ACE Interface Master Trainer: SCAN Will Bring Fresh Perspectives to Local TICNs

This past November, thanks to our partnership with Prince William County Community Services Board, SCAN’s Public Education Manager was given the opportunity to join Virginia’s second cohort to be trained in the ACE Interface Master Trainer curriculum. (ACE stands for Adverse Childhood Experience.) Developed by Dr. Robert Anda, co-principal investigator of the groundbreaking ACEs study, and Laura Porter, an award-winning public servant best known for her success helping communities to build capacity to generate transformative improvements to health and well-being, the ACE Interface training curriculum teaches Master Trainers how the ACEs study can be used to build self-healing communities.

“What if the largest public health discovery of our time is about the smallest of us?”

This question, which will be asked by every ACE Interface Master Trainer, was asked of the second training cohort at the very beginning of the 2-day intensive training that took place in Wytheville, Virginia. Over the course of those two days the learning cohort, lead by Dr. Anda and Ms. Porter, took a deep dive into the ACEs data to learn how the knowledge of ACEs—when presented with fidelity—can be used to build self-healing communities. Dr. Anda explained that “ACEs are the most powerful determinate of the Public’s Health,” and that knowing one’s ACE score “provides a chance to see the story of your life and to create a different path for the future with hope, meaning, and purpose.”

Although the link between adverse childhood experiences and negative adult health outcomes has been known for over two decades, it has taken many years for our understanding of neurodevelopment and epigenetics to catch up with the ACEs data to explain the neuroscience behind the study. This new branch of science, called “NEAR Science,” combines Neuroscience, Epigenetics, Adverse Childhood Experience and Resilience together to explain the biologic pathways between childhood adversity and adult health outcomes. The Master Trainer cohort learned that “the biologic impact of Adverse Childhood Experience transcends the traditional boundaries of health and human service systems” and it was the responsibility of the training cohort to use the ACE study as a connecting point for people from diverse communities, disciplines, and service sectors.

Dr. Anda and Ms. Porter propose that when enough people in a community have shared knowledge, language, and understanding of ACEs, the community can then begin to make a shift to ensure that the services offered match the science and communities can begin self-healing. As Dr. Anda repeatedly says, “what is predictable is preventable” and now armed with the content “Understanding ACEs” the Master Trainer cohort will be spending the next six months presenting the ACE Interface curriculum in order to become Master Trainers.

Through the Trauma-Informed Community Network (TICN) of Greater Prince William, SCAN and CSB will be presenting the first “Understanding ACEs” training at our next TICN meeting on December 11th from 10:30 am – 12:30 pm in the Community Room of the Chinn Park Library located at 13065 Chinn Park Drive in Woodbridge, VA 22192. Please consider joining our discussion on the 11th. We look forward to seeing you there!

Learn more about ACEs here.

Learn more about Trauma-Informed Organizations here.


Becoming a Parenting Facilitator: One Intern’s Perspective

Do you ever wonder what it’s like to become a trained facilitator for one of SCAN’s parenting programs? This week, one of our BSW interns shares his first-hand knowledge of the experience:

My name is Ernesto Aguiluz and I am a social work intern for SCAN. I have just completed the 21-hour training to become a facilitator for the Strengthening Families program for parents with children ages 10-14. This program helps parents recognize and strengthen the parenting skills they already have, and it also teaches them new skills they can start to use to help them on the difficult journey called parenting.

The Strengthening Families program training shows facilitators like me how to follow the program from beginning to end. It goes over topics such as setting limits and being consistent, as well as how to model these ideas for parents. One of my favorite topics was better understanding the needs of teenagers. After making a list of needs (including a need to belong and independence) we saw that there are ways to meet those needs in both positive and negative ways. Teenagers are going to meet their needs—one way or another— and we must show them the consequences of each route.

Overall, the training was very informative and focused on the foundation of showing love and setting limits. I encourage any family to explore this program—it will help your family grow closer and become stronger.

— Ernesto Aguiluz, SCAN Intern

Have you ever considered volunteering with SCAN’s Parent Education Program? In addition to facilitators, we need children’s program volunteers and guests to coordinate family meals. Learn more here.

Lasting (and Global!) Impact: A Special Guest Post from Tracy Leonard

A special guest post from D2L Certified Instructor (and former SCAN employee) Tracy Leonard:
Although my family left Northern Virginia and I have left SCAN, I haven’t left the work.  While at SCAN, I was fortunate enough to not only receive the training to become a Darkness to Light Authorized Facilitator, but also a Certified Instructor.  It is a gift that I am so thankful for and continue to use.  In fact, I just returned from a trip to Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Japan to train 22 new Authorized Facilitators.
I was able to use my experiences at SCAN and as a part of the Allies in Prevention Coalition (AIPC) to train these professionals not only in using the Stewards of Children curriculum but also in how to make the greatest impact on base.  That is because so many of SCAN’s AIPC members come from Quantico, Fort Belvoir, and Joint Base Myer – Henderson Hall.  I was also able to talk to attendees about establishing a network for themselves where they can meet a few times a year to talk about their experiences as facilitators, discuss roadblocks they may be encountering, and celebrate the successes they are having.  I have that first-hand knowledge because of the 40+-member network of facilitators that SCAN put together in Northern Virginia.
Only 1 of the 22 people I trained at Iwakuni had ever had the Stewards of Children training, so after they took it for the first time it was rewarding to see their wheels turn as they discussed how they could use it in base schools, with their New Parent Support Program, the Family Advocacy Program, and in Behavioral Health–not to mention using it as continuous training to reach out to the greater base community and perhaps even off-base community.
These 22 facilitators have been given a gift.  The gift to teach adults about their responsibility to protect children from child sexual abuse.  And they get to take that gift with them when they move to their next base or return to a civilian community.  We have truly created a way for systematic change to occur and for the prevention wave to take over wherever those trained may go.
This experience comes full circle for myself and SCAN because Diana P. Ortiz–who had worked at Doorways for Women and Children in Arlington for 10 years–is now at MCAS Iwakuni. She had taken a Stewards of Children training put on by SCAN years ago.  Allies in Prevention are everywhere and are continuing to make an impact on reducing child abuse and neglect.  Diana and I are proof!
–Tracy Leonard, Darkness to Light Certified Instructor
You can follow Tracy on Twitter @tracylleonard

Trick or Treat: 5 Tips to Keep Kids Safe on Halloween

Trick-or-treating can be a fun chance for parents to spend time with their children. Here are five quick tips to consider before you head out on Halloween:


1. Make sure your child is being supervised by an adult.

Make sure to stay with your child at all times. If you can’t be there, confirm that they will be with another safe adult. Discuss things ahead of time like saying thank you, being safe while walking in the street, and not entering people’s homes. If your older child or teen is going with a group of friends, make sure at least one member of the group has a charged phone. Send your child with a flashlight, and confirm the neighborhood where he/she will be for the evening. Don’t forget to set a specific time and location for pick-up! (Questions about day-to-day supervision guidelines? Click here.)

2. Bring a flashlight.

While the dark can make this a fun, spooky time, it’s important to bring a flashlight with you to make it easy for you to see and to help drivers be able to spot you and your children. Consider using reflective tape on either your clothes or your child’s costume. It can be extra fun to have everyone carry glow sticks, too!

3. Consider candy choices.

Keep in mind that not all candy is appropriate for all ages. Some candy (hard candies, gum, etc.) can be hazardous for toddlers and younger children. Other candy might contain peanuts or other allergens. Be sure to check labels!

4. Examine all candy.

Make sure to examine all candy before letting your child eat it (or before you enjoy it!) Homemade treats might be okay from someone you know and trust, but others should most likely be thrown out.

5. Have FUN!

Sometimes it’s hard to find the time to do activities as a family — use Halloween as a ready-made opportunity to make memories together! (Find more tips on the Power of Play and Unplugging with your Child on our Parent Resource Center!) 

— Aurea Palacios, SCAN Intern

Trauma-Informed Community Network Meeting Kicks Off in Loudoun County

On September 26, thanks to grant funding from Loudoun Non-Profit grants, the first Trauma-Informed Community Network (TICN) meeting was called to order at HealthWorks for Northern Virginia in Loudoun County and facilitated by SCAN. The Loudoun community has been making great strides in integrating trauma-informed care in the community and SCAN is excited to help steward collaboration between organizations and expand trauma awareness work in Loudoun. As the Loudoun TICN continues to move forward in a shared commitment towards the creation of a more trauma-informed and resilient community, there is something for everyone to contribute to and gain from the network.


At the inaugural meeting, the group dove right in and collaborated on a series of impactful opportunities and workgroups to benefit the Loudoun community, including:

1. Community asset mapping opportunity: This resource sheet was a collaborative document developed by the team to house the variety of resources that the Loudoun community can offer to its members
2. Loudoun TICN immediate gaps/needs/priorities within the community workgroup collaborative: The SCAN facilitator asked the TICN to collaboratively identify what are areas within our community that we can identify as areas of need? How can we shine a trauma-informed lens on these gap needs?
3. Workgroups and coalitions currently functioning in Loudoun County: The TICN identified workgroups currently doing trauma-informed work in the Loudoun community that may be represented or should be represented at the trauma network.
4. An opportunity identifying the Loudoun TICN membership: This activity identified our strength as a trauma-informed collaborative. It also identified Loudoun sectors that were TICN members and asked the question: Who do we need to reach out to so that we are all-inclusive to the entire community?

SCAN looks forward to collaborating with the Loudoun community and continuing to support impactful trauma-informed work, grow and effect change, and serve Loudoun County.

The next Loudoun TICN meeting will be held on November 28th from 9:30-11:00 am at HealthWorks of Northern Virginia. Interested in attending? Please contact us!

4 Questions to Help Parents Understand (and Respond) to Children’s Behavior

“When a child misbehaves, remember—kids are having a problem, they’re not being a problem.”

At this week’s Allies in Prevention Coalition meeting, SCAN hosted 30 local child welfare professionals to hear from parenting expert Rachel Bailey as she shared insight from her work coaching parents in hundreds of local families. Why do children throw tantrums, hit a sibling, refuse to do chores, and so many more things that challenge parents? And how can parents respond in healthy ways? The group discussed these questions and more—leaving the meeting with some excellent tools and ideas to share with the parents in their communities, including:

  1. WHY? “Many behaviors are the result of kids’ missing tools,” shared Rachel. This includes missing tools like impulse control, handling monotony, transitioning effectively, and problem solving. Negative behaviors can also be caused by a child’s “level of yuck,” as Rachel calls it. If a child is tired, hungry, sick, scared, or in any other form of discomfort (afraid or frustrated or overwhelmed) the brain interprets it as a threat. This fight-or-flight response is meant to protect us, but it can make kids (and adults) impulsive, self-centered, and narrowly focused. A prime opportunity for “bad” or unwanted behavior to happen!
  2. WHEN? Bad behaviors often happen when a child’s needs aren’t being met. This includes biological needs like sleep, food, and a safe environment as well as emotional needs. Children long for connection, they want to know they matter, they want to have the tools they need to be successful, they want to have a voice, and they want to know that they are safe. Rachel reminded the group that reasons for behavior are not excuses—in fact, they are crucial to helping parents understand a particular behavior and help their child change their behavior.
  3. HOW? A child’s bad behavior presents in three ways: They might “turn the ‘yuck’ out” on others (being aggressive, disrespectful or defiant); they might turn it in on themselves (feeling anxious, lacking self-esteem or low motivation); or they try to “numb the yuck” with things like electronics, food, etc. Thinking of these three categories of unhealthy behavior is a great way to better understand the specific behavior in question and how parents can best respond.
  4. WHAT NEXT? Parenting is not about making kids feel good all the time—that’s not realistic! Instead, Rachel encourages parents to “make deposits” in their kids as a response to the many withdrawals taken from them each day. Parents can deposit into their children’s “toolboxes,” teaching them skills to do things like clean up their toys, focus on homework, etc. Or they can deposit into their needs—mentioned earlier—by doing things like making sure their children are getting enough sleep (biological) or asking for their opinion on an important decision (emotional).

    “Yes, we’ll make withdrawals from our children,” acknowledged Rachel, like navigating a conflict with a sibling or telling them to finish their homework or manage a busy schedule, “but they’ll have this reserve to pull from when bad things happens—this is the core of resilience.”

For SCAN’s new fact sheets on Children’s Behavior, click here. You can also download an image of our Parenting Can Be Tough “diaper bag tags” that remind parents about some of the biological and emotional causes of behavior and help younger children communicate their feelings. 


September is Suicide Prevention Month: 3 Steps to Remember

As we tumble into fall, we are raising awareness on an issue that all should be mindful of–suicide prevention.

Suicide is a public health crisis. And for those who work with youth and young adults, it’s even more urgent. Suicide is the second leading cause of death in age groups 10-14,15-24 and 25-34, according to the Suicide Prevention Resource Center, which makes it a critical issue for parents and other adults to understand.  Suicide has no boundaries and affects all genders, ages, races and ethnic groups. One in five young people face mental health challenges and approximately 80% of teens who contemplate suicide want others to know about it and to stop them.

So, how can you help? We must take a multi-tiered approach: Identify, Respond and Follow Up*

  1. Identify the warning signs: Look for feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, guilt, self-hatred, self-harm, sudden isolation, hurting others, anxiety or depression. Has the child or teen mentioned dying or disappearing? Has he lost interest in friends or activities? Have his sleep patterns changed? However, it’s important to note that not everyone who is contemplating suicide displays the same warning signs.
  2. Respond to the person: If you’ve identified someone displaying the warning signs, assist them in seeking help. Put them in touch with a good local hotline such as PRS (Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services 1-800-273-TALK). These organizations provide a full range of crisis services which can reduce suicides and provide treatment that focuses on underlying mental and/or substance use disorders as well.
  3. Build in a follow-up: This is key! Having a safe support system that can continually direct them to a responsible outlet for their mental health challenges will help them tremendously on their road to developing more effective coping strategies and no longer seeing suicide as an option.

Call to Action: I urge you to not just keep these tips in mind during the month of September, which is Suicide Prevention Month, but please…be mindful of your children, neighbors, co-workers, family and friends. If any of them are showing signs that may be red flags at any time of the year, please call your local hotline today. You will make the difference in their life!

*Data taken from Suicide Prevention Resource Center




A New Book to Empower Kids, a New Tool for Child Abuse Prevention Work

As our work to prevent child sexual abuse pushes onward in our local communities, we are reminded of the mission of our national partner Darkness to Light: We empower adults to prevent child sexual abuse. We believe that adults own the responsibility to prevent child sexual abuse. They need to play an integral role in raising awareness of the issue with children andcreate safe, stable, supportive environments where they can be educated and empowered. That’s why we’re thrilled to share a new resource that might help.

Cindy Chambers and Kitty Kearns are authors of the book, Keep Me Safe: The Clapping Song. This is the first book in the Respect Book Series (available on Amazon here). The goal of the book is to communicate that with education comes empowerment, and all children should be taught to recognize an inappropriate situation so that they can—without reservation—ask for help from someone they trust.

The Clapping Song book is geared to children in grades PreK-5. It provides parents, educators, health-care providers, child-welfare workers and others with a useful aid for teaching children about appropriate and inappropriate touching. This phonological approach to broaching a sensitive, sometimes scary topic (through clapping) helps the child retain the information while reducing fear and promoting empowerment.

Three key points of Keep Me Safe: The Clapping Song that will assist you in starting the conversation about child sexual abuse are:

  1. Each of us deserves something called RESPECT.
  2. We are IN CHARGE of our bodies.
  3. We will NOT BE INTROUBLE; tell an adult that you trust.

1 in 10 children will be sexually abused before they reach the age of 18. Sharing this book with a child can make a difference in one life. But more importantly—sharing this book with adults can create a ripple effect, where an increasing number of adults are aware of the issue and have tools to take action.

We know adults can take a more proactive approach to preventing child sexual abuse in our community and it’s tools like this that can help.

Great resources for work in child sexual abuse prevention:


Back to School: Parenting Resources to Share this September

With kids heading back to school this season, families might be feeling overwhelmed by changing schedules, new demands and navigating complicated school systems. Here are five of our favorite school-related topics on SCAN’s Parent Resource Center that can help parents manage the challenges of the school year and stay connected to their kids through it all:

  1. It’s important for parents to communicate with teachers. They know their children better than anyone else, and can be great team players with school staff! Learn more about Advocating for Your Child in School.
  2. Establishing simple routines for your mornings and evenings can make the transition to school easier. Learn more about The Importance of Routines.
  3. For students today, stress is a reality. Parents need to know how to recognize its symptoms and help their children manage it in healthy ways. Learn more about Stress Management for Children and Adults.
  4. Another reality in schools today? Bullying. Parents can learn about forms of bullying, signs of bullying, and how to address it with both children and school staff. Learn more about Bullying.
  5. When report card time rolls around, this is a great resource to keep things in perspective for you and your child. Learn more about Report Cards: A Healthy Response.

Remember, our free Parent Resource Center app is a great way to easily share resources with parents! Get it on the Apple Store and Google Play today!

5 Critical Messages from our “Roots of Trauma” Training

Earlier this month, SCAN held an all-day workshop focused on parental trauma, mental health challenges, and substance use and their impact on children and families. With support from the Northern Virginia Health Foundation, we hosted nearly 100 professionals and advocates to learn more about how trauma relates to mental health, alcohol and substance use and violence—and most importantly, what we can do to best support families facing these challenges in our community.

Thanks to a diverse group of speakers and panelists—ranging from CPS workers to health center executives to therapists at addiction treatment centers—we laid a groundwork for what comes next in our efforts here in Northern Virginia.

At the end of the day, five core messages had emerged from the dialogue between our experts and the audience:

1. Know that trauma is more common then we think. “If someone is in need of services,” challenged Dr. Brian Sims, “we need to assume that trauma exists in their lives and exercise ‘universal precautions.’” He shared that our initial question should not be, “What’s wrong WITH you?” but, “What happened TO you?” As we work with families, we need to foster a mindset that is trauma-informed. We must be familiar with the prevalence of Adverse Childhood Experiences (or ACEs) and their impact on emotional problems, health risk behaviors, social problems, diseases and disability, personal health, and even poor life expectancy. 90% of public mental health clients have been exposed to trauma. In Virginia, only 15% of people dealing with the trauma of opioid addiction are accessing treatment.

“That’s a lot of moms and dads [dealing with trauma],” noted Genevieve King from the Leesburg Treatment Center. As professionals, we need to keep our minds open to the possibility of trauma in a parent’s lifetime.

“In treating trauma, all behavior has meaning,” added Dr. Sims. “Sometimes the answers aren’t that complicated, but we do need to keep our minds open.”

2. End the stigma around trauma and its symptoms. Oftentimes, “it’s not so much the trauma,” noted Bill Connors, a lead therapist at Dominion Hospital. “What perpetuates the trauma is the shame around it.” If a pregnant mother is addicted to opioids, for example, she may be ashamed of her addiction and not seek help—even it puts her baby in danger. If a father was sexually abused as a child, he may feel shame and not deal with the trauma, which puts his own children at risk of trauma.

“Stigma brings down self-esteem and the self-efficacy of the person being treated,” noted Francisco Soto-Castillo with Loudoun County DFS. “Stigma creates anger, frustration and often leads to non-compliance.”

3. Begin with respect and focus on engagement. “Respecting a parent’s life circumstances and culture” is key, noted Carol Jameson, MSW, the CEO of Healthworks for Northern Virginia. It’s harder for these parents to stay engaged because of the trauma and challenges in their lives.

“We explain to folks what we’re going to be doing – that this is a partnership,” said Jameson. “We’re not judgmental. We’re not dictating. We’re motivating THEM to make the decisions about what they want to do.”

“We need to focus on accepting individuals where they come from,” added Soto-Castillo. “It’s about really understanding their experience and having compassion. We can’t impose our personal values…we’re trying to explore where the client is coming from and why.” In the end, this judgment-free approach is the best way to empower them to make changes in their lives.

4. Build knowledge and build up hope. Dr. Sims reminded the audience that the training would not just be about ACEs and trauma–it’s about hope and resiliency, too.

“It’s important to empower parents through education and information,” noted Soto-Castillo. When parents learn about things like child development and resiliency, the can feel empowered to make changes that will benefit their children.

“Treating parents is not just about stopping substance use, for example,” added Dr. Glenda Clare. “It’s teaching parents how addiction impacts families, how to build coping skills, and so on.”

When we teach parents that they can teach their kids resiliency skills, it can be powerful, especially for parents who may feel paralyzed by their own trauma and challenges. Giving them basic steps—such as setting a simple evening routine or providing 8 times more praise then correction—can build up their toolbox of parenting skills. But it takes real work on the part of service providers, noted The Resiliency Network’s Heather Peck Dziewulski:

“Teaching resilience takes ACTION. It’s something we do purposefully. And it creates hope for children who have experienced trauma.”

5. Get out of your silo. “Too often we put parents in a box that is very hard to get out of,” said Johanna Van Doren-Jackson, with Infant-Toddler Connection of Loudoun. These parents will need teams of professionals and advocates who can help them make changes. And in order to do that, we must get beyond our silos! Parents are more likely to engage when they know dealing with their trauma and challenges is part of a team approach; encouragement from a primary care doctor can be especially helpful.

“Talk to someone in a different discipline,” suggested Dr. Glenda Clare. “Know others’ work and experiences with children and families. Our clients need us to know each other’s resources and build relationships that can help them.”

As guests prepared to wrap up the discussion for the day, it was clear that the topic of trauma and its relationship to substance use and mental health must continue to be addressed by the community. There is a hunger for resources, cooperation and support as we move forward serving children and families affected by these challenges.

Some good places to start based on discussions at the training:

• Download a list of Trauma + Substance Use Resources for New Parents in Loudoun County
• Explore SCAN’s resources on ACEs
(English and Spanish)
• Explore SCAN’s resources on Recognizing Trauma(English and Spanish)
• Learn more about TREM: Trauma Recovery and Empowerment Model
• Watch the Still Face Experiment
• Learn more about The Resilience Network