April 6, 2017 – SCAN of Northern Virginia announced the 2017 winners of its annual Allies in Prevention Awards, an annual honor given to community members for exceptional work protecting children and strengthening families in five regions of Northern Virginia. The awards were presented by SCAN and its Allies in Prevention Coalition at a luncheon to kick-off National Child Abuse Prevention Month. ABC7’s Scott Taylor emceed this year’s event, which included a keynote address by Dr. Christina Johns. Special guest Delegate Tag Greason presented the 2017 awards to:
Theodore Jones & James Moore | Alexandria
Children in Alexandria have looked to Teddy Jones and Chucky Moore as a constant source of guidance, strength and compassion for more than thirty years. Both honorees are counselors in Alexandria City Public Schools–Mr. Jones at Francis Hammond Middle School and Mr. Moore at TC Williams High School–as well as counselors at Charles Houston Recreation Center. Over three decades, they have established and supported life-changing programs such as the Peer Advisor Program; the Untouchables, a group mentoring program for young men; and Young Successful Stories, a mentoring program for minorities. Their focus on building relationships with children while also building up those children has resulted in both strong relationships with students and–ultimately–strong young citizens in the community.
Mr. Jones and Mr. Moore are able to reach youth where they are with safe, unconditional support, forming connections with students as well as their families. Parents trust them to be mentors for their children, but also look to them as role models for their own actions as adults. In fact, Mr. Jones’ and Mr. Moore’s work often leads to more positive, healthy communication between children and parents at home, a significant protective factor against child abuse and neglect.
Their nominator Noraine Buttar notes that many former students are now raising their own children and are thrilled for them to experience some of the same programs with Mr. Jones and Mr. Moore: “The fact that generations of the same families have passed through their programs and seen positive life outcomes gives testament to the work they did–and continue to do–to prevent child abuse.”
Marcella Rustioni | Arlington
Marcella Rustioni is the primary forensic interviewer for Arlington’s Children’s Advocacy Center, orCAC. In this critical role speaking to children after accusations of abuse and neglect, her work is the foundation for the investigations, prosecutions and protections that may follow. It’s also quite often the first step in healing for children and families involved in the trauma. Ms. Rustioni approaches this intense responsibility with both respect for the process and a deep care for the children she interviews. Before coming to the CAC, Ms. Rustioni was a CPS worker in North Carolina, and more recently trained as a forensic interviewer with Safe Shores, the CAC in Washington, DC.
“Our CAC team has been amazed every day for the last 12 years as we observe parents and children relax and share their painful stories for the record,” notes Rustioni’s nominator Laura Ragins, Clinical Supervisor for Arlington County Child and Family Services Division and Director of the Arlington CAC.
In addition to her direct work with victims, Ms. Rustioni devotes significant time to educating others as a faculty member and instructor for the ChildFirst Forensic Interview Training Program and as a trainer for Darkness to Light’s child sexual abuse prevention curriculum. She has written most of the Arlington CAC’s policies and protocols, enabling it to pass the National Children’s Alliance accreditation process twice to date.
“She has touched the lives of thousands of children in a profound way,” notes Ragins, “and she is extraordinarily committed to the awesome responsibility of giving these young victims a voice.”
Rustioni was not present to accept her award, but her supervisor accepted it on her behalf at an awards luncheon this month.
Nannette Bowler, Director of Fairfax County DFS | Fairfax
Nannette Bowler is the Director of the Fairfax County Department of Family Services and sits on the Board of Directors for Fairfax CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates). Since coming to Fairfax County in 2008, she has led with a powerful vision that focuses on the greater community while empowering staff to recognize and engage strengths in the individual families they serve.
Ms. Bowler has worked to create an exceptional team within the Department, with members who are approachable and willing to collaborate. “There is no ‘us against them’ mentality,” notes her nominator Darcy Cunningham, Executive Director of Fairfax CASA. “Nannette embraces collaboration.” She has been pivotal in creating progressive and innovative programs within DFS including leadership academies, training new workers in cohorts, Neighborhood Networks, and the Father Engagement Program.
Before coming to Fairfax County in 2008, Bowler was chief judge of the Family Division for the 8th Judicial Circuit in Ionia County, Michigan. As head of the Michigan Family Independence Agency and a member of the governor’s Cabinet, Bowler directed 22 programs, including child welfare, juvenile delinquency, adult protective services, self-sufficiency, and disabilities. She previously served as executive director of the Chance at Childhood: Law and Social Work Initiative at Michigan State University, and was also co-founder and executive director of the Children’s Law Center and legal counsel/executive director to the Michigan lieutenant governor’s Commission on Children, which culminated in the passage of 21 bills in the house and senate involving all aspects of child welfare.
100 Women Strong | Loudoun County
In 2008, a group of concerned citizens in Loudoun County started 100WomenStrong in an effort to leverage their combined philanthropic resources to serve their most vulnerable neighbors. By 2009, the group was making its first grants to local nonprofits.
Since then, this relatively small group of women – now 30 members – has invested more than one million dollars in their community. Much of that investment has made a significant impact on child abuse prevention initiatives and programs that help to build and promote resilience in families at-risk for child abuse, health issues and homelessness.
“100WomenStrong has made a unique difference by truly understanding the importance of investing in quality services that help families build protective factors,” notes Nicole Acosta from the Loudoun Abused Women’s Shelter, who nominated the group. “That is what will ultimately prevent child abuse in our community.”
The organization’s goal is to reach 100 members in the near future, making it the premier philanthropic group for giving within the County. Even now, the depth and breadth of 100WomenStrong’s impact in Loudoun is clearly demonstrated by the list of programs and projects they have supported, touching the lives of hundreds if not thousands of children and families in our community every year.
Of special note are the efforts of Karen Schaufeld, notes the nominator. One of the original founders and current Chair of the organization, Karen’s vision, leadership and compassion for her Loudoun neighbors in need has been instrumental in empowering dozens of other members to embrace a renewed generosity and shared vision to impact their community.
Elizabeth Young | Prince William County
Betsy Young is the Supervisor of School Social Workers for Prince William County Schools. In 2010 she brought twenty years of experience as a substance abuse counselor, mental health therapist and social worker to lead the large group of social workers who serve the more than 90,000 students in a fast-changing, increasingly diverse school district.
“Betsy takes on new challenges with a vengeance,”notes her nominator, Jo Anne Renton with the Child Protection Partnership. “She sees roadblocks as opportunities to find new routes to solutions.”
One of those challenges presented itself in 2012, when Sex Trafficking was becoming a more urgent issue in Prince William County. In a time of tight budgets and limited staff resources, she pursued a grant to address the issue of Sex Trafficking, making PWCS the first school district in the Commonwealth of Virginia to provide a comprehensive human trafficking prevention program.
Ms. Young’s gift for identifying key partners and developing partnerships that work soon became essential. When she knew the schools couldn’t effectively run the project alone, she enrolled law enforcement and social service agencies–both public and private–to participate. Since the program began in 2013, PWCS has identified 162 students who are on the continuum of exploitation and over 440 students have requested assistance or follow-up with a Social Worker. Victims are receiving services through community partners, enabling them to continue their education.
“I don’t know what project Betsy will think of next,” notes Renton. “But I do know that the teens in Prince William County are safer and healthier because she has chosen to work in our community.”
“An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
This will be the 15th year we celebrate the heroes who work passionately for the children, families and communities of Northern Virginia. Who will we honor this April (during National Child Abuse Prevention Month) with a 2017 Ally in Prevention Award? That’s up to you!
Nominations are now open: please submit a nomination for someone in your community who is “rising above” in their efforts to prevent child abuse, support parents or strengthen families. Who can SCAN’s Allies in Prevention Coalition lift up with this honor? Who can we celebrate as a true leader? Who is someone who sets an example for all of us in the way they protect children and put their community first?
How does it feel to be a kid in today’s world? How can we help children and teens manage new 21st-century realities — from the impact of online bullying to LGBTQ issues to the tragedy of rising suicide rates among youth? Earlier this month, we gathered in Arlington to discuss this new “Culture of Kids” with our Allies in Prevention Coalition.
Ask kids about their support network. (Explain what it means to have a support network, if they don’t know.) Who would they go to if they needed help? What is the best way to get in touch with those connections? Kids should be aware of and think through this network before a crisis occurs. EXPERT TIP:Identify trusted adults. It doesn’t have to be a parent – help them brainstorm possible contacts.
When it comes to bullying, peer training is key. Bullying prevention programs that include peer training – kids working with kids to model positive behaviors — are more successful and tend to increase parent involvement by linking families to community resources. EXPERT TIP:If online bullying is an issue and kids need help, there are some great resources for kids (and parents) at NCMEC’s NetSmartz.org
Gauge (and be sensitive to) every child’s safety level. When talking to youth, we must try to understand how safe they are in their home and in their greater community. (Neighborhood, school, etc.) For example, is it safe for a gay teenager to “come out” to her family? Her circle of friends? Her school community? Sensitivity when asking questions is also key: “Are you dating anyone?” is better than “Do you have a boyfriend/girlfriend?” Even intakes should be considered — instead of a simple “gender” it might work better to include “gender at birth; current gender.” EXPERT TIP: Post a rainbow or HRC (Human Rights Coalition) sticker in your workplace so LGBTQ youth recognize a person and/or space that could be helpful for them.
Don’t be afraid to have touch-point conversations with teens. And don’t be afraid to talk about difficult topics and open conversations around things like suicide: “Do you feel like hurting yourself?”, “Have you thought about killing yourself?” EXPERT TIP:Don’t talk about someone who “committed suicide” because it carries a note of guilt/crime. Instead, use “killed themselves” or “died by suicide.”
On April 5, 2016, SCAN presented the 2016 Allies in Prevention Awards. As National Child Abuse Prevention Month draws to a close, we know we’ll continue to be inspired by these heroes all year long, and we hope you will too!
Meet Tabitha Kelly, a mother and child welfare professional who passionately works to build resilience in children and families: “When I am met with a tough decision, I consider how I would act if this were my child; I want nothing less for them than I would want for my own.”
Meet Carlos Castro, who immigrated from El Salvador and then became a father and business owner in the U.S. He now makes the children in his community his responsibility, speaking up and connecting with children and young adults at risk for everything from gang involvement to the basic need for positive adult connections.
Meet Ellen Grunewald, a 25-year veteran of the child welfare profession. Today she looks back on a career spent building connections that have led to the creation of her community’s first child advocacy center and unprecedented cooperation among agencies that will change the lives of children in her community for generations to come.
Meet Burnette Scarboro, a child advocate committed to taking every opportunity to connect with parents in ways that will build up knowledge, confidence and capacity for nurturing connections in their families. Her personal commitment to her own children’s schools blossomed into remarkable child and parent advocacy in Northern Virginia, the greater Commonwealth and beyond.
Meet The Giving Circle, a remarkable group of women in Alexandria who turned an idea to make special donations to child-focused projects in their neighborhood into a half million-dollar, unprecedented investment in the future of their community.
Every spring, SCAN celebrates five individuals from each region of Northern Virginia at its annual Allies in Prevention Awards Luncheon. The award winners (there have been more than 60 since the awards began in 2003!) have come from all walks of life — from social workers and foster parents to judges and doctors — and each have made unique efforts to prevent child abuse and strengthen families in their communities and beyond.
This year, five more individuals were selected by a task force of SCAN’s Allies in Prevention Coalition and they are another remarkable group of heroes for children and families:
Laurie Meyer was the founding Team Leader for Alexandria’s Community Wraparound Team in the Department of Community and Human Services until 2014. For 24 years — she began as a social worker in 1990 — she provided incredible children’s behavioral health services for the most at-risk children in her community. The Community Wraparound Team she founded and her development of its programming have transformed how the city serves (and thinks about) its most at-risk families. “As far as I’m concerned,” noted one community partner, “Laurie is the center of Alexandria’s System of Care.” Studies note that whenever possible, the best place for children is in their community with family-driven and youth-led service plans. Laurie knew this, and worked with intense dedication to create a system of care that was best for the children. In 2008, Alexandria had 66 children in congregant care. Today, there are only six. “We recognize that without Laurie’s wisdom and leadership,” said her nominators, “this would not have been possible.” Even during personal illness, Laurie remained committed to the children and families of Alexandria. Last September, she passed away at the age of 53 leaving behind a husband and three daughters as well as many close family members and colleagues. But the children of Alexandria will be touched by Laurie’s work and compassion for generations to come.
Jennifer Landis-Santos is a Parent & Youth Workshop Facilitator, Program Coordinator and Mental Health Therapist for Arlington County. In that multi-faceted position she administers a grant from the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Families (which she won) to help the county provide parenting classes and other programs for youth and families, and also coordinates the Strengthening Families parenting program in Arlington. But her passionate commitment to children goes far beyond her work in Arlington. Jennifer also founded Career Definitions, a project which provides tools to help youth plan for future careers, stay connected with parents during the college application process and go on “Career Tours,” opportunites for students to see jobs up close in the DC area. Focused on positive interactons between children and parents, the initiative helps youth believe in themselves and strengthens families to provide support. “Jennifer’s dedication to serving families, generous commitment to helping children and her respect for ALL persons is reflected in the response the families have to her work and initiatives,” noted her nominator. Jennifer also sits on the board of HACAN (Hispanics Against Abuse and Neglect). She and her husband, Carmelo, have two young children.
Cheryl Keiper has witnessed some incredible changes in Fairfax County over the past three decades. Today she supervises the county’s Parent Education Programs, but her experience also includes work as a CPS caseworker and a Foster Care & Adoption specialist. Perhaps it’s those first experiences that ignited her passion for prevention through parent education. “I have never known anyone who believes in the importance and impact of parenting programs as strongly as Cheryl,” notes her nominator. For 16 years, Cheryl has managed a rapidly growing parent education program in the county. In 2000, the county offered 13 classes and reached 127 families. Last year, it was 40 classes reaching nearly 400 families! But it’s not just about numbers; Cheryl was committed to improving the programming for an increasingly diverse community. Under her leadership, the county added three African American Culture curricula, a variety of new targeted classes for specific parenting groups and Spanish-language classes. Cheryl’s belief in connections with families kept her facilitating classes even when she was managing the program, and when her workload grew she remained committed to visiting every class in person. Her work with faith-based organizations, community centers and schools also helped grow the program and provided a wonderful example of private-public collaboration. This May, Cheryl will retire after 39 years serving children and families, but her inspiration will continue to impact the program. “For Cheryl,“ notes her nominator, “serving families has not just been a job; it has been her passion.”
Donna Fortier has long been an active citizen in Loudoun County. But four years ago, she took a bold new step. While working as the Director of Community Affairs at Inova Loudoun Hospital, Donna became aware of a staggering statistic — though living in one of the nation’s richest counties, over 1,100 children were identified as precariously housed, homeless, or at risk. She immediately launched the Mobile Hope Program to improve access to care and break down service barriers, while working to meet the daily needs of this often “invisible” population. Donna soon left her position with Inova to focus on growing Mobile Hope, knowing that the program could forever impact at-risk youth in Loudoun County. “Donna’s passion to protect children is evident in everything she does,” notes her nominator. Last year Mobile Hope served more than 550 diverse youth every month in Loudoun County, distributing thousands of clothing and hygiene items as well as more than 11,000 meals and bags of food. In addition, Mobile Hope provides services that can reduce family stress. “Our job is to help these young people so they don’t become invisible,” notes Donna. “We strive to make their lives easier so they have an opportunity to succeed.”
Kristiana Poole is a Victim Advocate for Quantico Marine Base’s Family Advocacy Program (FAP), and in just three short years has made an incredible impact on both its programs and the families it serves. Bringing experiences from Child Protective Services and Empower House, where she was a community victim advocate, Kristiana now facilitates the highest number of groups ever offered by the FAP. In addition to workshops and classes, she is also the primary abuse prevention trainer for the base’s two Child Development Centers. Kristiana also piloted a SAFE Dates program for students last year, and has been instrumental in other programs for children including a psycho-educational group called Stepping Up to the Challenge and a REAL Talk for Girls Group. “Kristiana always presents as enthusiastic and flexible,” notes her nominator, “with a contagious positive attitude towards her duties.” Those duties have included everything from absorbing cases and on-call duties to organizing a training on human trafficking with Department of Homeland Security. During Kristiana’s work, Marine Corps Headquarters recognized Quantico FAP as leading the USMC in providing direct services to children.
So many of the people working in child abuse prevention are going above and beyond in their efforts with children, parents and families across Northern Virginia. The Allies in Prevention Awards are one small way we can celebrate and lift up the stories of those making the connections for children that are changing lives. We encourage professionals to stay connected with SCAN by joining our Allies in Prevention Coalition and using our Kids Need Connections campaign in their own communities.
With help from ABC7’s Leon Harris, SCAN honored five heroes for their work to prevent child abuse and support families in Northern Virginia at its 13th Annual Allies in Prevention Awards Luncheon on March 25, 2015. Honorees were selected by a task force of the Allies in Prevention Coalition from five jurisdictions across Northern Virginia and included: Jennifer Landis-Santos, a Parent & Youth Workshop Facilitator, Program Coordinator and Mental Health Therapist for Arlington County; Cheryl Keiper, Parent Education Program Supervisor for Fairfax County; Donna Fortier, Executive Director of Mobile Hope in Loudoun County; and Kristiana Poole, Victim Advocate for Quantico Marine Base’s Family Advocacy Program (FAP). In Alexandria, the honor was given in memoriam to Laurie Meyer, founding Team Leader for Alexandria’s Community Wraparound Team in the Department of Community and Human Services, who passed away in 2014. Her husband Robert Nash and daughter Rebecca Nash accepted the award on her behalf.
LaMar Henderson, MSW, LCISW, provided a passionate Keynote Address on his personal experiences with child abuse as well as his professional commitment to building life-changing connections for children. Sponsors of the event included Joe & Sara Carlin, Leana & Marc Katz, SpeedPro Imaging, Tim Stock and The Hon. George D. Varoutsos.
Learn more about the Allies in Prevention Awards — as well as more details about the 2015 honorees — on our blog here.