this year’s awards are still open! Learn more and download the official nomination form here.

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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

Attendees included representatives from three local child advocacy centers: Center for Alexandria's Children, SafeSpot Children's Advocacy Center in Fairfax, and the Loudoun Child Advocacy Center.

Attendees included representatives from three local child advocacy centers: Center for Alexandria’s Children, SafeSpot Children’s Advocacy Center in Fairfax, and the Loudoun Child Advocacy Center.

This past week, SCAN’s Allies in Prevention Coalition hosted a Darkness to Light supplemental training and panel discussion at Charles E. Beatley, Jr. Central Library in Alexandria. More than 40 service providers came from around Northern Virginia for the meeting. What subject drew so many people? The Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children.

The short video training from Darkness to Light started the event with a shocking statistic: more than 90% of children who are commercially sexually exploited have been sexually abused in the past. 

“Most of my work/agency work focuses on what happens after abuse occurs,” noted one attendee. “But I learned a lot about prevention and will be looking in to how I can incorporate this with children and families.”

The panel discussion after the video training included Detective Betty Sixsmith from the Alexandria Police Department, Besty Young from Prince William County schools, and Detective Cervantes Armstrong from Prince William County Police.

Being aware of the warning signs of child sexual abuse and the sexual exploitation of children is a key take away from the training. As Detective Armstrong noted “The grooming process…it’s all around us. We see it every day.” As service providers it is about learning how to recognize those signs and then take the action to prevent the abuse from occurring or continuing.

It is incredibly important to be able to recognize the warning signs and to have open conversations with children and teens. As panelist Betsy Young stated about victims, “They have a smokescreen and if you take the time to listen and connect with them, that screen fades.” Once you recognize and are aware of abuse you can take the necessary steps to provide support services and resources.

Resources & Support Services to be aware of:

Call to Action! What can you do to further awareness and education on the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children?

  1. Attend a Darkness to Light Stewards of Children training. Contact Tracy Leonard (tleonard@scanva.org) for a schedule of upcoming trainings.
  2. Host a Darkness to Light Stewards of Children training to provide more education within your organization. Contact Tracy Leonard (tleonard@scanva.org) to schedule a training.
  3. Go to www.d2l.org and take the training online.
  4. Download our Human Trafficking Fact Sheet for Parents and share it with your colleagues and the parents and families with whom you work.

If you see something, say something. Be a voice for children.

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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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