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.

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

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. 


Comcast Newsmakers: SCAN Shares Operation Safe Babies with the Community

We’re excited to share this new interview about SCAN’s Operation Safe Babies program. It’s a great, simple way to share an overview of the program–and why it’s so important–with the parents and families in your community! SCAN’s Public Education Manager Tracy Leonard recently taped a segment on Comcast Newsmakers, sharing general guidelines when it comes to safe sleep for babies, as well as how SCAN is working with The Baby Box Company and Cribs for Kids to get parents in our region the education and resources they need to keep their babies safe:

Please share this video with your networks! And learn more about SCAN’s Operation Safe Babies Program here.


From the Parent Education Desk: Creating Resilient Families

“Our family is facing financial issues at home, discipline issues with our middle child at school, and an overwhelming schedule. It’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. What can I do?”*

SCAN’s Parent Education team hears a lot of questions from local parents in our classes, support groups and workshops. They send a great monthly email to parents to respond to those concerns, and now we’re sharing them here on the blog, too!

Every family goes through hard times; resilient families are able to bounce back after those hard times. Resilience is defined as “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress.” It’s about how you handle negative feelings and move forward in a healthy, positive manner.
It is important to remember that resilience is something that is developed over time through thoughts, behaviors, and actions. Some steps families can take to become more resilient: create a strengths family tree, practice optimist, and rejuvenate regularly. For more concrete steps to take as a family to increase your resiliency, click here (English) or click here (Spanish).
(Learn more about SCAN’s Parent Education Program here.)
* Questions edited to protect privacy.

New Video: Using SCAN’s Free App for Parents + Caregivers

Did you know that SCAN offers a free mobile app that allows parents on-the-go access to all of the information on our online Parent Resource Center? Now we also have a short, 1-minute video you can share with parents that explains how simple it is to download and use the app:

Our goal is to make it easy for parents to learn more about child development, parenting challenges and other family topics. Using the app, they can download fact sheets in English and Spanish, listen to our Parenting Today radio shows produced with iHeart Radio, and search dozens of parenting topics for more resources.

You can download the app for free on the AppStore and GooglePlay. (Or access direct links via our online Parent Resource Center here.) Do you already use the app? Please rate us so that more people learn about SCAN and more parents find this free resource!

It’s Report Card Season! How Can We Help Parents Deal with the Drama?

Report card season can be stressful for children and parents. Kids often want to please their parents, while parents might equate academic success with future well-being and happiness. When grades differ from expectations, it can be easy to respond in anger, disappointment or frustration. But parents should work to provide a safe and nurturing environment for children–not one focused on judgment, punishment or negativity. Share these four easy suggestions to help parents focus on making their child feel loved and supported during what can be a challenging time.

1. Focus on the good. Try to point out the positive aspects of your child’s report card. You can highlight an improved grade, or acknowledge the amount of effort that your child put forth in a subject. It’s important to focus more on EFFORT and less on the ACHIEVEMENT. Try this:

“This grade is a real improvement over last quarter’s grade in the same subject. I can see that you tried hard to improve in this area!”

2. Remind your child that no one is perfect. Report card season is an ideal time to discuss a time that you struggled to get a good grade, or didn’t meet expectations at a job. Let your child know that you have felt scared, frustrated, self-conscious, and disappointed about your own performance. It’s a normal part of life and the important thing is what you choose to do next. Try this:

“When I was your age, I worked hard on my science fair project and I thought I would receive a first-place ribbon, so imagine how disappointment I was when I didn’t place at all!”

3. Listen. There is usually an underlying reason for a child’s less-than-stellar academic performance. Give your child an opportunity to discuss their thoughts, feelings and concerns regarding school. As a parent, listen without judgement and ask open-ended questions. Try this:

“What part of the class is the most difficult for you? Which subject do you really enjoy?”

4. Devise a plan. Work with your child to help them succeed. Being supportive doesn’t mean not caring about grades, it means helping them set goals and improve their habits and understanding. Develop a plan–together–that includes a quiet place for your child to study, sets frequency and length of study sessions, and makes you or another caregiver available to provide help. If further assistance is necessary, consider tutoring or extra time after school with the teacher. Try this:

“Let’s write down some homework and study rules for our house. What will help you? I’d like to make sure you have a quiet place to focus, a snack, and…”

Parents sometimes need a gentle reminder that their child’s grades are NOT a reflection of their parenting skills. They are an opportunity to teach your child how to build resiliency, explore goal-setting and interests, and learn how to ask for help. We love these quick “Report Card Tips” we developed with the Child Protection Partnership a few years ago. Share with a parent you know this report card season!

October is Safe Sleep Awareness Month – Here are 5 things you can do TODAY to protect the infants in your community

Providing a safe sleep environment for a baby is one of the first things you can do to protect and nurture a child. October is Safe Sleep Awareness Month (#safesleepawareness) — and there is no better time to share 5 simple things you can do today to make sure the parents you know have the information and resources that can help them make the best parenting decisions when it comes to safe sleep!

  1. Take the Safe Sleep pledge from the Virginia Department of Social Services. Then share it with every parent, caregiver, babysitter and grandparent you know!
  2. Speaking of grandparents, use these Safe Sleep FAQs for Grandparents (here in English or Spanish) to educate older adults in a baby’s life. Guidelines have changed drastically, and this tool helps explain why.
  3. Download our Parent Resource Center App for direct access to resources like fact sheets and radio shows on Safe Sleep, Soothing a Crying Baby and Understanding Baby Blues/Post-Partum Depression.
  4. Learn more about SCAN’s Operation Safe Babies program, including our free Pack-n-Play distribution and our NEW work as a Baby Box distribution site.
  5. Read about the latest guidelines on safe sleep from the American Academy of Pediatrics. We also produced a Parenting Today segment on this topic. Listen here.

(And here’s one extra thing you can do — follow @scanofnova and our Safe Sleep partners @cribsforkids, @VDSS, and @babyboxcompany on Twitter for updates, research and more on safe sleep! @NICHD_NIH also has excellent resources.)



Join us! 3 Workshops for Parents & Professionals

As students prepare to head back to school, we’re excited to offer three educational opportunities for the adults working to support them. SCAN is hosting three exciting (and free!) workshops for parents and professionals and we’d love for you to join us:

  • The Adolescent Brain: Understanding the “What” & “Why”
    August 17, 2017 | 2:30 – 4:30 PM
    In support of the recommendations in Resilient Children, Resilient Loudoun, The Loudoun County Partnership for Resilient Children & Families is proud to bring Jim Harris, MSW, Ed.D. for a special presentation for service providers. In this session, Jim will take you on a journey into the adolescent brain. I know, it sounds pretty scary! However, with this improved understanding you will learn how to take into consideration the developmental status of the adolescent brain in developing programming and interventions. Jim will pay specific attention to developmental progression and how it relates to different behavioral manifestations. He will use case examples and common issues in adolescent interventions to bring “real world” relevance to the information.

  • So What’s Wrong with Kids These Days? An Exploration of What We Can Do to Support Children in a Complicated World
    August 17, 2017 | 7:00 – 8:30 PM
    Jim Harris, MSW, Ed.D. will also provide a special presenation for parents, also in support of the recommendations in Resilient Children, Resilient Loudoun. It is no secret that we live in an increasingly complex world and that this complexity has resulted in a number of challenges for the appropriate social and emotional development of youth today. In this session, Dr. Harris gets back to the developmental basics and helps to give you some ideas about how we can better understand and support youth in an ever-changing and complicated world.

  • Strategies for Fostering Healthy Self-Esteem and Resilience in Children and Adolescents
    September 7, 2017 | 6:30 – 8:00 PM
    Are you a parent/caregiver, CASA volunteer, or service provider working with a child or adolescent? We all want children to meet their full potential, but often life’s challenges leave them questioning themselves and their ability to handle the world around them. In this workshop, you will learn specific strategies that help children learn to trust themselves and successfully face life’s inevitable obstacles. Speaker Rachel Bailey is a Parenting Specialist who has been serving families in Northern Virginia for a decade. Besides being a mother of two, she also has a Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology and a certification in Positive Discipline. Rachel provides parents with hands-on tools for raising children who meet their full potential. She is also committed to conquering the guilt that is associated with parenting today.


Safe Sleep On the Road: Summer Tips from the Safe to Sleep® Campaign

The national Safe to Sleep® Campaign published an excellent letter this month with a special focus on summer-related tips to help parents keep their babies safe while sleeping and traveling. For more safe sleep resources we invite you to visit the “Safe Sleep for Your Baby” page on the Parent Resource Center here.

Dear Safe to Sleep Community:

It’s summertime! Over the coming months, many families will be traveling to have fun, visit family, and just relax. As your safe sleep partners at home and on the go, we offer the following tips to help guide your conversations with parents and other trusted caregivers as they prepare for their vacations.


Image courtesy of the Safe to Sleep® campaign


Review what a safe sleep environment looks like. This Safe to Sleep® webpageshows the firm, flat sleep area that is safest for infants, including a safety-approved* crib or bassinet covered by a fitted sheet with no other bedding or soft items in the sleep area. (*A crib, bassinet, portable crib, or play yard that follows the safety standards of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is recommended. For information on crib safety, contact the CPSC at 1-800-638-2772 or

Arrange for a safe sleep space at hotels and at your final destination. The Consumer Product Safety Commission has a Safe to Sleep® Crib Information Center, which explains that federal crib standards apply to hotels and motels (PDF, 1.97 MB). The Commission also has information on non–full-size cribs, such as travel cribs, and notes that inflatable air mattresses can be a deadly danger.

Use a car seat that is appropriate for your infant’s age, weight, and height. The American Academy of Pediatrics Car Seats: Information for Families webpage provides information about car seats. All infants and toddlers should use a rear-facing car seat until they are 2 years old. The car seat should be placed in the back seat. When traveling by airplane, children who weigh less than 40 pounds should be fastened in a certified child restraint such as a car seat. Look for a label on the car seat that indicates it can be used on aircraft. Remember, though, that a car seat is not meant for routine sleep and should be used only during travel.

Educate other potential caregivers. While on vacation, other family members may want to place blankets, crib bumpers, or soft toys in the baby’s crib. Our Safe to Sleep® webpages include information for grandparents and other caregivers, including publications (PDF, 414 KB) and videos that offer useful tips for keeping babies safe during sleep. These are also available in Spanish.

NICHD News: A newly published study, funded in part by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, found that the blood of infants who died from SIDS contained high levels of serotonin. The finding raises the possibility that a test could be developed to distinguish SIDS cases from other causes of sleep-related, unexpected infant death.

We appreciate all that you do to keep families and babies safe and healthy during the summer and year-round.


Safe to Sleep® Campaign
Office of Communications
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
National Institutes of Health
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

(Interested in learning more about SCAN’s Operation Safe Babies program? Click here. You can also explore safe sleep resources on our Parent Resource Center here.)