Blog archive

SCAN’s blog was originally launched in July 2011 and named BuildingBlocks. Today, the blog resides on our website and serves as an integral way to share news, trends and updates from SCAN. To explore archived content at the old blog site, click here.



From the blog: Two incredible teens and why they help SCAN

blockblock_teensApril 7, 2014

We are continually impressed and inspired by the young volunteers involved with SCAN. There’s something special about teenagers making the time commitment to be a connection for kids in their own community, and for setting an example that many adults would be smart to follow. This month – as we launch our new Kids Need Connections campaign – seems like the perfect time to share a teen perspective of SCAN and its programs, so we sat down with Colleen and Cecily, two local high school students with a passion for supporting SCAN this month and all year long.

SCAN: Girls, tell us a little about yourselves.

COLLEEN: I’m a senior at TC Williams High School, and I run the TC Abuse Awareness Club. We’re helping SCAN by running bake sales, promoting the symbol of the pinwheel around our school, making posters with statistics to raise awareness of abuse in our community, and any other things SCAN may ask for assistance with.

CECILY: I’m a junior at Patriot High School. I’m helping SCAN as an individual. I’m self-motivated, and decided to reach out and support SCAN this April because it’s a wonderful cause.

SCAN: Why do you think it’s so important for young people to get involved with abuse prevention? 

COLLEEN: As a youth in foster care myself, I understand how child abuse is still shadowed by social taboos, and I believe that we as youth should promote more conversations about abuse to defy this taboo. In this action, we can move forward, tearing down the wall that children in abusive situations may feel suffocated or voiceless under. As teens we also function as babysitters, older siblings and the making of the generation to come. The more aware we are, the better we can enable future generations to be aware as well.

SCAN: Our new education campaign focuses on the important of CONNECTIONS in the lives of children. How have connections with adults in your lives made a difference?

CECILY: Connecting with adults who can relate to you, talk to you, and work with you has helped boost self-esteem and build up pride.  Sometimes, yes, we “kids” don’t understand adults and their mindset, and they might not understand where we’re coming from either. Connecting with adults at an early age gives everyone an advantage in understanding.

COLLEEN: For me, my foster parents are my source for positive adult contact. They have encouraged me and lifted me up to the success that I didn’t believe I was capable of when living under the suppression of trauma and dysfunction of my parent’s home. As a person who formerly struggled with depression, drug use, and self mutilation, my foster parents are the root reason for my belief that with love and attention any child may have a chance at rebounding and not allowing their past experiences to define their future.

SCAN: Why should others — teens and adults — take action this month?

CECILY: No one deserves to be abused. Children need love and support…without that, we only set up our future for ruin. Children are the future. So, why turn away the opportunity to make it something extraordinary?


Are YOU ready to follow Cecily and Colleen’s inspiring lead and support SCAN’s work to build connections for children and families in Northern Virginia? Learn more about volunteer opportunities here, and mark your calendars for our next Volunteer Orientation on May 22nd.






From the blog: What parents need to know about Sexting

Jenna-Lyn Ryckebusch, a Senior Programs Coordinator at the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, recently joined the Darkness to Light Facilitators at their quarterly meeting to discuss sexting and online solicitation. 

The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children categorizes sexting as the sending or posting of nude or partially nude images.  With the availability of technologically advanced cell phones with video capabilities, sexting is a growing issue for teens.  4% of cell-owning teens (12-17) say they have sent nude or partially nude images.  NCMEC through their NetSmartz Workshop, have developed 5 tips that parents can use to talk to their teens about sexting.

  1. Think about the consequences of taking, sending, or forwarding a sexual picture of someone else, even if it’s of you.  You could get kicked off of sports teams, face humiliation, lose educational opportunities, and even face a police investigation.
  2. Never take images of yourself that you wouldn’t want everyone – your classmates, your teachers, your family, or your employer – to see.
  3. Before hitting send remember that you can’t control where this image may travel.  What you send to a boyfriend or girlfriend could easily end up with their friends, and their friends’ friends, and so on.
  4. If you forward a sexual picture of someone without their consent, you are violating their trust and exposing them to potential ridicule.  It’s not up to you to decide who should see their body, so don’t forward the image to anyone.
  5. If anyone pressures you to send a sexual picture, don’t give in and talk to an adult you trust.  Remember that anyone who tries to get you to do something you are uncomfortable with is probably not trustworthy.

To prevent your teen from sexting, try setting house rules for Internet and cell phone use with your teen.  Talk about what the consequences will be if the rules are broken.   Know what apps teens are downloading and using.  Look for apps such as Snap Chat, Yik Yak, and Kik on their mobile devices and understand how the apps work and what they are used for.  Remember to model for your children what is appropriate to post on your own social media.

Try these Discussion Starters

• Have you ever received a sexual message or naked picture on your cell phone?

• Has anyone ever asked or pressured you to send a nude or sexual picture?

• Do you think it’s OK to send “sexy” images? Why?

• What could happen to you if you send or forward a naked picture?

• How likely is it that images and messages intended for one person will be seen by others?

For more information, visit our online Parent Resource Center and explore topics like Internet Safety & Cyber Bullying and Tech-Savvy Parenting.




From the blog: Why I support SCAN

Ever want to learn more about the people who support SCAN? Ever wonder WHY they support SCAN? Today we talk with Paola McDonald, a local entrepreneur (and mom), about her personal and professional support of SCAN’s programs in Northern Virginia.

SCAN: How did you first learn about SCAN? What was your initial involvement?

Paola: I used to work for SCAN several years ago.  I was the Parent Education Coordinator, back before I had children myself.  I was also the CASA Volunteer Recruiter for about one year.  It was a short term, contract position where I was able to assist the CASA program with their minority volunteer recruitment efforts.

SCAN: What is your involvement today? Why do you continue to support SCAN?

Paola: Today I continue to support SCAN as a Pinwheel Partner.  I am also on the Corporate Partnership Development Committee.  I support SCAN because of the incredible, valuable things I learned about parenting while I was a staff member.  I am by no means a perfect parent, but I wouldn’t be half the parent I am today without so many of the great things I learned at SCAN.  I believe every parent should have an opportunity to learn these valuable lessons and I believe that the work SCAN does really positively impacts those that the organization is able to touch.

3. What does your business do to support SCAN?

We currently donate 5% of our total design service fees to the organization.  I also participate in quarterly meetings for the Corporate Partnership Committee and am developing a plan for reaching and recruiting more women entrepreneurs to support SCAN.

4. As a business owner, what’s the value of supporting a child abuse prevention organization? (What’s in it for you/your community?)

Parenting is difficult.  As a mom trying to balance parenting and entrepreneurship, life is often hectic and unbalanced.  The work that SCAN does really helps to support parents, to educate them, to provide them with tools for raising healthy, happy children through the stressful and hectic times.  All parents and their children need and deserve that.  I want to do what I can to support an organization that truly helps parents raise their children with love and respect.  I’ve seen what it can do for me and want to help SCAN share that with others.

6. If other local businesses are interested in supporting SCAN, what do you recommend as first steps?

There are so many ways to support this wonderful organization.  I would recommend just making a simple phone call or getting on the website to start exploring the many simple ways that you can support SCAN.  It does not require a lot time or a lot of money necessarily.  There are many simple ways to give and participate and the staff is always open to new and creative ideas as well.  I would start with a simple conversation about what opportunities are available to see what most appeals to you.


We’re so grateful to Paola and her business, Olamar Interiors, for sharing her experience– and of course we love her suggestion that you contact us to learn more! Our staff is always happy to talk about opportunities to get involved. Send an email to or call the SCAN office at 703-820-9001. We look forward to hearing from you!




From the blog: Thoughts from SCAN’s Parent Education Program

We’re currently in the middle of our spring ABCs of Parenting Class (in English), with 22 parents and their children joining us for a special 8-week series designed to change the way they nurture and raise their kids.  What better moment than this to share recent thoughts from our current Parent Education Manager, Andres Marquez-Lara, who acknowledges how well-known the classes are, but asks us to consider how ongoing support groups also play a critical role in SCAN’s impact on families moving forward:

DSC_3499SCAN’s Parent Education Program weaves together a series of programs that support parents and their children in fostering positive relationships with each other. The Parent Support Groups (PSGs) are a very important part of our Parent Education Program.

At times, they have been overshadowed by the various structured, time-limited engagements that we provide like ABCs of Parenting and Reunification. Yet, most, if not all of the participants, tell us that they wish our classes lasted longer. The parents yearn to have an ongoing environment to continue learning skills that support their positive parenting performances, as well as finding support in each other’s stories of joy and struggle.

This on-going support is what the PSGs are all about.

Parenting, like human development, is an on-going process that requires on-going support. We envision that when participants complete our time-limited programs they can transition seamlessly into a welcoming PSG that will help them continue in their development as parents and children. Thus, in 2014 and beyond we want to rediscover the value of our PSGs, and use them as the organizing principle for the structure of the Parent Education Program. Perhaps you’d like to volunteer with one of our groups?

Let me know!

- Andres Marquez-Lara, Parent Education Manager

p.s. On a related note, SCAN is currently searching for a NEW full-time Parent Education Manager! Read the full job description here.





From the blog: A new way to look at community education

How does our work to educate the community about child abuse and neglect make a difference? Why is public awareness so critical to changing the way we think about prevention?

Our answer, in one (brand new!) infographic:




You can download this infographic as a PDF (with a full second side of information!) on our website here.




From the blog: Speaking up for children…and SCAN

blogblock_spokespersonIt’s not easy to talk about child abuse and neglect. But it’s not something we can ignore. And we can’t keep thinking it doesn’t happen “in my community.”

Child abuse cuts across all boundaries of economic level, race, ethnic heritage and religious faith. Unfortunately, child abuse occurs in all segments of our society, but the risk factors are greater in families where parents:

  • seem to be having economic, housing or personal problems;
  • are isolated from their family or community;
  • have difficulty controlling anger or stress;
  • are dealing with physical or mental health issues;
  • abuse alcohol or drugs; and/or
  • or appear uninterested in the care, nourishment or safety of their children.

SCAN of Northern Virginia is launching a new effort to raise more voices in our work to prevent child abuse and neglect. On March 1, 2014, we’ll be bringing together two dozen board members, CASA volunteers, SCAN staff and other volunteers for a new training on how to be more effective spokespersons for these issues. We’ll learn how to talk about these challenging topics, as well as how both SCAN’s programs and individual actions make a critical difference for our community.

Each year, over 6,000 children in Virginia are abused and neglected, including over 1,000 children in Northern Virginia. Unfortunately, we know that child abuse is underreported and far more children are actually impacted. This abuse includes physical abuse, physical neglect, sexual abuse and emotional abuse & neglect. It can be a one-time occurrence, but more often it is a pattern of behavior involving regular physical attacks or acts of deprivation or molestation. Frequently, the longer child abuse goes on, the more serious the consequences.

We need MORE people feeling EMPOWERED to speak up.

Participants will learn more about the issues, the solutions and how to more effectively speak out for child abuse prevention, just in time for April’s Child Abuse Prevention month.

Are you interested in having one of our wonderful spokespeople come to your office over lunch, speak to your church group, or share their story with your women’s club? Please let us know! Contact Tracy Leonard, Community Education and Engagement Coordinator, at









From the blog: Empathy’s role in healthy, happy (loved!) children

blogblock_empathyWith Valentine’s Day comes thoughts of sweet cards and candy and expressions of love. And love and nurturing are critical components of strong, healthy parenting. But there’s another important skill we encourage families to strengthen:


What is empathy, exactly? It’s the ability to understand and share another person’s experiences, emotions and feelings. Empathy allows us to understand how another person might feel in a specific situation, even when different from our own feelings. We might love someone deeply, but if we can’t empathize with that person–if we can’t put ourselves in their shoes and consider how very different their perspective and feelings might be–it can be hard to truly nurture them.

Empathy can help us (and our children!) thrive even when faced with daily challenges like stress, bullying and isolation.

Top 5 reasons to teach empathy to your kids:

  1. Empathy helps a child understand that she is a separate individual with her own feelings.
  2. Empathy helps a child understand that other people can have different thoughts and feelings (and that’s okay).
  3. Empathy builds self-esteem by valuing a child’s individual thoughts and affirming their right to those thoughts.
  4. Empathy supports mental health by enabling a child to express emotions, cope with stress and understand it’s okay to be different.
  5. Empathy allows a child develop healthy relationships because they can relate to, communicate with and share feelings with another person.

Wondering how we — as adults — can help kids in our own lives build their empathy skills?

Check out our Empathy fact sheet (in English & Spanish) here for 4 key ways to teach your kids empathy in everyday life. (Hint: YOU are an important role model.)





From the blog: An opportunity to honor the heroes among us

alliesawards365 days a year, thousands of people across Northern Virginia are working to protect children, support parents and strengthen families. From social workers to teachers to child advocates to coaches to faith leaders, these people are our neighbors, our co-workers, our friends.

They’re also HEROES.

They’re connecting with the children in our community every day, changing the directions of lives and lifting up families in countless ways.

Now it’s time to celebrate their commitment and compassion. Every year, SCAN hosts the Allies in Prevention Awards, a special opportunity to honor individuals who go above and beyond in their efforts to prevent child abuse and strengthen families. We’ve honored everyone from elected officials to social workers, from doctors to foster parents.

Who is a hero in YOUR community? Let’s share their story. Let’s celebrate their impact. Let’s lift THEM up as an example for the rest of us.

Nominate a HERO you know for a 2014 Allies in Prevention Award. Download the official nomination form here and submit it by February 10th.

Stay tuned – we will announce five winners (one from each region of Northern Virginia) on April 1, 2014 at the 12th Annual Allies in Prevention Awards Luncheon.





From the blog: Lighting the Way for More Adults to Stand Up Against Child Sexual Abuse

blogblock_loudounCSAChild sexual abuse is not the problem of one socio-economic status, culture, race, religion, or gender. It impacts every community and every person across the globe. ~

SCAN is once again at the forefront of not only raising awareness of the prevalence of child sexual abuse in Northern Virginia, but also in providing adults with concrete ways in which they can prevent, recognize and react to child sexual abuse.  Two of our trained facilitators and SCAN staff members, Sonia Quiñónez and Delmira Morales, recently provided the Stewards of Children Training to a group of Arlington parents.  And although Sonia and Delmira have done multiple trainings across Northern Virginia over the last few years, this time, they were able to provide the training in Spanish with Spanish materials. We’re grateful that SCAN can be reactive to the community’s needs and that we are continually searching for funding to aide us in educating and engaging the community with such crucial trainings.

SCAN is also the recipient of a 100 Women Strong grant to provide the Stewards of Children training in Loudoun County over the next year.  We will be working with the Loudoun Abused Women’s Shelter (LAWS) and the Loudoun Child Advocacy Center to coordinate our efforts to reach community members who would benefit the most from the Stewards of Children Training.

f you are interested in your group, organization or company receiving the Stewards of Children Training, please contact me! I’m SCAN’s Community Education and Engagement Coordinator and would love to share more information with you.  To learn more about our work with Darkness to Light, you can also click here.

- Tracy Leonard




From the blog: A special request from CASA

AR_CASASCAN’s CASA volunteers are an incredibly special group of people. Last year, 79 individuals volunteered over 6,100 hours to advocate for 165 children in the Alexandria and Arlington court systems. They’re a diverse group – and it’s important they continue to be. We give a voice to a very diverse group of children: infants and teens, boys and girls, locally born & raised and recent immigrants. Having a volunteer base that includes male and bilingual volunteers is critical if we hope to continue speaking up for our community’s most at-risk children.

This winter, we’re working with CASA for Children of DC and CASA of Montgomery County MD to focus on the recruitment of male and bilingual volunteers. Know someone who might be interested? Please share the news; thousands of children in our region–especially young boys and Spanish-speaking children–are depending on it.

Of the more than 900 CASA programs across the country, six operate in our region. Click on a link below to learn more about the impact of CASAs in a specific local community and how you can help:





From the blog: New year, new thanks, new calendar!

SCAN2013_AnnualReport_fbgraphicsAs 2013 — our 25th anniversary year — drew to a close, we were already looking ahead to all we could accomplish in 2014. We set a goal to raise $26,000 through holiday giving that would help us kick off “YEAR26″ with a bang. And friends like you once again amazed and inspired us with your support! Your generosity resulted in more than $29,000 in end-of-year giving, equipping our programs and energizing staff to start the new year off right.

And so we begin the first weeks of 2014 with gratitude, and invite you to check out our NEW Annual Report & 2014 Wall Calendar. What better way to be reminded of your impact all year long? You can:

  • Page through the report online HERE.
  • Download a PDF HERE.
  • Request your own printed copy by sending an email to

Thank you for your support in 2013, and here’s to a great YEAR26 ahead!





From the blog: A special letter from SCAN Board Member Mary Kudless

December 29, 2013

MaryKudlessWell, the holiday cards have arrived in our mailboxes and our hearts are warmed by messages and photos from family and friends.  Take a look at the wonderful pictures of children and families in SCAN’s Annual Report.  It brings alive SCAN’s work with children and families through their CASA, Parenting Education and Public Education programs.  All of this effort is about strengthening families and supporting the inherent dignity and joy in raising happy and healthy children

2013 was a very special year for SCAN’s families and supporters because we celebrated our 25th year of providing services to the Northern Virginia and Metro community.  Our Annual Report highlights the celebrations that marked this Silver Anniversary and also tells the story about the measurable impact of SCAN’s services in strengthening families and preventing child abuse and neglect. When you read this, your gifts to those you love will be opened and cherished.  

Please take a moment to make one final gift to SCAN and continue the holiday spirit, supporting SCAN’s work in 2014.  Please go to website (here) and use our online donation feature.  You might consider joining our Giving Monthly option (GEM Society), or simply making an end of the year gift.  The options are laid out very clearly for you on our beautiful, newly designed website.  You will see the impact your gift will have——$30 covers the monthly cost of hosting the Parenting Resource Center site which received 44,000 visits this year!  $60 will cover the cost of a CASA Advocate Training Manual. $100 will pay for dinner for 20 parents and 25 children at the ABC’s of Parenting Class.

Your gift to SCAN is one that benefits children and families all year long.  Thank you so much for all your support and wishing you and your families a Happy and Healthy New Year,

Mary Kudless
SCAN Board Member and past Board President (2012-2013)





From the blog: Family tips for a stress-free holiday


December 17, 2013

For many people the holiday season is the most wonderful time of year. For others it the most stressful time of year and can lead to arguments, depression, substance abuse and violence.

“All families deal with stress at one time or another, but the pressure of the holidays can make it even greater,” said Sonia Quinonez, Executive Director of Stop Child Abuse Now of Northern Virginia (SCAN).  “Families are dealing with busy schedules, high costs and long to-do lists, all natural triggers for more stress.”

One of the biggest causes of family stress is simply too much to do in a short period of time. From sports practices to tutoring sessions to friends’ parties, families often try to squeeze too much into a short period of time and end up not being able to enjoy any of it.

The tragic news is stress is a contributing factor to child abuse, and it increases during the holidays. SCAN is dedicated to preventing child abuse and helps adults learn how to be positive parents and create a nurturing environment where kids can thrive.

SCAN’s advice is to make the decision this year to help your family be less stressed and more happy together.

SCAN’s Four Steps to Decrease Holiday Stress

  1. Have a family conversation. Sit down as a family and make decisions about the traditions that are most important to all of you. Kids feel important when they are part of the decision-making process. You also might be surprised to hear that your child is more interested in playing ball with you in the backyard than spending all weekend making cookies.
  2. Just say “no.”  If too many activities and events start to stress your family out, put a stop to it. Work together as a family to prioritize (and trim) your to-do list, get things done and enjoy time together.
  3. Keep the lines of communication open and adjust your priorities. If things are getting hectic and you decide not to do something that your family agreed on, then explain the reason. For example if your family knows you’re choosing not to do something like attend a neighborhood party because you’d rather spend quality time with them at home, then they’re more likely to understand and be happy with the decision. Sometimes a quiet night at home is what everyone needs to de-stress and feel connected as a family.
  4. Spend smart. Financial pressure is a leading cause of family stress. Parents often go overboard in spending (especially on their kids!) and end up neglecting the importance of quality time with their family. This year, make the switch. Concentrate more on how much time you are spending with your family instead of how much money you are spending on them. It’s always a better investment.SCAN has a holiday wish list to support its work with the hundreds of children and families it helps each year through parent education, community outreach and the Court Appointed Special Advocates program. The wish list includes nonperishable snacks, games, toys, books and crafts for kids and gift cards for adults. If you would like to contribute or learn more about SCAN, visit


From the blog: Speak up for children. Yes, you!

December 13, 2013

advocacyday2013_comboWe recently hosted our 2nd Annual Advocacy Training through our partnership with Prevent Child Abuse Virginia. Speakers included local legislators as well as experts from Voices for Virginia’s Children, Zero to Three and The Commonwealth Institute. Dozens of attendees received a valuable day of strategy and updates on policy, legislation and advocacy tips. But the information is relevant for all of us committed to speaking up for children in our communities. Whether you’re an experienced advocate or just trying to learn more about our policies and how to impact them, check out these tips:

  • Advocate all year long. Virginia’s legislative session is a short, fast-paced time, but advocacy happens ALL YEAR. Leaders are often more available when they are home from Richmond. Make connections and establish your value and voice then.
  • Work with others. Collaborating with other organizations – both locally and across the state – can be very effective in making your position heard. Individual legislators tend to listen most for their own constituents but leaders such as committee chairs expect to hear from people across the state.
  • Be a resource for your legislator. They need us as a source of information and inspiration. Speak your mind but also share helpful information as well as a personal story, if relevant. And remember that email is a fantastic tool to communicate with leaders. Be certain to include the bill number in the subject line (you can track up to five bills for free here), address only one issue per email, identify your home address if a constituent, and state your position clearly at the top of the email, followed by your personal message/reasoning/evidence for that position.

Some of the most important child welfare issues coming up in 2014 include:

  • Medicaid expansion: Learn more from our friends at The Commonwealth Institute here.
  • Early childhood issues: Restoring funding to programs like CASA, home visiting and Early Intervention/Part C will be critical. You can learn more about the Early Childhood Education Unified Agenda from our friends at Voices for Virginia’s Children here.
  • Federal legislative efforts: Zero to 3′s legislative agenda gives a good perspective on national efforts here. 


What to do with all of this info? We have TWO ideas:

1. Attend a Budget Hearing on January 3rd. Every two years the Governor submits a biennial budget. This budget will outline state spending and revenue between 2014 and 2016. Five public hearings will be held around the state by the House Appropriations and Senate Finance Committee. Our local opportunity to attend a hearing — and comment on the budget — will happen at 10:00 AM on January 3rd at the Fairfax County Government Center.

2. Join us in Richmond for Advocacy Day on January 22nd. Every year child welfare advocates from around the state – including SCAN staff and volunteers – go to Richmond to meet with legislators and speak up for the children and families in our programs. Join us! Send an email to with details about your interest and availability.




From the blog: ACES and Child Welfare

blogblock_ACESDecember 6, 2013

Can a traumatic childhood experience cause adult health problems? A landmark study shows that exposure to an Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) like abuse and neglect can actually increase the odds of later developing serious adult health issues like cancer, liver disease and heart disease. It can also make people more prone to suicide, poor work performance and a host of other negative outcomes.

The groundbreaking research survey known as the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACES) asked over 17,000 adults to report on 10 adverse childhood experiences, such as abuse and neglect, parental divorce, domestic violence and parental mental illness. The study found a significant association between cumulative Adverse Childhood Experiences and a variety of negative outcomes as adults, including physical health problems, mental health concerns, substance abuse and risky sexual behaviors, and poor work performance. The impacts of these early traumas are cumulative – the more early ACEs, the higher the chances of poor outcomes in adulthood. For example, the odds of having negative health outcomes in adulthood are up to 12 times higher for those who experienced four or more ACE events than those who did not.

Why does this study matter for child welfare? Children who have been abused and neglected have suffered at least one ACE and oftentimes had childhoods full of trauma. A recent study found that one out of every two children in the child welfare system had experienced four or more traumas similar to the ACES measures, compared to only one out of every eight adults in the original ACES study population (which roughly mirrors the general public). Even more concerning was the finding that almost 4 out of every 10 children aged 0 to 2 in the child welfare sample had already experienced four or more adverse experiences at that point in their young lives.

What does this mean for child welfare? It means we must try to protect children from negative early experiences. But even if a child has experienced something negative like abuse, critical interventions can help ensure children don’t have even more negative outcomes that can last a lifetime. So, even if a child has been abused, supporting the child and their family with trauma-informed practices may help prevent further negative impacts.

What does this mean for children? It means programs like CASA and SCAN’s parenting classes CAN help protect children from further trauma and build resiliency in their families, and it’s critical that we continue to support them here in our community.



From the blog: How Can I Teach My Child Gratitude?

[This post was originally published by SCAN in November 2012, and we had so many readers like it that we wanted to share again on the new site as we head into the week of Thanksgiving. Enjoy!]

As many of the families in our community get ready for the Thanksgiving holiday next week (not to mention the rush into gift-giving season), we’ve heard parents struggling with how to teach their children gratitude.

  •  “Will my son ever say ‘thank you’ without being reminded?”
  • “Why is my daughter focusing on what she DOESN’T have rather than everything she DOES have?”
  • “Is gratitude something I can actually teach my kids?”

Let’s be honest–it’s not just children who often miss the focus on giving thanks. Many of us grown-ups could also use a reminder this time of year when it comes to being thankful and expressing gratitude.

So here’s your official reminder, parents: Take 5 minutes this week to consider how YOU can bring more gratitude into your daily family routine. Read our fact sheet on Being a Role Model for your kids, and check out our new Teaching Children Gratitude Board over on Pinterest!

We also love this article, Giving Thanks: 7 ways to teach kids, from parenting blogger Jeana Lee Tahnk over on The Huffington Post. Our favorites are #2 (Be a role model.) and #4 (Volunteer together.)

What about you? How do you teach gratitude to your children? Please share in the comments below.

From the Blog: Volunteering with SCAN – A New and Improved Approach!

IMG_20130503_144707_487REV SCAN’s 250+ volunteers are absolutely critical to the work we do. Volunteers multiply the impact of our small staff and extend our reach throughout the area. We want volunteers’ experiences working with SCAN to be rewarding and beneficial for everyone involved.

As a result, we are continuously evaluating our volunteer application and screening process. August marked the launch of a new and improved approach at SCAN to ensure each volunteer is matched with the opportunity that best fits their interests and time availability.

To get started, all potential new volunteers now complete a simple one-page Volunteer Interest Form, then attend one of our monthly Orientation Sessions. These sessions, offered at a variety of times of day, will allow volunteers to learn more about SCAN’s programs and have their questions answered.  We’ve had dozens of potential volunteers join our first three sessions since August, and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves!

Potential volunteers will then complete a Volunteer Application. Depending on which programs they are interested in, volunteers may also attend a one-on-one interview.

The CASA program is also making a shift to behavior-based interviewing for the one-on-one interviews. We believe that past performance is the best indicator of future results. Potential CASA volunteers will be asked to share specific past examples of how they have used the skills necessary to be an effective CASA volunteer. For example, we might ask a potential volunteer to share an example of a time when they had a different opinion than a colleague and how they resolved the situation.

This process should help volunteers find the opportunity that is the best fit for them. We look forward to working with all of our potential volunteers in the months ahead as we implement the new approach!

Check out dates for our upcoming trainings HERE.











From the Blog: Toast to Hope Photo Gallery

We can’t imagine a more remarkable evening to celebrate SCAN’s 25th Anniversary and witness a community make a renewed commitment to changing the lives of children and parents for years to come. SCAN’s Toast to Hope on November 2nd was record-breaking on so many fronts:

  • 300+ guests in attendance
  • 100+ volunteers, sponsors and donors giving time and funds
  • $95,000+ donated to support SCAN’s child abuse prevention programs

None of it would have been possible without the amazing people involved. Here are just some of those friends who helped make this a night for the record books. Enjoy! (Don’t forget – you can click on any image for a hi-resolution version to download and save.)

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IMG_0496 IMG_0501 IMG_0522 IMG_0528 IMG_0529 IMG_0530 IMG_0535 IMG_0539 IMG_0542 IMG_0545 IMG_0556 IMG_0581 IMG_0587 IMG_0632VIEW MORE RECENT BLOG POSTS HERE.

From the blog: A SNEAK PEEK of #ToasttoHope!

In just 3 days, we’ll welcome hundreds of friends to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for our 11th annual Toast to Hope. Still haven’t bought your tickets for this fun event, complete with wine & beer tastings, gourmet food and silent auction? We’re already expecting to break attendance records – but you can still join us! Buy tickets today here or VOLUNTEER with us that evening and get in the door FREE! Please contact Karen Price ASAP if you can volunteer:

And for those of you who just can’t wait to experience the sunny skies and silver linings on Saturday, a few sneak peeks:






p.s. If you’re active on social media, be sure to tell your Facebook friends you’re attending here, and follow the event on Twitter using #SCANis25 and #ToasttoHope



From the blog: Meet Miguel Huaman

IMG_6774-2525610851-OIt’s a busy time at SCAN – there’s a new CASA Volunteer Training going on, our Parenting Classes are in full swing, and in two weeks we’ll be celebrating our 25th anniversary at Toast to Hope! But before that happens, we’ll also have a chance to relax and enjoy a Happy Hour with our fabulous Council of Young Professionals. We hope you’ll join us!

CYP Networking Event
Thursday, October 24th at 6:30 PM
Crystal City Sports Pub

Ever wonder who is involved with our CYP? Meet Miguel Huaman, 2013 SCAN Croquet Tournament Champion AND this year’s president of the CYP. (More on that Croquet Tournament later.) He joins us on the blog today for a quick Q&A about his own SCAN story:

SCAN: How long have you been a volunteer at SCAN?

Miguel: I have been a volunteer a little over a year. I have cooked for parenting classes and workshops several times, I have sold pies at Art at the Avenue, I have volunteered for fundraisers like Toast for Hope and the Croquet Tournament.

SCAN: How did you first get involved with SCAN?

Miguel:  Last year a friend of mine, Angela, told me about a great organization that helps prevent child abuse through education and workshops. I volunteered at one of the parent education dinners and instantly fell in love with the organization and the people that are a part of it.

SCAN: Describe your favorite SCAN memory.

Miguel: The croquet tournament and how successful it was despite the weather.   Also, the fact that I was the champion made it very memorable.

SCAN: Why have you continued volunteering with SCAN?

Miguel: It’s a lot of fun and I get to work with great people. It’s a great cause that I whole heartedly believe in; I support it 100% and do everything I can to help.

SCAN: What did you want to be when you grew up? What do you do now?

Miguel: I wanted to be a doctor and fireman at the same time. Now, I am a regional sales representative for a natural foods broker in the mid Atlantic region.

SCAN: If you were given a free flight anywhere in the world, where would you go?

Miguel: I would go to Brazil this June to partake in the World Cup festivities.

SCAN: What is your favorite childhood memory?

Miguel:  My favorite childhood memory would have to be my first winter in the U.S., because that was the first time I saw snow.

SCAN: How can people learn more about the CYP?

Miguel: The CYP happy hour is a great event for young professionals to meet and network with other young professionals. It will be a great time, with a goal to learn more about SCAN, and how we as individuals can better serve the children of our community.



From the blog: New thoughts on Sibling Dynamics

DrMilevskyOne of the most common questions we get from parents is how to stop siblings from fighting so much. The sibling relationship can be intense; children often spend more time, communicate more and fight more with their brothers and sisters than anyone else in their lives. But constant bickering, jealousy and conflict can pose a challenge for parents and the family unit as a whole.

So what can a parent do?

Earlier this month, SCAN engaged members of its Allies in Prevention Coalition for a discussion on the topic with Dr. Avidan Milevsky, a well-known psychotherapist, author and professor who focuses on family issues, parenting, and siblings.

“Sibling fighting is an opportunity,” insists Dr. Milevsky. An opportunity? Yes! It’s perfectly normal for siblings to fight, but how and when parents step in can determine whether it’s a learning opportunity or a spark for greater conflict. Dr. Milevsky shared three main suggestions:

  • Encourage each child’s unique talents and differences; this is called “deidentification” and means each child has his or her own individual personality and interests that are celebrated and encouraged.
  • Be an example for your children in your own relationships, and provide a warm family environment that encourages empathy, communication and real-life conflict resolution
  • Establish limits for conflict between siblings and be clear that violence is unacceptable

Dr. Milevsky also shared the importance of deciding when to intervene during  a conflict. Parents generally have three options:

  • Noninvolvement
  • Coaching
  • Intervention

Can you guess which one works? And when? He shares his thoughts on the power (and danger) of intervention in a recent Parenting Today radio show from SCAN and Clear Channel. You can listen here.

Want even more resources and tips? Visit the Sibling Relationship & Rivalry page on our Parent Resource Center for fact sheets and more!

From the blog: Who is talking about children this election season?

blogblock_advocacySept2013The Virginia Governor’s election is heating up, but where are the conversations about children during this election season? Like one local resident, SCAN urges all of the candidates to “step up, be bold and listen to the voters who demand action for Virginia’s vulnerable children.”

As Strong Kids, Strong Virginia has outlined, the new Governor will have the power to make many decisions impacting children and families. For example, the Governor prepares the state budget, which includes funding to care for, educate, and protect kids. The Governor also chooses the leaders of state agencies that serve our children, such as the Departments of Social Services and Education, and approves or vetoes bills passed by the General Assembly. Yet issues like preventing abuse and neglect and supporting parents are too seldom part of the candidates’ conversations during election season.

The three candidates vying to serve Virginia’s children are current Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (Republican), businessman/ former chairman of the Democratic National Committee Terry McAuliffe (Democrat), and lawyer/businessman Robert Sarvis (Libertarian).

Last month, the candidates did discuss one important issue impacting children – mental health – at a forum sponsored by Voices for Virginia’s Children, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)-Virginia and a broad coalition. In their coverage of the forum, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported that Cuccinelli “supports incentives for more people to become trained as mental health providers and a streamlining of the licensing process so qualified providers from other states can work in Virginia without bureaucratic delays.” McAuliffe wants to “increase services at crisis stabilization centers, and improve the training of staffs in jails and in agencies providing services to veterans. He also made a pitch for increased teacher pay and training to help educators identify and address mental health issues among students.”

As the last month of the campaign approaches, SCAN urges you to ask the candidates about their plans to improve the well-being of Virginia’s youngest residents. On September 24, 2013, Lieutenant Governor candidates E.W. Jackson (R) and Ralph Northam (D) will be discussing “The Fiscal Future of Virginia” at George Mason University’s Arlington campus.  Wouldn’t it be amazing to hear them answer questions about the fiscal impacts of failing to invest in our children? Or what targeted investments they plan in child welfare, education and families to ensure every child grows up to be a productive contributor to our economy?

The following day, the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce and NBC4 will co-host a debate in McLean between the Governor candidates, giving voters another chance to learn about the candidates’ views on children.

All seats in the House of Delegates are also up for election in November. There are many opportunities to meet local candidates, such as the September 28, 2013 Meet and Greet with the Candidates hosted by Social Action Linking Together (SALT) in Vienna.

To help ensure all our children are safe and successful, we urge you to attend these events, ask the candidates questions about kids, write your local paper and discuss the election with your friends and colleagues. Most importantly, make sure you are registered to vote by October 15 and re-register if you’ve moved!

SCAN of Northern Virginia’s 2013-2014 Policy Agenda can be viewed here.



From the blog: The ABCs of Parenting Scores an ‘A’

Today’s guest blogger is Dr. Alison Hyra, an experienced research and evaluation consultant, as well as a member of SCAN’s Council of Young Professionals.  

A_gradeSCAN provides parenting classes for Northern Virginia families that use a curriculum entitled the ABCs of Parenting.  Like many social service agencies, SCAN collects important information about who attends the parenting program and how they might have changed as a result of participating in the curriculum.

As a member of SCAN’s Council of Young Professionals, I was excited to learn that SCAN had data about the last two years of parenting classes.  Since I am also a professional evaluator focusing on parenting, marriage and families, I was eager to dig into SCAN’s data and see how the program was making a difference.

I’m pleased to report that my analysis indicates that SCAN’s parenting programs are making strong and significant changes among program participants.  (You can download the complete Case Study PDF here.)

We collected data on participants’ parenting attitudes before the program started and after the program ended.  These attitudes are associated with levels of child abuse and neglect risk.

As a result of program completion, SCAN was able to reduce the percentage of parents deemed high risk by half.  Additionally, by the end of the 8-week parenting course, between a third and a half of parents had a low risk of child abuse on each attitude.

This evaluation suggests that SCAN’s delivery of the ABCs of Parenting is making a difference in the lives of Northern Virginia families and children, and reducing the risk of child abuse and neglect.  Thankfully, SCAN offers the classes in English and Spanish throughout the year, and the next session begins later this month.  Please click here for more information on classes, or click here to download the complete Case Study PDF.

- Allison

Dr. Allison Hyra
President, Hyra Consulting


From the blog: SCAN’s New Site Welcomes All

Today’s guest blogger is Diane Charles, a previous Executive Director of SCAN and a member of SCAN’s 25th Anniversary Committee. We invited Diane to explore to take a sneak peek at the new site and share her thoughts on how it would change the way parents, child advocates and supporters could make an impact.

Promoting the well-being of children, improving parent-child relations and preventing child abuse and neglect is what fuels SCAN of Northern Virginia every single day through the essential services they provide.  This mission is more evident than ever when one lands on SCAN’s newly revamped website.  I was so happy to see a homepage that is immediately engaging for any visitor, thanks to four unique entry points. Knock (click!) on doors and find information, resources and services on: Child Advocacy, Parent Support, Prevention Tools and Community Resources or ways to Support SCAN.

The new design means each visitor can directly link to information most appropriate for them.  For example, click on the Parent Support portal and learn about parenting classes, support groups, workshops and playgroups. This is also the place to explore the Parent Resource Center or Parent Connection Resource Guide.  A parent can easily explore what option might be best for him or her.  The Prevention Tools and Community Resources portal unveils the variety of public education vehicles SCAN offers through their Allies in Prevention Coalition, their Parenting Today radio show, this blog, the Northern Virginia Child Abuse Prevention Campaign and the Darkness to Light Sexual Abuse Prevention Program. All of these “tools” are user friendly and accessible for human service professionals, families and volunteers to adapt to their role in prevention.

The Child Advocacy portal provides facts, statistics and how to report child abuse and neglect.  For the individual who wants to invest their time in advocating for abused children, this is also the location that explains SCAN’s Court Appointed Special Advocate Program and the commitment sought from volunteers to be an integral part of this program in Alexandria and Arlington.  The Support SCAN portal has a diverse array of opportunities for the community and individuals alike to lend their support to SCAN through everything from volunteering to making donations to participating in events.

Don’t wait until you are sitting at your computer to check out SCAN’s new website.  Your smart phone or tablet will have a very similar, easy to use and equally attractive version of SCAN’s new site.  Twenty percent of SCAN’s visitors currently visit the SCAN website from a mobile device, so this new responsive version will make it more accessible to all.

It wouldn’t be 2013 at SCAN if I didn’t mention that you can also walk down memory lane (or for those who might be new to SCAN, learn about the organization’s 25-year history) on the new site. As SCAN celebrates its 25th anniversary, visitors can explore a unique SCAN of Northern Virginia timeline of milestones over the years, watch a video from SCAN founder Dave Cleary, and read “Snapshots of Hope” to gain personal perspectives of SCAN during its quarter of a century life.

Check out the new and improved SCAN website early and often.  I’m sure you’ll be enlightened and engaged each and every time you visit. I know I have been!

- Diane Charles, SCAN 25th Anniversary Committee Member


From the blog: Child Abuse Prevention Grows Up…Almost

scan_25_thumbToday we welcome guest blogger Laura Yager, the Director of Partnerships and Resource Development for the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board.  Laura has worked in the prevention and treatment field for over 25 years, and offers an important perspective for SCAN and its supporters as we celebrate our 25th anniversary.

Preventing a problem before it starts might sound like common sense. From Smokey the Bear —“Only YOU can prevent forest fires!” —to seat belt safety— “Click it or ticket!”—we’re inundated with simplified but effective messages about how we can prevent something bad before it happens.  If only protecting children could be that easy.

As a social issue campaign, child abuse prevention also has come a long way in the past 25 years.  The protection of children from harm and maltreatment has long been touted as a cultural value in the U.S.  In colonial times, adults had ideas about “right” and “wrong” ways to treat children, but the focus was less on child abuse prevention than punishment for a child’s misbehavior.

A century later, in 1875, the New York Society to Prevent Cruelty to Children was established as the first organization dedicated to child protection, its roots emerging from animal rights efforts. By 1920, the Child Welfare League of America began supporting agencies serving vulnerable children and families. In 1962, the modern age of child protection took off with amendments to the Social Security Act requiring states to organize statewide child welfare services that were in place nationwide by 1975.

Prevention has nearly always focused on raising awareness as the first step in inspiring positive change.  But the methods used have evolved, becoming increasingly sophisticated to reflect changing societal norms and values:

  • In the 1950s and earlier, scare tactics and shame were seen as appropriate ways to change/correct children’s behaviors.
  • By the 1960s and 70s, efforts to change child behavior took on a psychological focus, with an emphasis on the importance of self-esteem (i.e. “If your child feels good about him/herself, their behavior will improve.”).  While changing feelings were important components of behavior change, they were narrow in focus and only mildly effective.
  • A new focus on youth resistance skills emerged in the 1980s that had limited success (think “Just say no!”).
  • The late 1990s saw more research and scientific approaches used to determine effectiveness, including learning more about “risk factors” that put people in danger of becoming victims and “protective factors” that help buffer against risk.  We also began working across spheres of influence—peers, school systems, families—and building individual resiliency skills, such as problem-solving, relationship-building, and managing risk.
  • In the past decade, we’ve learned that focusing on preventing just one danger (whether it be substance abuse, child abuse, delinquency, etc.) is not the best approach.  Factors placing someone at risk for one problem often correlate with risk factors for others.  In response, we are moving beyond traditional “prevention programs” and are focusing on multi-faceted efforts—both practice and policy—that are geared towards the whole community.

Sonia Quiñónez is the executive director of a local nonprofit organization called SCAN (Stop Child Abuse Now) of Northern Virginia. “Our organization turns 25 years old this year,” says Quiñónez, “and over the years, we’ve seen a real shift in how people view and address child abuse and neglect, producing positive results in our community.” The real challenge, though, is securing sustainable funding to invest in prevention programs. When a crisis occurs, the ensuing public outcry almost always includes demands for more prevention efforts. Yet funding for prevention is often the first budget category cut in lean times.

Prevention begins when a child is put first.  The next evolution for prevention will be growing our community commitment to prioritizing funding, supporting parents and facilitating cooperation among agencies and organizations.

When that becomes our community’s collective common sense, that’s when we’ll begin to see significant progress in how we protect and nurture our youngest citizens. That’s why putting children first has to be more than a slogan.

- Laura Yager

Laura Yager, M.Ed., LPC, CPP-ATOD  Laura is the Director of Partnerships and Resource Development for the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board in Fairfax County, Virginia, and has worked in the prevention and treatment field for over 25 years. With a focus on community capacity building, mobilization, community strengthening, and, more recently, primary and behavioral health integration, she has been involved in the development of  prevention programs that have received national recognition including: the Leadership and Resiliency Program, named a SAMHSA Model Program in 2000 and an OJJDP Promising Program in 2003; and  Girl Power, named a NASADAD Exemplary Program in 2005. In March 2013, the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare awarded her office the “Impact Award” honorees for the Mental Health First Aid program. She is a past Chair of the Prevention Council of the Virginia Association of Community Services Boards and served on the Governor’s Prevention Advisory Council.

SCAN (Stop Child Abuse Now) of Northern Virginia is a 25-year-old nonprofit located in Alexandria, VA working to build hope for children and families through parent education, public education and child advocacy. It is the local organization affiliated with Prevent Child Abuse Virginia, Prevent Child Abuse America and National CASA Association.

SCAN Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children (CASA), a program of SCAN of Northern Virginia SCAN Parent Education Program (PEP), a program of SCAN of Northern Virginia
SCAN Pinwheels for Prevention Allies in Prevention Coalition, an Initiative of SCAN of Northern Virginia