Today 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.
Guest blogger Adam Robe, MSW, is the CEO of Foster Care Alumni of America (FCAA). In April, FCAA co-located its national offices with SCAN’s location in Alexandria.
Every year there are over 25,000 teenagers and young adults that “age-out” of the foster care system. This transition to life outside of foster care can be an exciting time for them, but can also be overwhelming, scary, and stressful. An alumnus of the foster care system may not have developed meaningful connections to help them on their journey, and not know who they can turn to for help and support. They may resist seeking out previous contacts they had within the foster care system because they fear that they may be required to go back into the “system” in order to receive help or support. Or they may not know what services are available to them, which may cause them to struggle to gain footing once they leave foster care.
Foster Care Alumni of America (FCAA) is a national membership organization that provides support and encouragement, personal and professional development training, mentoring and coaching, resource education, and encourages alumni to use their voices to make changes to the foster care system. We currently have 17 chapters in 17 different states across the country. Our chapters provide many opportunities for alumni (and our allies), to find support and opportunities to give back to their communities. During the month of May, many of our chapters hosted family reunions within their state. Our family reunions allow members to come together and to feel a part of our family; and to bring awareness to foster care issues during Foster Care month.
FCAA believes that it is important for public and private agencies to work together to ensure the well-being of children and families. In March, SCAN of Northern Virginia graciously agreed to share their office space with us and because we value the work that they do, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to be associated with their organization. Through our association, we look forward to future opportunities to enhance and support one another’s missions.
If you are interested in learning more about FCAA and how you can get involved, you can visit our website at www.fostercarealumni.org. If you work with teens and young adults who are getting ready to transition from foster care and could use additional support and connections, please send them our way. If you would like to support a local chapter or our national efforts, we’d love to talk with you.
We invited guest blogger Leana Katz to share her thoughts with us this month after celebrating Mother’s Day with her two young children. Leana is a volunteer with SCAN’s Alexandria/Arlington CASA Program, and while raising her own children has also given the precious gift of time and a voice to advocate for five others.
I became a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteer the same year that I became a mom. In fact, March 2007–the month of my swearing-in ceremony–was also the month I got pregnant with my first child. As I’ve journeyed further into motherhood, I’ve gone from a freshly trained CASA with no experience to having successfully worked four cases through completion in the Arlington County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court system. Now on my fifth case, I’ve advocated for children who have been neglected, abandoned and abused.
I got my first case soon after I became pregnant; it involved an infant who was eventually adopted by her foster mother. As my own daughter grew inside me, I was moved by the foster mother’s dedication and love. And, moreover, her trust in a system that ultimately resulted in – but never guaranteed – adoption. When my daughter was born later that year, I was moved thinking back to the patience that foster mother must have had awaiting her daughter’s adoption. I had come to love the baby growing inside me before her birth and I thought about how as a foster mother, she had cared for and loved that baby even before she knew adoption would be a possibility and that she would become her daughter permanently.
As my daughter turned from a baby into a toddler, I was given a case with a child almost the exact same age as my daughter – not yet two-years-old. That child, too, was eventually adopted and once again I marveled at the foster parents’ ability to care for and love a child not knowing how long he would live with them, whether or not he would be returned to his biological parents, or someday be open for adoption.
I gave birth to my second daughter in September 2011 and last summer I began working on my fifth and current case. Once again, it involves a child just two months younger than my second daughter.
I was drawn to do CASA work because of some experiences in my own childhood, but I continue doing it because I believe each and every child is valuable and precious. Each and every child deserves to grow up in a loving, safe and predictable environment. My own childhood was often not ideal, and I have worked hard to provide my two daughters (now five and twenty-months) with that positive environment.
Not all children are so fortunate.
I am dedicated to helping these children because no child can choose whom they are born to, or in what kind of environment they grow up. However, as an adult and as a mother, I’m in a special position to understand just how important these things are for a child. I can choose to help these children and the adults that care for them. I can choose to take steps to help ensure that their future is brighter and their lives happier. I am so grateful for that choice, and for an organization like SCAN where I can put my beliefs into action.
One of the best ways to prevent abuse and neglect is through home visiting programs for new parents. There are many different programs, with varying levels of research evidence. These in-home programs pair trained nurses or paraprofessionals with new parents to help them develop parenting skills, access community resources and ensure their children are safe and thriving. Virginia communities offer many different home visiting models.
One of the most effective programs for preventing child abuse and neglect is the Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP). NFP pairs low-income, first-time mothers with a trained public health registered nurse beginning in the second trimester of pregnancy and lasting through a child’s second birthday. Several high-quality, randomized control studies show that abuse and neglect can be cut in half among children whose mothers participate in NFP, compared to children whose mothers are left out. Children whose mothers participate are also less likely to later become involved in crime. Participating mothers have better prenatal health and are less likely to have closely spaced births than mothers left out. The first NFP program in Virginia was launched in 2012, thanks to federal Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program funding.
Another nationally established program, Healthy Families, can also improve outcomes for young children and their families. Healthy Families Virginia works throughout the state to promote positive parenting, improve child health, promote responsive parent-child interaction, and prevent child abuse and neglect among pregnant women and families of children under age 5. The most recent Virginia data show that over 90 percent of participating families received recommended prenatal care, were delivered at an appropriate birthweight, were connected to medical providers and were immunized. The FY 2011 statewide rate of confirmed cases of child abuse and neglect among program participants was only 0.7 percent, a very low rate for such a high risk population.
SafeCare is an example of a home visiting program that can help families who have already had an incidence of abuse and neglect or are deemed at a very high risk. A high-quality, randomized statewide study in Oklahoma found that adding SafeCare to the state’s existing child welfare in-home service program helped prevent repeat abuse. SafeCare reduced reports for neglect and abuse by about 26 percent compared to the same in-home services without SafeCare for parents of children ages 0-5. Few programs have had success with families with a history of abuse, making these results even more impressive. SafeCare does not yet operate in Virginia.
These are only a few of the many program models that can help Virginia families thrive and keep their children safe from abuse and neglect. Since 2006, the Virginia Home Visiting Consortium has been improving the quality, efficiency and effectiveness of early childhood home visiting services in the state.
Today’s guest blogger is Kim Fiske, a longtime supporter and current Board Member of SCAN. Kim’s perspective on SCAN’s change and growth over the years is valuable, but it’s her personal connections and networking that we find especially uplifting. She is an individual who has put her heart into her commitment to SCAN on many levels, and we’re so glad she’s sharing a plea to make SCAN “personal” with our readers today:
This is an exciting year for SCAN – we are celebrating 25 years of helping vulnerable children and educating our community. During this year we are taking some time to review our accomplishments and growth (see a timeline of our history here) while looking forward to new ways to engage with the community (see information about our upcoming 1st Croquet Day here).
One accomplishment I am particularly proud of is the Allies in Prevention Luncheon. Eleven years ago, SCAN launched this event to thank and celebrate those who work every day to protect children and support families in Northern Virginia. Many contribute to make the event special, including hosts like ABC7’s Leon Harris, keynote speakers (learn more about past speakers here) and our long time Campaign Sponsor Verizon, often represented at the luncheon by our friend Doug Brammer.
Each year, we honor five individuals who have gone above and beyond to prevent child abuse and neglect in their communities, but everyone in that room is a hero. The work they do is emotionally difficult; I often wonder how they can keep on going day after day. This year we asked past award winners what inspires them to continue their work in prevention. Some shared stories of a single child’s success making it all worth it. Others noted that sincere gratitude from families they serve proved motivational. And several respondents said they were inspired by the work of others – their colleagues and members of their community.
That last response made me think about the many people who have told me they volunteered with or donated to SCAN because of a single person. Because of Dave Cleary, our founder. Or because of Jason Osser, a board member. Or Sonia Quiñónez, our executive director. People are inspired by the works and actions of people they know and respect. Members of my book club, friends, employees and even clients have become involved with SCAN in one way or another because they have heard me talking about my personal involvement with the organization over the years.
Think about that as April – Child Abuse Prevention Month – draws to a close. Someone might be inspired by YOU and YOUR actions this month.
So I challenge you to get personal with SCAN today. Share a volunteer experience. Tell someone that you made a donation. The impact you have will be very personal for the children and families in our programs. I can promise you that.
Today’s guest blog post comes from SCAN’s Council of Young Professionals, an energetic group of 20- and 30-something-year-old volunteers getting ready to make a big impact in April for National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Thanks to Meghan Tuttleand Angela Walter for contributing to this special post!
The Alexandria/Arlington CASA Program provides trained volunteers appointed by the court to serve as a direct voice for children in the juvenile court system. Our hope is that the stuffed animals may provide some comfort to children who are involved in court proceedings as well as other difficult times throughout the process. Many times children served by the CASA Program have to wait for long periods of time in court for their individual proceedings to begin. The books will provide them with a good, constructive way to pass the time.
The most important thing about this drive is being able to provide a little comfort and entertainment to children in need. We all have old childhood books on our shelves that we can donate to this cause. Nemo, giant zebras, and cuddly teddy bears can bring a smile to a child’s face when they need it most. Let’s celebrate this special month of awareness by bringing a little joy into the hearts of CASA children.
It’s just one way CYP is giving back during the month of April, and you can be a part of this effort too! Drop off a new book or stuffed animal at local businesses like Whole Foods in Alexandria and Los Toltecos restaurants in the area. More details regarding additional drop-box locations will be announced soon (be sure to follow SCAN on Facebook for updates!) – in the meantime, feel free to bring your donations to SCAN.
Thank you for your support! We’ll build hope for children one book and one stuffed animal at a time.
This week we welcome Senator Barbara Favola to the blog! A longtime supporter of our issues and a SCAN Honorary Board Member, we’re thrilled that she’s giving us an important update following the end of Virginia’s legislation session last month.
The 2013 General Assembly legislative session ended last week and it was a whirlwind. Senate Democrats held together and got a commitment from Governor McDonnell to participate in the Medicaid Expansion Program after certain reforms are in place.
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Py8G_hZO6E&feature=youtu.be]Expanding Medicaid would enable up to 400,000 working Virginians gain access to health care coverage and this expansion would also create some 30,000 jobs.
The Governor’s commitment in this area helped me and 16 other Democrats vote for a comprehensive Transportation Funding Plan that wasn’t perfect but it was good.
Two of my foster care bills are on their way to the Governor’s desk. One of these bills enables foster youth between the ages of 18 and 21 who are released from the Department of Juvenile Justice to access Independent Living Services. The other is a joint resolution that directs the Department of Social Services to conduct a study on foster care and adoption assistance payments for individuals up to 21 years of age. Federal dollars are available to fund extended subsidies but Virginia is not accessing these dollars.
Thank you for the advocacy that many of you demonstrated in support of my legislative efforts to protect children and families. I look forward to providing you with periodic updates on Virginia’s participation in the Medicaid Expansion program.
Senate of Virginia
31st District About Senator Favola:
Senator Barbara A. Favola represents Virginia’s 31st district, which includes parts of Arlington and Fairfax counties, and a portion of Loudoun County.
She served on the Arlington County Board for fourteen years (1997-2011) and chaired that body three times. During her service with the County, Senator Favola was the Board’s leading advocate for children, youth and families, and her contributions to the community include establishing mental health services in the public schools.
Throughout her public life she has been a vigorous supporter of universal human rights.
In the Virginia Senate, Barbara is focusing her legislative efforts on public safety, women’s reproductive rights, health care expansion, K-12 education funding, social services, foster children and domestic violence issues. She is also dedicated to environmental stewardship and maintaining the ban on uranium mining. Senator Favola serves on Virginia’s Senate Local Government Committee, Rehabilitation and Social Services Committee, and Transportation Committee. She is now the Chair of the Women’s Reproductive Health Caucus.
In 2012, Senator Favola was given a 100% rating from the Virginia League of Conservation Voters and NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia for her efforts during the legislative session to support the environment and women’s rights, respectively. She also received the Virginia Peters Nonprofit Friend of the Year Award from the Housing Association of Nonprofit Developers (HAND). Senator Favola was appointed to the Executive Board of the Women’s Legislative Network of NCSL (National Conference of State Legislators) as the Democratic Representative for the Southern Region.
Senator Favola and her husband Douglas Weik have been residents of Arlington and the 31st district since 1982. Their son, Donald P. Weik, is a senior at George Mason University.
Our guest blogger today is Ana Lucia Lico, a member of SCAN’s Board whose story with SCAN actually begins in a parenting class more than five years ago, as a mother searching for support and resources to raise her young children. In addition to her role on the Board, Ana is a member of SCAN’s 25th Anniversary Planning Committee. This post is the first in a year-long series celebrating SCAN and its quarter century of work to prevent child abuse and support parents.
SCAN is celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2013. While that’s certainly a celebratory reminder of a history full of accomplishments, it also presents us with an opportunity to reflect on how we’ve impacted the lives of children and families over a quarter century! There isn’t a sufficient way to quantify or measure all that SCAN has done, so we’d like to invite you to take a different look at this milestone for SCAN:
What would you wish for a 25-year old?
Since its launch, SCAN has worked to ensure children have the nurturing, safety and permanency they need to grow into healthy, happy adults. As we celebrate our own first 25 years, we’ve compiled a list of 25 wishes for every child in Northern Virginia to have by their own 25th birthdays. By 25, we hope every child will:
1. Know unconditional love from parents and caregivers
2. Recognize and honor the importance of family and friends
3. Have self-confidence and self-awareness
4. Feel a desire to live well and happily
5. Have solid self-esteem
6. Be courageous enough to learn from mistakes and limitations
7. Show respect
8. Experience self-sufficiency
9. Be empathetic
10. Show kindness and caring to all
11. Feel purposeful in pursuing life goals and dreams
12. Be responsible
13. Be ethical
14. Feel a connection to the community and the world around them
15. Hope for their future and their children’s future
16. Have a sense of safety
17. Care for their own emotional and physical well being
18. Feel secure
19. Be positive and optimistic
20. Make and maintain healthy relationships with healthy people
21. Be a risk-taker
22. Picture moving towards a career or a plan to use their talents
23. Understand the power to make choices and recognize that those choices have consequences, but can be changed and re-framed
24. Have faith in the community’s ability to meet their needs and not be afraid to ask for help
25. Wish to make a difference in the world
That’s SCAN’s vision. What’s YOUR vision for the future of the children around you? What will YOU do to help children today so they can achieve as much of that as possible by the time they turn 25?
I hope you’ll share your own wishes in the comments section below.
Today’s guest blogger is Christine Calpin, a member of SCAN’s Board of Directors and Chair of its Legislative & Advocacy Committee. With SCAN’s most ambitious year of advocacy ahead of us, she shares valuable updates on our policy agenda as well as ways SCAN supporters can learn more and stay involved in 2013.
It’s nice to know these days that there are issues that Congress and the President can agree on – and those issues impact our most vulnerable children.
Earlier this month, the President signed the Uninterrupted Scholars Act which ensures that caseworkers and others involved in advocating for youth in foster care have quick access to their education records. Children in foster care are moved from home to home, and therefore school to school much more often than other children. Luckily, there now will be fewer obstacles during this time to be sure they don’t fall behind in school.
The President also signed the Protect our Kids Act which creates a Commission to study data on child fatalities from abuse and neglect and offer recommendations on how to reduce these fatalities. It’s estimated that every day, 4 children in this country die from abuse or neglect. Even more distressing, many believe this number underreports the extent of these tragedies. I know that I join many who hope this Commission offers critical answers to how we can better protect the children in our communities.
Despite this progress, more must be done and everyone must do their part to advocate for our children. I am honored to be part of SCAN’s efforts to ensure that every child in Northern Virginia thrives and succeeds. Our 2013 policy agenda highlights our biggest priority – that every child has the right to grow up in a safe, permanent home. SCAN will advocate and educate for policies at the federal, state and local levels that:
support and nurture parents;
protect and support the healthy development of children; and
are aligned with family-centered practices.
I sincerely hope you join us in these efforts.
Not sure how to raise your voice? You can find your VA state delegate and senator here. Let them know these policies are your priority as well. And, be sure to stay in touch with SCAN (subscribe to our eNews here or follow us on Facebook here) to continue to learn about important ways you can help us make a difference.
Today’s guest blog comes from SCAN’s Council of Young Professionals (CYP), a group of volunteers working together to support SCAN’s mission and engage new members of the community in SCAN’s work. To learn more about the CYP and how you can get involved, email SCAN’s Development Director Karen Price at email@example.com.
There’s no underestimating the power of volunteerism to support SCAN’s critical work protecting and advocating for children in our community. The Council of Young Professionals (CYP), formed this past summer, provides an excellent opportunity for professionals under age 40 to support SCAN’s mission while building their personal and professional networks.
The CYP harnesses the diverse expertise of its members – hailing from fields like politics, marketing, public health, education, retail, advocacy and others– to extend SCAN’s reach in the community. With 15 members and growing, the CYP is able to enrich all areas of SCAN’s work through three core committees:
Program Services Committee: This committee focuses on assisting SCAN in implementing its community-based activities. This month, CYP members are helping to collect, label, organize and deliver gifts donated through BJ’s Angel Tree program (pictured above).
Fundraising Committee: Because financial support is critical to sustaining SCAN’s impact, the CYP has an entire committee devoted to development, including planning and implementing an annual fundraising event. In May 2013, the CYP will host SCAN’s inaugural Croquet Day. Stay tuned for more details and start practicing now!
Outreach Committee: The outreach committee works to identify and retain CYP members through traditional and social media as well as through social events like happy hours and group outings. Over the coming months, SCAN supporters can expect to see Facebook and blog posts courtesy of CYP members sharing new ways to get involved and our passion for SCAN’s work.
The CYP has hit the ground running in its first few months, and we continue to grow! We are reviewing applications from creative, enthusiastic individuals under age 40 from a variety of professional backgrounds. The current commitment is a few hours a month, including attendance at a bimonthly meeting, and members are expected to serve a term of at least one year. If you’ve been thinking about getting more involved in SCAN’s work, or know friends and family members looking to give back to our community, please connect with the CYP today. For more information, please email SCAN’s Development Director Karen Price at firstname.lastname@example.org.