Lasting (and Global!) Impact: A Special Guest Post from Tracy Leonard

A special guest post from D2L Certified Instructor (and former SCAN employee) Tracy Leonard:
Although my family left Northern Virginia and I have left SCAN, I haven’t left the work.  While at SCAN, I was fortunate enough to not only receive the training to become a Darkness to Light Authorized Facilitator, but also a Certified Instructor.  It is a gift that I am so thankful for and continue to use.  In fact, I just returned from a trip to Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Japan to train 22 new Authorized Facilitators.
I was able to use my experiences at SCAN and as a part of the Allies in Prevention Coalition (AIPC) to train these professionals not only in using the Stewards of Children curriculum but also in how to make the greatest impact on base.  That is because so many of SCAN’s AIPC members come from Quantico, Fort Belvoir, and Joint Base Myer – Henderson Hall.  I was also able to talk to attendees about establishing a network for themselves where they can meet a few times a year to talk about their experiences as facilitators, discuss roadblocks they may be encountering, and celebrate the successes they are having.  I have that first-hand knowledge because of the 40+-member network of facilitators that SCAN put together in Northern Virginia.
Only 1 of the 22 people I trained at Iwakuni had ever had the Stewards of Children training, so after they took it for the first time it was rewarding to see their wheels turn as they discussed how they could use it in base schools, with their New Parent Support Program, the Family Advocacy Program, and in Behavioral Health–not to mention using it as continuous training to reach out to the greater base community and perhaps even off-base community.
These 22 facilitators have been given a gift.  The gift to teach adults about their responsibility to protect children from child sexual abuse.  And they get to take that gift with them when they move to their next base or return to a civilian community.  We have truly created a way for systematic change to occur and for the prevention wave to take over wherever those trained may go.
This experience comes full circle for myself and SCAN because Diana P. Ortiz–who had worked at Doorways for Women and Children in Arlington for 10 years–is now at MCAS Iwakuni. She had taken a Stewards of Children training put on by SCAN years ago.  Allies in Prevention are everywhere and are continuing to make an impact on reducing child abuse and neglect.  Diana and I are proof!
–Tracy Leonard, Darkness to Light Certified Instructor
You can follow Tracy on Twitter @tracylleonard

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.

 

A Goal We Can Get Behind: “4 Million by 2020” with Darkness to Light

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?

• CLICK HERE to learn more or schedule a training!

 

The Tough Discussions Are Worth It: Helping Parents Talk About Child Sexual Abuse

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.”

Move On:

“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

SCAN Staff Members Trained in Award-Winning Stewards of Children® Program for Child Sexual Abuse Prevention, Once Again Named “Partner in Prevention”

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.

  • To learn more about child sexual abuse prevention training or to enroll your organization in Darkness to Light’s “Partner in Prevention” program, please visit www.D2L.org/Partner.
  • To schedule a training for your organization with SCAN, click here.

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.

My IGNITE! Experience—On the Road with Darkness to Light

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:

  1. Jim Clemente, retired FBI Supervisory Agent/Profiler reminded us that we have to give victims hope. We cannot condemn them to silence and the inability to seek help.
  2. He also reminded us that we must find BALANCE in our lives or that which we love to do so much can kill us.
  3. Carol Hogue and Martha Tumblin, D2L Instructors Extraordinaire, challenged the facilitators to remember why we must take risks to protect children
  4. Kevin McNeil, Special Victims Detective/author/educator and MOTIVATOR, had so many good thoughts! Including: abuse destroys a child’s ability to make relationships and connections.
  5. We do not need to see abuse to act. When we see it, it is too late.
  6. Trauma freezes thinking.
  7. It’s not enough to listen to a victim, we must hear them.
  8. Abuse stops children from giving us the gifts they have inside.
  9. I am lucky to do what I do and to know it makes a difference.
  10. Memphis 2018, Ignite! I will be there. Let’s keep the flame lit.

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

It’s Summer: What Are Your Go-To Resources for Parents?

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:

 

  1. Is it okay to leave my child home alone? There is no easy answer, so we’ve compiled some good questions for parents and linked to all of the local jurisdictions in Northern Virginia for their “official” supervision guidelines and information.
  2. Can I leave my child in the car if I’m just running a quick errand? We all know this answer – NO! Give parents our 5 Tips “Keep Kids Safe in Cars” fact sheet, which includes helpful reminders and simple steps parents can take when they’re in the car to prevent a tragic mistake. We also recommend the resources from Kids and Cars.
  3. My child is around water and outside a lot this summer — what should I know? Check out the Summer Safety page on SCAN’s Parent Resource Center for helpful reminders on everything from sunscreen and water safety to reading and monitoring your teens’ summer activities. Share the fact sheets for parents to post and refer to all season long.
  4. There are a lot of new adults (like camp counselors and coaches) around my child this summer — what can I do to make sure my child is safe and not at risk for sexual abuse? Parents (as well as everyone working with children!) should educate themselves about how to recognize, react and respond to the threat of child sexual abuse. Through its partnership with Darkness to Light, SCAN works with many local agencies and organizations to train groups of adults in its Stewards of Children curriculum. A good place for parents to start is the Learn about Child Sexual Abuse page on our website, and then explore the Prevent Child Sexual Abuse and Take Action pages as well. (If you’re a child welfare professional, be sure to download our Northern Virginia Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Resource List in English and Spanish, too.)

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.)

 

The Movement to End Child Sexual Abuse — Are You Our Next Facilitator?

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

 

3 Facts on Child Sexual Abuse, Prevention and SCAN of Northern Virginia

 

  1. FACT: Child sexual abuse is far more prevalent than most people realize.
  •   Child sexual abuse is likely the most prevalent health problem children face with the most serious array of consequences.
  •   About one in 10 children will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday.
  •   This year, there will be about 400,000 babies born in the U.S. that will become victims of child sexual abuse unless we do something to stop it.
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  1. FACT: Child sexual abuse often takes place under specific, often surprising circumstances. It is helpful to know these circumstances because it allows for the development of strategies to avoid child sexual abuse.
  •   81% of child sexual abuse incidents for all ages occur in one-perpetrator/one-child circumstances.
  •   Most sexual abuse of children occurs in a residence, typically that of the victim or perpetrator – 84% for children under age 12, and 71% for children aged 12 to 17.
  •   Sexual assaults on children are most likely to occur at 8 a.m., 12 p.m. and between 3 and 4 p.m. For older children, aged 12 to 17, there is also a peak in assaults in the late evening hours.
  •   One in seven incidents of sexual assault perpetrated by juveniles occurs on school days in the after-school hours between 3 and 7 p.m., with a peak from 3 to 4 pm.
  1. FACT: SCAN trained 213 individuals last year in the Stewards of Children curriculum, and we are scheduling trainings NOW for the year ahead across Northern Virginia.We need YOU to invite us to train individuals in the agencies, school districts, childcare centers, rec centers and faith groups in your community.

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.

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

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