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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:
Calls to Action—2 ways you can help immigrant children and families:
Goals are important to set for so many reasons–they keep us on track, hold us accountable and help push us to our limits. One goal that we can get behind at SCAN is Darkness to Light’s Four Million by 2020:
Imagine 4 million adults who have been trained in Stewards of Children! 4 million adults who can prevent, recognize and respond to child sexual abuse. With constant messages and alerts in our news and social media feeds about children who have suffered from the effects of child sexual abuse, we have to be moved to action. #MeToo, and #TimesUp have shed light on sexual abuse. But what we are missing here is that these are adults who are coming forward and speaking out. Most of the abuse they endured happened while they were children. What if we protected children so that these victims didn’t have to speak out as adults?
If you or your organization has not gone through the 2-hour Stewards of Children training, or if you haven’t had the training in over three years, what are you waiting for? SCAN has a network of over 40 authorized facilitators who can work with your organization’s schedule to get the training done. Now THAT’s an important goal. Maybe it’s time for #NoMoreExcuses?
As stories of sexual assault and harassment fill our newsfeeds, it’s critical that we talk to children about this issue and its impact. 1 in 10 children will be sexually abused by the time they turn 18, yet only a third will report it. As professionals, we need to be able to talk to the families we work with about what they can do when trying to raise a family in a world where sexual assault is a daily news story. We need to empower parents and give them tools to use to address the issue with their children.
We’re hearing a lot in the news about high-profile sexual assault and harassment cases, which means kids are hearing about it too. How should parents handle it?
The age of the child should dictate how parents handle this issue. For younger children, simply turn off the television and limit what they are exposed to. For older children, parents should use it as a teaching moment – keeping open channels of communication, discussing vocabulary, and making sure their older children and teens know it is okay to ask questions.
It is also important that parents, or any adults for that matter, don’t normalize the behaviors and actions.
By opening up lines of communication with the parents we work with, we are helping end the taboo of sexual misconduct. They will then become more comfortable talking to other adults in their children’s lives like caregivers, teachers, coaches, and relatives.
Much of what has been reported in the news has its basis in boundary violations. It is important that we teach children about their boundaries and model appropriate boundaries when we are around children. Darkness to Light outlines this perfectly:
If you are a “bystander” who witnesses a boundary violation, or sees a situation in which a child is vulnerable, it’s not important to know the intentions of the person who crossed the boundary. What is important is that you reinforce the boundary – even if you are in front of others, or in a public setting.
Describe the Behavior:
“It’s against policy for you to be in the classroom alone with a student.”
Set a Limit:
“You need to take your conversation to the student lounge.”
“I’m on my way there, now, so I’ll walk with you.”
The current news cycle has sexual assault in the spotlight, which means our kids are hearing about it. Instead of shielding them from the discussion, let parents know they should be the one to start it with them. It can be uncomfortable at times, but the hard work is worth it when it means parents can educate their children and establish a safe place for them to ask questions and share feelings in the future.
— Tracy Leonard, Public Education Manager: tleonard(at)scanva.org
December 11, 2017—SCAN of Northern Virginia has once again achieved “Partner in Prevention” status, a designation awarded by the nonprofit Darkness to Light to organizations which take extra steps to protect the children they serve by training staff to understand the issue of child sexual abuse, identify unsafe situations and practices, and react responsibly in the best interest of the children they serve.
One in 10 children will be sexually abused before the age of 18. SCAN earned the “Partner in Prevention” designation by providing Stewards of Children training to over 90% of its management, staff, and volunteers. This evidence-informed program is scientifically proven to help participants prevent and respond to child sexual abuse. “Partner in Prevention” was created as a national standard to help parents and caregivers recognize organizations that take child protection seriously by implementing policy and training staff to prevent child sexual abuse.
Darkness to Light is an international organization that leads the movement to end child sexual abuse by educating and empowering adults in education, youth serving organizations, and communities to protect children. Darkness to Light has affiliates in all 50 states and 16 international locations.
About Darkness to Light: Darkness to Light (D2L) has championed the movement to end child sexual abuse since its founding in 2000. With affiliates in all 50 U.S. states and 16 additional countries, D2L provides individuals, organizations, and communities with the tools to protect children from sexual abuse. To date, the D2L network of 9,000 authorized facilitators has trained over 1.2 million parents, youth serving professionals, and organization volunteers in D2L’s award-winning Stewards of Children® child sexual abuse prevention program.
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For further information, please contact Public Education Manager Tracy Leonard at 703-820-9001 or tleonard(at)scanva.org.
I am writing this blog post fresh from the first Darkness to Light Facilitators Conference, Ignite! I was joined by 170 others from 32 states and 4 countries (including 4 of us from Northern Virginia).
The conference was a fantastic mix of dynamic and engaging keynote speakers, experts in specific content related to Stewards of Children, a panel who shared their lessons learned and achievements, and a chance to interact with others who are faced with similar challenges in engaging the community in such a tough topic. It was also a chance to meet some of the faces from the Stewards of Children videos including Tiffany Sawyer, Carol Hogue, Sylvia Goalen, Keisha Head and of course, Paula Sellers!
For professionals in the field, there were some key takeaways that I have to share. Here are my top 10:
There are over 10,000 Darkness to Light Facilitators throughout the world, 125 instructors (of which I am 1) and there have been over 1.4 million adults trained to become Stewards of Children.
But that isn’t enough: Darkness to Light’s goal is 4 million trained by 2020.
Will you help us reach that goal? I know Northern Virginia can play a huge role in making this a reality. If you 1.) have not yet been trained, 2.) know of a group of adults who need this training, and/or 3.) If you haven’t had the training in the last three years, please email me today!
— Tracy Leonard, Public Education Manager | tleonard(at)scanva.org
For those of us who work with children and families, summer can bring fun — but also a lot of season-specific challenges. Families are on unusual schedules, parents are juggling the demands of new childcare arrangements and children are spending more time alone / on-screen or online / with new adults / outdoors and in pools. This week, we’ve gathered some of the questions we hear from parents and the resources we share most during the summer:
Do you have more summer questions from parents in your community? How can we help?
(And don’t forget to download the FREE Parent Resource Center app from SCAN! It gives parents on-the-go access to every topic on SCAN’s Parent Resource Center from your Apple or Android device.)
SCAN has known for years that Darkness to Light’s Stewards of Children is an excellent curriculum for teaching all adults how to protect children from child sexual abuse. We have trained close to 1,500 adults in Northern Virginia. However, there is a wider network of Darkness to Light facilitators in Northern Virginia, DC, and Maryland that is reaching and training even more adults.
Through our Public Education efforts at SCAN, we convene these facilitators twice a year to share best practices, roadblocks, and skills to become stronger facilitators. In June, I had the honor of training 18 more facilitators. Some will join our efforts here in Northern Virginia (The Young Marines, Northern Virginia Family Services, We Support the Girls, Falls Church City Public Schools), and others will take the training back to their organizations (which included Prince George’s County DSS, Prince George’s County Public Schools, and The James House).
Darkness to Light facilitators know that they have been trained using a curriculum in which attendees are able to immediately implement things they have learned, whether that is reducing one-on-one situations between children and adults, creating policies in our organizations that protect children, or being empowered to intervene in situations where adults are crossing boundaries.
Being a facilitator is a rewarding experience. If you would like to become one, we will be having another training on August 10 in Loudoun County. Register for the training here.
You soon learn you are a part of something bigger – a movement to end child sexual abuse. It can be done.
– Tracy Leonard, Public Education Manager, tleonard(at)scanva.org
Ready to take action to protect children and empower adults in 2017? Contact Tracy Leonard, Public Education Manager, at tleonard(at)scanva.org for details or to schedule a training.
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?
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:
– Tracy Leonard, Public Education Manager