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

What Does it Mean to Be a Trauma Informed Organization?

Have you explored our trauma informed care resources for parents? You’ve heard us talk about this topic from a direct child services perspective (see our blog post here), as well as an advocacy perspective (such as this blog we re-posted from Voices for Virginia’s Children) as it relates to legislation. But how do we change whole organizations to better serve individuals who have experienced trauma?

We’ve developed a helpful new resource that can get you started. Trauma informed organizations make a commitment to understand trauma, how to respond to trauma, and how it affects those they work with. Being trauma informed is an organizational cultural change. We hope you’ll download our Trauma Informed Organizations fact sheet, and let us know how your organization is making changes in 2018. We also recommend you learn more at:

• “Changing the Lens” by Voices for Virginia’s Children
• This report on Trauma Informed Care in Human Services from SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration)
• The National Council for Behavioral Health, including the recent 60 Minutes’ segment with Oprah Winfrey:

What We’re Reading: SCAN Staff Book Picks | WINTER 2018

What have SCAN staff members (and volunteers!) been reading this winter? We have some great recommendations for you this season:
The Wild Truth, by Carine McCandless
We are thrilled to share that Carine McCandless will be the Keynote Speaker at our annual Ally in Prevention Awards luncheon this year! Carine is the sister of Chris McCandless, who gave away his savings, hitchhiked to Alaska, walked into the wilderness alone, and starved to death in 1992, and would later have his story told by Jon Krakauer in the New York Times bestseller, Into the Wild. Featured in both the book and film, Carine tells her own story in this memoir – sharing their experiences growing up in a dysfunctional and violent family, and how it impacted their lives.
My Body Belongs to Me from My Head to My Toes, by proFamilia
This helpful, kid-friendly book empowers resource providers to start conversations with children and parents alike. Used by a number of local agencies, including SafeSpot in Fairfax County, it gives children the words and confidence to establish body awareness, as well as the encouragement and tools to talk about an uncomfortable situation if it has already happened.
Breaking Night, by Liz Murray
SCAN’s CASA Volunteer Book Club just finished reading this memoir about a young girl’s experience with poverty, neglect, and—ultimately—teenage homelessness, all of which would lead to her remarkable graduation from Harvard. It includes deeply personal and detailed experiences of what it was like to be a child with two parents addicted to drugs, as well as the transition into homelessness, avoiding  protective services and eventually beating all odds to finish school and reflect on her experiences.
The Deepest Well, by Dr. Nadine Burke Harris
Dr. Nadine Burke Harris was already known as a crusading physician delivering targeted care to vulnerable children. But it was Diego—a boy who had stopped growing after a sexual trauma—who galvanized her to dig deeper into the connections between toxic stress and the lifelong illnesses she was tracking among so many of her patients and their families. A survey of more than 17,000 adult patients’ “adverse childhood experiences,” or ACEs, like divorce, substance abuse, or neglect, had proved that the higher a person’s ACE score the worse their health—and now led Burke Harris to an astonishing breakthrough. Childhood stress changes our neural systems and lasts a lifetime.*
What are you reading right now?
* book review 

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.

The Cost of Caring

This week, I had the honor of co-presenting a day-long workshop entitled The Cost of Caring.  It is a workshop designed by the Trauma-Informed Community Network in Fairfax County.  The workshop focuses on human service providers and not just to provide resources and guidance, but to give them a chance to leave work behind and do kind things for themselves.  The workshop allows them to take the time to complete various self-inventories on compassion satisfaction, compassion fatigue, practicing intentionality, and determining the amount of self care practiced at work and at home.

It is vital that human service providers have a basic understanding of cumulative stress, burnout, and secondary traumatic stress.  They are actually quite different but can affect us in similar ways.  Treating the source of the stress is perhaps more important than simply treating the symptoms. This workshop also focuses on resiliency, what it means to be resilient, and how to use resiliency to combat the effects of stress.  This can include strengthening our personal and professional connections, changing our perceptions, and practicing self care.

If you would like to know more about what the Fairfax TICN is doing, please visit (Good news — their resources are not just for residents of Fairfax County!)

You can also explore the self care resources we have for parents here.

— Tracy Leonard, Public Education Manager: tleonard(at)

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!

Child Abuse in Northern Virginia: The Numbers

As we reflect on the impact of our programs in 2017, it’s an important time for us to gather new data about children and families in our communities. One of our favorite resources for statistics is Voices for Virginia’s Children, especially their links to the Kids Count Data Center, a project of the Annie E. Casey Foundation. We also refer to the Virginia Department of Social Services’ online information system here.

The newest numbers on child abuse in Northern Virginia report that more than 6,500 children were involved in valid cases of child abuse or neglect last year. We are committed to these children, and will continue to work in 2018 on both advocacy and prevention — and we hope you will too. (Perhaps 2018 is the year you join our Allies in Prevention Coalition!)

Please download our new Child Abuse in Northern Virginia fact sheet and refer to it in the coming year as we work together to protect children and prevent child abuse in 2018.


Helping the Helpers

Vicarious trauma. Compassion fatigue. Secondary traumatic stress. Burnout. These are all things that those of us working in helping professions experience. There are some similarities between the four but there are also many differences. Recently, over 80 “helpers” shared a day together, learning about everything from the basics of trauma to how to cope with the effects of the daily struggles we face working in such a vulnerable field. Knowing more about the environment we work in is half the battle to remaining balanced and effective.
  • Chrissy Cunningham, MSW the Prevention Coordination Specialist from the Fairfax County Department of Neighborhood and Community Services presented Trauma 101, emphasizing the importance of understanding trauma and the need for positive relationships to manage the effects of trauma.
  • Allyson Halverson BS, CCLS, CTP a Certified Child Life Specialist I at the Pediatrics Department of Inova Loudoun Hospital talked about the various traumas children are faced with in a hospital setting and how trauma can lead to fears and phobias into adulthood.
  • Lori Wolkoff, Victim Specialist – Washington Field Office and Barry E. Moore, Unit Chief, Child Victim Services Unit shared their experiences in the FBI Victims Assistance Program and the coordination and care needed for victims of varying traumas and experiences.
  • John Walker, Ph.D., LMFT with the Family Connections program at Loudoun County Department of Family Services ended the day with a humorous and vulnerable discussion on Compassion Fatigue.
For highlights of the day including links to speakers and resources, visit our Storify page here
We were able to provide this day-long workshop with funding from the Northern Virginia Health Foundation and through support of the members of our Resilient Children, Resilient Loudoun team.
If we don’t Help the Helpers, then how can they help anyone else?
–Tracy Leonard, Public Education Coordinator tleonard(at)

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.)