The General Assembly is now in session, and we’ll be closely following the legislative issues affecting children and families in Virginia. For a helpful list of strategies to best advocate for children, explore our recent Advocacy Day recap. Today we’re also sharing this excellent post from Voices for Virginia’s Children; their Northern Virginia consultant Mary Beth Testa offers excellent insight and inspiration for legislators to work this year with a focus on building resilience and understanding the impact of trauma on children and families:
Written by Mary Beth Testa, Voices’ Northern Virginia consultant
Research shows that chronic, severe stressors in childhood can cause toxic, traumatic biological responses to the developing brain, often with long-term consequences for health and wellness. Yet this research also tells us that responsive relationships with caregivers and strong community supports can buffer the effects of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), allowing children to develop to their potential.
ACEs are potentially traumatic events that can have negative, lasting effects on health and well-being. These experiences range from physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, to parental divorce or the incarceration of a parent or guardian. A growing body of research, based on the ground-breaking 1998 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kaiser Permanente study, has sought to quantify the prevalence of ACEs and illuminate their connection with negative behavioral and health outcomes, such as obesity, depression, and other chronic health conditions later in life.
ACEs do not have to dictate the future of the child. Children can thrive despite trauma in their lives.
A child’s first five years of life are the most critical period for brain development. Despite trauma, children are resilient and can thrive if the right supports are in place in their family and their community.
Voices for Virginia’s Children offers these recommendations to the General Assembly in 2018:
Promote trauma-informed best practices
Establish an interagency working group to evaluate the commonwealth’s policies and practices that address ACEs and promote resiliency. This working group should develop a state framework to implement evidence-based trauma-informed policy and practice and use it to help identify innovations, interventions, and resources to support resilient children and communities.
Create state-funded grants for local organizations that promote innovative trauma-informed care.
Continue supporting the Governor’s Children’s Cabinet
Maintain funding and staff support for the Governor’s Children’s Cabinet to ensure its continuance in the Northam administration. Established by Gov. Terry McAuliffe, the Children’s Cabinet is a cross-secretariat, multi-agency collaborative dedicated to developing and implementing a comprehensive policy agenda to promote the well-being of the commonwealth’s children from birth to age 21.
Please advocate with us to promote resilience and prevent trauma.
Download our fact sheet, which includes these recommendations and data we can use along with stories and experiences to highlight the urgency of action.
With the 2018 General Assembly Session just a month away, it’s a critical time for advocates to start speaking up for children and families in Northern Virginia. We recently hosted our 6th Annual “Speak Up for Children” Advocacy Day to help community members prepare. With generous support from Verizon, we welcomed Prevent Child Abuse Virginia and Voices for Virginia’s Children to help guide a day-long discussion of advocacy tactics, legislative updates and policy priorities for the year ahead.
PCAV’s Johanna Schuchert kicked off the training with an “Advocacy 101” segment – covering how the legislative process works and how to make sure your voice is heard during the process.
It was especially helpful to hear directly from legislators and staff – including Del. David Bulova, Delegate Mark Levine’s Chief of Staff Steven Marku, and Senator Jennifer Wexton – that they desperately want to hear from human service providers who are familiar with and passionate about current issues, including sexual misconduct in schools, substance-exposed infants and Erin’s Law.
“It’s so important for you to react to the issues that matter to you,” noted Del. Bulova. “Legislators are busy. We rely on you to inform us and work with us to make the best decisions.”
Part of advocacy is being aware of the scope of problems in the community. Voices’ Mary Beth Testa offered an excellent “State of the Child” presentation. She provided links to statistics—including the fact that 19% of children in Virginia have experienced 2+ traumatic experiences—that can also be found here.
3. Take Mary Beth’s action steps this month:
a. Call your Senators about reauthorizing #CHIP.
b. Sign the statement supporting Fairfax County’s effort to be a trauma-informed community.
c. Join Voices for a call on 12/19 to review governor’s budget proposal (more info below.)
NBC4 investigative reporter Scott MacFarlane and producer Rick Yarborough also joined the discussion to share their work covering sexual misconduct in local schools, with excellent insight from expert Dr. Charol Shakeshaft from Virginia Commonwealth University.
“The most important thing we can do to prevent child sexual abuse in schools is training,” noted Dr. Shakeshaft, “particularly boundary training to let adults know what it means to cross a line with a student, how it happens, and how to see it.”
5. Consider having SCAN provide child sexual abuse prevention training through our partnership with Darkness to Light. Learn more here.
Advocacy Day ended with a focus on substance exposed infants and legislative issues related to the crisis. Thanks to panel members from Inova Hospital, Fairfax County DFS, Loudoun MHSADS and the Fairfax Falls Church CSB, attendees (and legislators) left with both sobering statistics and renewed energy to take action on the issue.
“We are vastly underestimating the problem – and the impact – of substance exposed infants. It’s not just about substances passed on during pregnancy—it’s a question of ACEs, trauma and continued effects after bringing baby home.”
6. Learn more about the Voices Legislative Agenda – including substance exposed infants and trauma – in their webinar on Tuesday, December 19th at 1:00 PM. Simply bookmark THIS LINK and join the discussion next week!
For individuals committed to the well-being of Northern Virginia’s children and families, SCAN’s 6th Annual “Speak Up for Children” Advocacy Training event — made possible by Verizon — is a unique opportunity to learn more about a legislative process that impacts both how children and families receive care, as well as the institutions that deliver said care. In reviewing the legislative process and engaging with elected officials, Advocacy Day participants develop a better understanding of how to be an effective advocate for vulnerable children and families.
While Northern Virginia families face a variety of challenges, this year’s Advocacy Day highlights two key issues: Virginia’s need to reduce the incidence of substance exposed infants and closing the teacher licensing loophole in relation to child sexual abuse. Special guests will include:
By joining SCAN at Advocacy Day 2017, participants will be empowered to contribute to the collaborative message and region-wide efforts to support our community’s most vulnerable families and children.Register here.
(Be sure to follow the event on social media on 11/16 using #speakupforchildren!)
October 19, 2017–SCAN has announced its 6th annual “Speak Up for Children” Training for Virginia Advocates, which will take plan on November 16th in partnership with Prevent Child Abuse Virginia (PCAV) and Voices for Virginia’s Children. Made possible by support from Verizon, speakers will help demystify the legislative process and share strategies for being an effective advocate for children. Attendees will also hear from policy advocates and legislators as they discuss some of the 2018 General Assembly issues affecting vulnerable children and families. A BONUS training will take place at 8:30 a.m.: Advocacy 101 Training with PCAV.
Last month, SCAN hosted its 5th Annual Speak Up for Children Advocacy Training, bringing together more than 40 attendees for a day of public policy education and advocacy training. Partners from Prevent Child Abuse Virginia and Voices for Virginia’s Children along with a diverse group of child welfare experts and elected officials led discussions during the day-long, interactive workshop. The group discussed effective advocacy tactics at all levels; critical legislative updates; and policy priorities for the upcoming 2017 Virginia General Assembly session. The training was sponsored in part by Verizon, and volunteers from Boeing also supported promotion, planning and facilitation of the event.
Wondering what Advocacy Day attendees are going to do next? Here are some of the action items they plan to take in th ecoming months, and you can do them too:
Work towards having Erin’s Law passed in Virginia. Read an article on Erin’s Law, including comment from Advocacy Day guest Senator Jennifer Wexton, here.
Share advocacy information with others in your network. Voices for Virginia’s Children has some excellent 2017 Tools for Advocates available here.
Call, write and visit your legislators. Find out who your local legislators are here.
Support the families you serve in our programs. One way to support them is by finding creative ways to share their stories with your legislators!
Work with other organizations, across issues, to encourage more progress. Legislators told us again and again that the more cooperation and work they see behind an issue, the easier it is for them to bring attention to it! You can learn more about SCAN’s policy focus in the comine year here, and Prevent Child Abuse Virginia shares specific Bills they are following (along with many other useful advocacy tools!) here.
Thank your political representative for working on behalf of children. (See number 4 above.)
You can download an overview of Advocacy Day here, or visit SCAN’s Advocacy page on our website here for more resources from the day, including a Legislative Glossary, Intro to theVA General Assembly and a Self-Assessment tool!
Our Executive Director Sonia Quiñónez spent time meeting with Prevent Child Abuse Virginia and other regional affiliates this week. Much of the discussion focused on what’s next for children and families in the Commonwealth. We’ve blogged a few times this year about the General Assembly and what’s happening in Richmond.
Now that the dust has settled on the most recent session, it’s an important time to look at bills passed—and those that didn’t make it—as we begin talking with our partners like Voices for Virginia’s Children and thinking about how to best advocate for children and families next year. Check out this great infographic from the Virginia Public Access Project, and stay tuned for details on our plans for advocacy in 2017.
A number of state legislators participated in SCAN’s Advocacy Day, discussing many of the issues where progress was made in 2016.
This year’s General Assembly came to a close on March 11th, and it is important to give thanks to our elected officials who have worked diligently on behalf of Virginia’s children and youth. Back in January at the start of the legislative session, SCAN focused on three issues: early childhood education, kinship care, and foster care and youth. It is very exciting to be able to say that Fostering Futures has been included in the 2016 budget and the General Assembly made a significant expansion of home visiting programs & additional investments in the Virginia Preschool Initiative (VPI).
Even if there were not a lot of headlines, or committee hearings, on early childhood this session we are pleased to see that the groundswell of support from champions cultivated by the early childhood community over the last few years has translated into support for comprehensive investments in early childhood. We also know that we will keep early childhood policy on the radar in the coming weeks and months because of the various groups that will be asked to weigh in on policy recommendations in the future.
Below is the progress we made during the 2016 General Assembly Session:
Significant expansion of home visiting parent and health education services- The final budget includes additional TANF funding- an additional $9.5 M for Healthy Families, $2 M for CHIP and $2 M for Resource Mothers over the biennium. This funding more than doubles the current Healthy Families funding.
Increase to early intervention (Part C) services to keep pace with referrals– The legislature accepted the Governor’s proposal to increase state funds for early intervention by $1.7 M in FY17 and $2.5 M in FY18.
Increase to VPI per pupil amount- Along with repurposing lottery funds to have more flexibility in the K-12 funding formula, the legislature recognized that the VPI per pupil amount had not increased since 2008 and recommended a 2% increase. The rate will change from $6,000 per pupil to $6,125. This equates to an additional $2.8 M over the biennium.
Statewide eligibility criteria for VPI with local flexibility– The legislature accepted the Governor’s proposal to establish a statewide income eligibility below 200% of poverty while allowing states to enroll up to 15% of their VPI students above the income cut-off if they met locally established risk factors.
New mixed-delivery preschool grant pilots– The legislature accepted the Governor’s proposal and approved a companion piece of legislation (HB47- Greason) to establish a two-year pilot of $1.5 M each year for testing new approaches for public-private preschool partnerships. We hope to see more of the successes we highlighted in our Preschool Partnership Stories from Alexandria and Fairfax.
Child Care Workforce Scholarships- The legislature recommended $600,000 the first year and $1.3 M the second for the creation of scholarships and a competency-based credentialing system through VECF.
A total of $25.4 M in new investments in early childhood education over the biennium…
[Read the full blog post from Voices for Virginia’s Children here.]
We hope you’ll take the time to thank your elected official for the progress made! Here is an example of what you can say:
The Honorable [Elected Official’s Name]
Address City, State, Zip
Dear [Elected Official],
I am writing to thank you for your support of Virginia’s children, youth, and families. Because of your support Virginia’s children and youth have a greater opportunity to grow up with the supports they need to contribute to stronger communities today and as adults tomorrow.
Virginia State Capitol (PHOTO: Ava Reaves, 2015) Source: wtvr.com
Every January, the Virginia General Assembly convenes, and this year children’s issues are once again at the forefront of many discussions. The three main agenda items SCAN will be focusing on in 2016 are early education, foster care and youth, and kinship care. A significant development this year that has the potential to greatly impact children, youth and families in Virginia is Governor McAuliffe’s announcement at the joint money committee of his biennial budget, which included support for early childhood education.
Bills that have been introduced in the legislature that pertain to these issues include:
Early Education and Child Care
A major focus of this year’s agenda is the Virginia Preschool Initiative (VPI) and other aspects of early education. The bills listed below cover a range of issues from early education and childcare providers to providing funding for a mixed delivery approach, which is a major component to reforming VPI.
Click on the following links to track related bills:
HB 46: Establishes an Early Education Workforce Committee
HB 47: Funds for a mixed delivery preschool program
HB 242: Removes the requirement for local communities to provide matching funds to qualify for VPI funds
HB 500: Requires national background checks for day care providers and anyone living in the home of a day care provider
SB 269: Replaces the requirement that 2 members of the State Board of Social Services represent stand-alone child care center that meets state standards and a religiously exempt child care center
Foster Care and Youth
Reforming Foster Care has been a large part of SCAN’s policy agenda, and was recently addressed at SCAN’s Advocacy Day 2015. In the upcoming General Assembly, Virginia lawmakers have introduced bills surrounding issues of expansion of foster care services and maintaining records.
Click on the following links to track related bills:
HB 81: Expand time frame for maintain foster care records until age 22.
HB 203: Extends foster care services for children 18-21.
HB 271: Parenting time; replaces “visitation” in statutory language.
Both of the bills introduced this year work towards amending and reenacting exiting laws referring to Kinship Care. (What is Kinship Care? Learn more here.) The third item is a study commissioned to have a better understanding of the feasibility in lessening the restrictions of barrier crimes in order to promote kinship foster care and adoptive placements while ensuring that they are a safe placement for children.
Click on the following links to track related bills:
September was Kinship Care month and also the first annual Kinship Symposium sponsored by the Northern Virginia Kinship Group. And like all other awareness months, it is more than that to those 2.7 million children that are cared for by relatives and close family friends.
What is kinship care? Child Welfare Information Gateway defines it as “the care of children by relatives or, in some jurisdictions, close family friends (often referred to as fictive kin).” There are certainly benefits of kinship care: children placed in kinship care maintain a family connection and a sense of belonging and self-worth. And there are also challenges. Those challenges include complicated family relationships, a lack of resources and legal services, accessing medical care and enrolling children in school, as well as general anxiety over social services and systems that should be helping the child. (Heidi Redlich, Director of Kinship Care Policy, ABA Center on Children and the Law.)
When service providers are more aware of the challenges and how to effectively tackle them head on with the family, then the child has an even greater chance of thriving within the kinship care situation and their chances of entering foster care are reduced. According to Dr. Joseph Crumbley, LCSW, service providers should address the following with the families:
Child Rearing Practices
Stress Management/Physical Limitations
Bonding and Attachment
Anger and Resentment
Morbidity and Mortality
This is definitely an area in which a greater understanding is developing and those who work with children and advocate on behalf of children need greater exposure. Laws are changing as we realize the lack of financial support and legal rights these families have. Families that are trying to do right for children.
When SCAN moved its offices last month, one of the benefits was a new (larger) space for providing community trainings. As a staff, we started dreaming of the new ways this space could enlarge our circle of trained facilitators, volunteers and leaders.
Every time we train an adult, our children gain a connection that could make all the difference.
Tomorrow SCAN will participate in Spring2Action, a 24-hour online fundraiser in Alexandria, to raise funds that will allow us to continue (and grow) our training programs. We’ll also open the new Carol Cleary Community Training Room at our first Open House since moving. It’s a moment we’ve long been waiting for, and for good reason — we have bold dreams for this space. Expanded trainings will give us opportunities to:
Train people to PREVENT child abuse before it starts: Last year, SCAN reached hundreds of parents through our parenting classes and support groups. With a focus on building support networks and teaching nurturing skills, our Parent Education Program uses trainings to prepare volunteers to work with families as well as parent leaders to facilitate groups, grow trust among parents and build connections for kids and parents in their own communities.
Train people to STOP child sexual abuse: Since 2012, SCAN has trained more than 600 adults using the Stewards of Children program from Darkness to Light. Our goal is to educate and empower adults to understand their responsibility to protect children from sexual abuse, and then to recognize, react and respond to it in our community.
Train people to ADVOCATE for abused and neglected children: When an abused or neglected child enters the court system, SCAN’s Alexandria/Arlington CASA Program provides a trained volunteer to advocate on his or her behalf. This powerful program gives a voice to the child through a volunteer who is extensively trained to focus exclusively on the child’s wellbeing and best interests.
Trainings like these take space. They take time and supplies and staff support. They take incredible volunteers and people willing to attend. And they are worth every ounce of effort. We know that the people walking out of our trainings — from parent educators to “Stewards of Children” to CASA volunteers — gain the knowledge to prevent and stop abuse, or the power to speak up on behalf of children already suffering the effects of abuse and neglect.
This one room has given us the capacity to train more people, to protect more children, to impact an even wider circle of our community.
There is true power in educating and empowering more individuals in the prevention of child abuse and neglect. And it can start with just one room. And people like you.