The Reality of Family Separation: Children, Trauma, and What We Do Next

As a leader in the prevention of child abuse and neglect in Northern Virginia, SCAN is dedicated to educating the community about the scope, nature, and consequences of child abuse and neglect. The separation of immigrant parents from their children after they have crossed the U.S. border “is a form of child abuse,” said Dr. Colleen Kraft, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics. SCAN is deeply concerned about the traumatic experiences immigrant children and their families are enduring as a result of this separation and the lasting effects this will have on these children’s health and development.

Trauma occurs when a person is overwhelmed by events or circumstances and responds with intense fear, horror, and helplessness. Potentially traumatic events can include separation from a loved one, surviving a war zone or refugee experience, enduring abuse and neglect, exposure to violence, or the effects of poverty. Children’s exposure to traumatic events and prolonged stress due to trauma can damage the developing brain of a child and lead to negative health outcomes in adulthood such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and cancer. Traumatic experiences can also lead to difficulty learning, impaired memory, poor attachments, difficulty sleeping, anxiety, depression, and an inability to control physical response to stress.

While the potential harmful effects of trauma are serious and alarming, children can heal if they have safe, stable and nurturing support. Parents, family and supportive adults can help children heal by building their resiliency, or their ability to “bounce back” after negative experiences. Some ways to build resiliency in children include:

  1. Create a safe environment that meets children’s basic needs. This includes safe housing, nutritious food, appropriate clothing, access to good health care and education.
  2. Establish and maintain consistent routines to help children feel safe.
  3. Help children identify their feelings and manage emotions. Maintain open communication where fears and worries can be discussed openly.
  4. Build supportive social connections with friends, family, neighbors, or faith groups.
  5. Care for yourself. Parents and caregivers should model self-care and recognize and seek help to manage their own traumatic experiences.

Calls to Action—2 ways you can help immigrant children and families:

  • Volunteer with or donate to organizations directly serving the families involved in this crisis, such as the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), the largest immigration nonprofit in Texas that provides free and low-cost legal services to underserved immigrants (https://www.raicestexas.org/); the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights, which advocates for many of the separated and unaccompanied children (https://www.theyoungcenter.org/); or Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center, which provides legal representation to low-income immigrants and families seeking reunification (http://las-americas.org/).
  • Educate yourself and your community on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and Trauma using tools from SCAN’s Parent Resource Center.

 

SCAN’s New “No Hit Zone” Initiative

“Hands are not for hitting” is a common phrase used by parents and caregivers to help teach young children appropriate social interaction skills. We want children to have healthy relationships as they grow older, but what message do we really send to them when they are being told not to hit others, but then experience being hit themselves in the form of punishment from adults?

With the support of the Northern Virginia Health Foundation and in partnership with the Child Protection Partnership, SCAN is partnering with organizations across the Greater Prince William Area to implement “No Hit Zones”. Utilizing No Hit Zone’s 4 Strategies for Change, SCAN will help facilitate the implementation of No Hit Zones and provide partnering sites with:

  • environment evaluation and recommendations
  • staff training
  • educational resources
  • policy development, and
  • technical support.

Through the implementation of No Hit Zones, SCAN hopes to develop yet another way we can strive to promote a culture of safety and health for children, families, and communities in Northern Virginia.

Find more information about our No Hit Zones initiative here.

— Allyson Halverson, Public Education Manager

Baby Boxes: Questions & Answers As We Launch a New Program

This fall, SCAN of Northern Virginia is expanding its Operation Safe Babies program to include baby boxes and education through the Baby Box Co. and Baby Box University. We’ve explored the topic of baby boxes in the past, researched safe sleep and devoted much energy to our Operation Safe Babies program. And we know you have questions! Here we share some of the most common questions we’ve received so far. If you have others, please let us know.

1. You already distribute Pack-n-Plays through Operation Safe Babies. Why are you adding Baby Boxes to the mix?
Carl Ayers, Director of the Division of Family Services at VDSS, noted at the Virginia Safe Sleep Launch event on August 23, 2017 that safe sleep related deaths are the leading cause of infant deaths, age 1 month to 1 year, in Virginia. For the past two years, SCAN—in partnership with over 12 local agencies—has given out over 700 pack-n-plays to low income families in need of a safe sleep environment for their baby in an effort to reduce this number. By becoming a Baby Box Co. distribution site, SCAN will be able to engage with even more parents, not only to share information on safe sleep and abusive head trauma, but also to connect them with the man other resources that SCAN offers parents.

2. Will Baby Boxes really make an impact?

The Back to Sleep campaign was launched in 1994 by the National Institute of Health. And even though we know that back to sleep is best and reduces the instances of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) only 49% of mothers always put their babies on their back to sleep. This recent story underscores the continued need for more education: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/too-parents-still-put-babies-at-risk-of-sids/. In our opinion, this program is not all about the box, it is about engaging parents and caregivers and talking about safe sleep. Education is how we really create change.

3. Baby Boxes aren’t endorsed by the Consumer Product and Safety Commission, are they?

We understand that baby boxes are not fully endorsed by the Consumer Product Safety Commission and that a safety approved crib should be the first choice for a parent when practicing safe sleep. But a traditional crib simply is not a viable option for many families in our community. There was a lot of discussion back and forth between SCAN and the Baby Box Co. We feel that our decision is an educated one and supports the overall mission of SCAN as well as Operation Safe Babies. SCAN sees this opportunity to spread our safe sleep and abusive head trauma messaging to a much larger population of new parents that we may not have otherwise been able to serve.

4. Who else is distributing Baby Boxes in Northern Virginia?

SCAN is currently the only organization working with the Virginia Department of Social Services in our region. We hope more agencies will be doing so soon, and will keep you updated! In addition to Virginia, other states who have launched a Baby Box initiative include Alabama, New Jersey, Ohio, Texas and Colorado.

5. What comes in a Baby Box?

Each Baby Box includes a fitted baby mattress, fitted sheet, waterproof mattress cover and various newborn supplies, as well as our own Operation Safe Babies materials and educational tools.

6. How do parents get a box? How do they know how to use one safely?

Expecting parents can go to www.babyboxuniversity.com and participate in an interactive educational training designed to make sure they know about safe sleep, breast feeding, how to use the baby box, and other important health and developmental information. After successfully taking a quiz at the end of the online training, expecting parents in Northern Virginia will receive a certificate, which they can bring to SCAN to receive one Baby Box filled with a few goodies for baby. When they pick up their box, a SCAN volunteer will go through a checklist of guidelines to confirm they understand safe use. SCAN is distributing boxes on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:00 am – 3:00 pm.

If you are interested in learning more about Operation Safe Babies or would like to volunteer with the program, please contact Moneka Lyons, Public Education Outreach Coordinator at mlyons(at)scanva.org.

Nominations OPEN for 2017 Allies in Prevention Awards

“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!

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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?

Download the 2017 Allies in Prevention Nomination Form

Want to be inspired? You can meet last year’s honorees here. And remember, all nominations are due by February 10, 2017!

 

A Year-End Thank You from SCAN

Friends,

When we sat down to write this note, it began with three simple questions:

1. Why are we calling for change in our community? Every day the children in our community are experiencing abuse and neglect – reports of heartbreaking cases are in the news daily. Unfortunately, more than 40,000 children in Virginia were involved in a valid report of abuse or neglect last year, with 48 children dying as a result of their maltreatment. Across the U.S., an estimated 679,000 children were victims of abuse last year.

2. What is more important than the wellbeing and innocence of a child? Prevention is the key to reducing these statistics and keeping children safe. SCAN’s staff, volunteers and Board of Directors are working diligently to develop and grow effective prevention programs for all children and families in our community.These programs are focused on well-researched ways to reduce the risk factors associated with child abuse and neglect, while improving outcomes for children and families who are exposed to multiple risk factors. Our goal is always to mitigate effects of victimization for children!

3. Who will partner, volunteer, donate and advocate for the protection of children? We invite you to meet the people who have connected with SCAN over the past year to be educated, empowered and energized to make a difference for children and families in our community. READ THOSE STORIES IN OUR ANNUAL REPORT HERE!

At SCAN, we believe there is no one way to create change; there must be thousands of us working together to make it happen in Northern Virginia. We challenge you to join SCAN as we energize a community for lasting change that focuses on prevention and the ultimate protection of our children for years to come. Please make a year-end donation to SCAN here.

– Donna Fleming, President
SCAN Board of Directors

7 “Take Action” Tips from Advocacy Day

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:

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  1. Attend an Advocacy Day in Richmond during the upcoming 2017 short session of the Virginia General Assembly.
  2. 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.
  3. Share advocacy information with others in your network. Voices for Virginia’s Children has some excellent 2017 Tools for Advocates available here.
  4. Call, write and visit your legislators. Find out who your local legislators are here.
  5. 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!
  6. 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.
  7. 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 the VA General Assembly and a Self-Assessment tool!

New Workshops with SCAN!

It’s a new school year and we’re excited to launch a new menu of workshops for the community! We encourage ALL groups of people to consider a workshop — from nonprofits, schools and government agencies to parenting groups, employers and faith groups. Our workshops are based on SCAN’s existing child abuse prevention and advocacy programs as well as the expertise of SCAN staff. We can often customize workshops for the specific needs of a group, and most topics are available in English and Spanish, too!

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So, how does your group want to be empowered this year?

We want to prevent CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE PREVENTION:

  • Darkness to Light, Stewards of Children2 hours, $25 per person (minimum 10, maximum 25 people)
  • Talking with Children about Safety from Sexual Abuse, 45 minutes, $150
  • Healthy Touch for Children & Youth, 45 minutes, $150
  • Bystanders Protecting Children from Boundary Violations & Sexual Abuse, 45 minutes, $150
  • Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children, 1 hour, $200
  • Child Sexual Abuse for Parents, 1 hour, $150

We want to support PARENT EDUCATION:

  • Have You Filled a Bucket Today, 1 hour, $200
  • How to Connect with Your Child and Build a Resilient Family (Managing Family Stress), 1 hour, $200
  • Wait, My Kid Has a Date?, 1 hour, $200
  • Positive Discipline: Raising Children with Self Control, 1 hour, $200
  • Tech Savvy Parenting/Internet Seguro, 1 hour, $200
  • Families Reunite (Immigrant Family Reunification, 4 weeks, 1.5 hours per night), $1500
  • Made in America: Padres Hispanos Criando Hijos Americanos (Immigrant parents raising children in the US, 4 weeks, 1.5 hours per night), $1500

We want to engage our community in prevention through PUBLIC EDUCATION:

We want to GET TO KNOW SCAN:

  • All About SCAN, @ SCAN
  • How YOU Can Help Prevent Child Abuse in Your Community
  • SCAN Volunteer Orientation, monthly – click link for more information and upcoming dates

We want to host a BROWN BAG SERIES for our employees:

  • Strategies for the Working Parent: Customize a parenting topic to compliment your human resource efforts in your office and offer support to your employees.

Don’t see a topic here you would like? SCAN can customize and deliver a 1-hour workshop for $400. In most cases we can add concurrent children’s programming for an additional fee. (Download the full SCAN Workshop Menu here.)

How can we support your organization in its work this year to build stronger families, support parents and protect children? Contact us and let’s get something on the calendar!

 

27 Children: A must-read on keeping kids safe in cars

Twenty-seven. 27 children in the U.S. have died from being left in a car this year alone. There is record heat in many parts of the country with more than one month of summer ahead of us, and the arrival of fall does not automatically mean cooler temperatures.

pexels-photoAs service providers and those who advocate for children on all levels, there is a lot that we can do. The Child Protection Partnership (CPP) of Greater Prince William County is one example: a coalition of public, private, non-profit, and government agencies from Prince William County, the City of Manassas, and the City of Manassas Park, its mission is to eliminate child abuse and neglect in the Greater Prince William area. SCAN is a proud member of this organization, whose vision is that “The Greater Prince William area will be a community where children are able to learn and grow up in a safe environment fostering wellness and positive social reinforcement.”

One of the CPP’s focuses over the last few years has been around the issue of leaving kids in cars. Most of their work has been in the area of awareness, not only for parents, but for the those in the community who may witness a parent leaving a child in a car or may walk by a car and notice a child has been left. They have pooled their resources to create large, vinyl window decals that read “Attention, NEVER leave children alone in cars. You see it, call 911.” These decals have been placed in child care centers, schools, government offices and local businesses. Another awareness tool they have is three traveling displays that can be used at resource fairs and other on-site locations (for example, one has been rotating at all Prince William Parks and Rec locations throughout the area.) A key aspect of the display is a thermometer which tells you what the outside temperature is and what the temperature is inside of a vehicle (a receiver is placed in a vehicle close by.)

While representing the CPP at various events with this display (National Night Out, Potomac Nationals games, Prince William Kids Expo), I have repeatedly heard “How can any parent do this?” This recent Washington Post article will tell you how. It can happen to anyone, from any background, anywhere.

What we all need to do is provide parents with ideas and tips on how to prevent leaving a child in a car (read SCAN’s tip sheet here) and we need to educate the community that if they see it they should call 911. Currently only 19 states in the US have laws that specifically make it illegal to leave a child unattended in a vehicle. And ten states have Good Samaritan laws that are specifically related to rescuing children in cars; Virginia is one of them. (Read the legislation here.)

Prevention is key. As service providers and child advocates we must educate the families we work with about this issue so they never have to face the tragedy of a child dying in a hot car, nor the trauma that will affect them every day after.

– Tracy Leonard, Public Education Manager
tleonard@scanva.org

Does Your Organization Have a Code of Conduct?

Parents are constantly faced with the challenge of finding reputable, quality programming and care for their children.  To help make decisions easier for parents and to put your organization at the head of the class, do you have a written and posted code of conduct?  A code that lets parents–and children–know what they can expect from the adults who work or volunteer at your organization, how different situations are handled (one-on-one, toileting, transportation), and what the organization’s response is if child sexual abuse is suspected, discovered or disclosed?

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Darkness to Light offers sample documents that you can use to begin understanding what should be included in a code of conduct, and that allow your organization to begin having discussions about procedures and policies that need to be in place to keep all children safe from child sexual abuse.

Codes of conduct do not have to be simply for childcare centers or afterschool programming.  Every organization that serves youth in any capacity should have a code of conduct in place.  It isn’t enough to simply write a code, though.  A code of conduct should be prominently displayed and shared with parents.  If parents begin to expect that all youth-serving settings have codes of conduct, then there will be a true shift in the way kids are protected from those who would try to sexually abuse them.  If you work with parents, begin talking to them about questions they can ask an organization.  Questions that will help ensure their child’s safety.

Here are some questions to start with, via Darkness to Light:

  • Are parents encouraged to drop in at any time?
  • Can parents tour the facilities?
  • Are your staff and volunteers trained in sexual abuse prevention and response?
  • Do you have a code of conduct?  May I have it?
  • How are your policies disseminated and to whom?
  • Are the children aware of the rules?
  • How are older youth screened, monitored and supervised?
  • Do you train, allow and empower your staff and volunteers to report suspicions of sexual abuse?
  • If a staff member or volunteer violates the child sexual abuse prevention policy, what procedures and penalties follow?

– Tracy Leonard, Public Education Manager
tleonard@scanva.org

Letter to the Editor: It’s Time We All Became a Part of the Solution

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[This Letter to the Editor was first published 4/20/16 in LoudounNow.]

Last week, I spent time with Loudoun County Public School staff providing a Stewards of Children training on how to recognize, react and respond to child sexual abuse. April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, so the timing couldn’t have been better.

But we’ve actually been providing trainings in Loudoun and across Northern Virginia through our partnership with Darkness to Light for three years, and hit the 1,000-people-trained milestone in late 2015. We’ve trained camp counselors and parents, teachers and child care providers, faith groups and rec center staff.

This year, SCAN also is working in this region as part of the new Loudoun County Partnership for Resilient Children and Families. Our partners include an incredible list of influencers: HealthWorks for Northern Virginia, INMED, Inova, LAWS (Loudoun Abused Women’s Shelter), Loudoun Child Advocacy Center, Loudoun County CPS, Loudoun County Mental Health, Substance Abuse & Developmental Services, Loudoun County Public Schools and the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office.

When people—and organizations—come together like this to make children a priority, it is the only way change really happens in a community. Every time we can talk about the reality of child abuse (yes, it occurs in our community), every time we can empower an adult to take action, we have an opportunity to protect more children, prevent more abuse, and strengthen more families.

On April 26, our partnership will host an exciting opportunity in Ashburn. We’ll be screening the TLC documentary “Breaking the Silence” (See Facebook Event here), and facilitating a panel discussion following the film from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at Briar Woods High School. We hope community members will join us to be a part of the discussion; child sexual abuse should not be a taboo subject and it is time we all became part of the solution. Now is your chance.

Tracy Leonard, SCAN of Northern Virginia

[This Letter to the Editor first appeared on 4/20 in LoudounNow. Learn more about the event on SCAN’s website here.]

SCAN