We’ve come up with a fresh list of books to recommend for child welfare professionals, advocates and parents you know. What are you reading this winter? We’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments below!
“The Resilient Parent” by Mantu Joshi is a collection of essays meant to provide emotional, spiritual and practical guidance for parents of differently-abled children. Using his own experience as a parent of children with special needs, Joshi offers short chapters that can be read in under 5 minutes, each ending with reflectiosn for parents to think about in their own life and family.
“Socially Strong, Emotionally Secure” by Nefertiti Bruce and Karen B. Cairone, was published in 2011 but is worth a permanent spot on your bookshelf! It provides 50 activities to help kids age 3-8 build resiliency, and is useful for professionals and parents alike.
“A Volcano in My Tummy” by Eliane Whitehouse and Warwick Pudney, offers excellent, easy-to-understand skills for adults when helping children (age 6-13) deal with anger management. From teaching them how to communicate their anger to addressing violent behaviors, it can help build awareness, creativity and hands-on tools for kids to manage anger issues.
“I Am Jazz” by Jessica Herthel explores the experience of Jazz Jennings, a real-life transgender child. We talk a lot at SCAN about books that build resiliency for children, and what a great tool this book can be for kids and adults a like, exploring a challenging subject in a way that builds understanding and connection.
On October 5, SCAN—with support from LAWS (Loudoun Abused Women’s Shelter) and its Loudoun Child Advocacy Center—brought together 129 local human service providers to hear Dr. Chris Wilson talk about The Neurobiology of Trauma.
This relatively new approach allows those of us who work with children (including law enforcement, school staff, social workers and foster parents) to rethink not only how we question children but also about how we process the information that a child is giving to us.
With more than 20 years of experience in the neurobiology of trauma, vicarious trauma, victim behavior, how to be trauma informed, and group process, Dr. Wilson has worked with a wide variety of audiences and is currently a trainer for the United States Army’s Special Victim Unit Investigation Course, Legal Momentum, and You Have Options Program.
Dr. Wilson reminded those of us attending that defining trauma looks something like this:
extreme fear/terror/horror + lack of control/perceived lack of control = very real changes in the brain at the time of the incident and after the incident
When a child experiences something traumatic, the pre-frontal cortex becomes impaired, meaning “we lose the ability to control our attention, integrate data, and make logical decisions” and the hippocampus is directly affected, thus affecting how a child remembers the traumatic event. This direct physiological impact must be taken into consideration not only when we first interact with children who have experienced a traumatic event, but also in how we continue the relationship with the child and how the child heals from the event.
Key training takeaways:
We must remember that trauma is subjective because threat is subjective. It means different things to different people and therefore, every individual’s response to traumatic events vary.
Children overwhelmingly blame themselves because of their egocentrism – it’s the only context they have.
Victims from 9/11 have given us a “map of danger” that didn’t exist before.
It’s not the relationship that is abusive, it is the perpetrator; we need to say “she was raped”, not “she was victimized.”
Use “soft eyes” not “hard eyes” when talking to children who have experienced trauma. Make the conversation about feelings to help the child recall specific facts that may have otherwise been forgotten or repressed.
This valuable training would not have been possible without the support of our funders: Loudoun Child Advocacy Center, Northern Virginia Health Foundation, Ronald McDonald House Charities Greater Washington DC and LAWS Loudoun Abused Women’s Shelter. Thank you!
At SCAN, we strive to bring quality training and workshops to the region and to YOU at your place of work or your local community organizations. Continue to follow us to learn more about what we are doing in the community to prevent child abuse and neglect – and how you can become involved and empowered to help.
– Tracy Leonard, Public Education Manager, email@example.com
Last month, the Annie E. Casey Foundation released its annual KIDS COUNT® Data Book. The good news? Virginia now ranks 11th nationally for child wellbeing. The bad news? The Commonwealth’s poverty rate is not budging.
That means almost 300,000 children — 16% of our community’s children — are growing up in poverty in Virginia.
“Moderate growth in Virginia’s economy has not yet yielded results for many children in Virginia; 16 percent of Virginia children are growing up in poverty, according to the 2016 KIDS COUNT® Data Book from the Annie. E. Casey Foundation. Approximately 44,000 more children now live in poverty than in the midst of the Great Recession in 2008, and the numbers have not budged since last year’s count.
“The fact that nearly 300,000 children in our Commonwealth are growing up in poverty is a big red flag,” said Margaret Nimmo Holland, executive director of Voices for Virginia’s Children. “Many children growing up in poverty are living in environments of toxic stress – meaning their bodies produce chronic stress responses that can actually negatively rewire their developing brains.” Research has shown that experiencing toxic stress in early childhood often leads to lifelong physical and mental health problems, which can greatly influence their ability to succeed in school.
This disturbing trend comes in the midst of an overall improvement in Virginia’s child well-being ranking; Virginia has moved up three places in the national rankings of overall child well-being to 11th place, consistent with its ranking two years ago. The 2016 Data Book, which focuses on key trends in child well-being in the post-recession years, measures child well-being in four domains: economic well-being, education, health, and family and community…
…“Clearly, we are pleased to see positive trends on some indicators of child well-being in Virginia, but we cannot expect these gains to continue if we do not address the needs of Virginia’s children in poverty. We cannot afford to leave 16 percent of our children behind,” said Holland.
Read the full Voices for Virginia’s Children blog post HERE.
The average child spends LESS THAN 10 MINUTES each day outside for unstructured playtime. At the same time, we watch as the children we serve face increased stress levels, mental health issues, rising levels of obesity and huge amounts of time spent on computers and other devices.
Nature Deprivation happens when children (and adults, too!) aren’t spending enough time outside and face negative physical, mental and behavioral health consequences because of it.
> Follow the Children & Nature Network on Facebook to learn more about the research and science behind Nature Deprivation, as well as helpful ideas, activities and opportunities happening in other communities.
> Remind parents that they will benefit from fresh air and activities too! Ask parents how they can “unplug” with their kids, while spending quality time together and being physically active. It’s a win-win-win! Download our Unplug with Your Child fact sheet in English or Spanish for guidance and ideas.
Have you seen children and families benefit from more time outdoors, more fresh air and more activities in the great outdoors? We’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments section below.
Being the wealthiest county in the United States might sound like a great thing, but for the vulnerable children and families living in Loudoun County, it simply isn’t.
During 2016, SCAN will be helping agencies who serve children and families in Loudoun County to determine where gaps in services exist, explore what obstacles children and families are facing, and sift through data to paint a more accurate of picture of “wealth” in Loudoun County.
The focus groups have been an informative way for SCAN to get to know the community better as well as an exciting new way for organizations to talk to one another. At the end of our grant, we will produce a report for agencies in Loudoun County to use when seeking funding for their programs and when having open conversations with the decision makers of Loudoun County. Funding, government supports and individual contributions will be able to be more efficiently used to fill in gaps and further develop the “wealth” of Loudoun County. Because wealth means many things, including a more connected community that protects children from abuse, helps foster positive parenting skills and ultimately builds stronger families.
– Tracy Leonard, Public Education Manager
p.s. You can download an infographic about our work in Loudoun here.
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:
The family reunification experience is a growing challenge for child welfare advocates, school districts and other service providers here in Northern Virginia and across the country. In the United States, 20% of children are growing up in immigrant homes and a large number of these children joined their parents after years of separation. They come to escape gangs, poverty, violence or political unrest, to reunite with their families, and to find better educational and long-term opportunities. Most have experienced multiple losses: first from their parent(s)’ departure, and then from having to leave the relative they were living with in their home country. According to Family and School Partnerships at Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS), children from reunified families may experience issues of rejection, abandonment, resentment, anger, confusion, guilt, grief and loss at being left behind by parents who were trying to create a better life in the US. Parents may face financial challenges and may be unable to support the child in their adjustment to a new country and school. As a result, the child may have academic, attendance, behavioral, communication, socialization or other issues.
Attendees included representatives from three local child advocacy centers: Center for Alexandria’s Children, SafeSpot Children’s Advocacy Center in Fairfax, and the Loudoun Child Advocacy Center.
This past week, SCAN’s Allies in Prevention Coalition hosted a Darkness to Light supplemental training and panel discussion at Charles E. Beatley, Jr. Central Library in Alexandria. More than 40 service providers came from around Northern Virginia for the meeting. What subject drew so many people? The Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children.
The short video training from Darkness to Light started the event with a shocking statistic: more than 90% of children who are commercially sexually exploited have been sexually abused in the past.
“Most of my work/agency work focuses on what happens after abuse occurs,” noted one attendee. “But I learned a lot about prevention and will be looking in to how I can incorporate this with children and families.”
The panel discussion after the video training included Detective Betty Sixsmith from the Alexandria Police Department, Besty Young from Prince William County schools, and Detective Cervantes Armstrong from Prince William County Police.
Being aware of the warning signs of child sexual abuse and the sexual exploitation of children is a key take away from the training. As Detective Armstrong noted “The grooming process…it’s all around us. We see it every day.” As service providers it is about learning how to recognize those signs and then take the action to prevent the abuse from occurring or continuing.
It is incredibly important to be able to recognize the warning signs and to have open conversations with children and teens. As panelist Betsy Young stated about victims, “They have a smokescreen and if you take the time to listen and connect with them, that screen fades.” Once you recognize and are aware of abuse you can take the necessary steps to provide support services and resources.
We’re on the hunt for your favorite websites, online libraries, resource centers and more that can help child and family welfare advocates. We’ve dedicated a page here on the blog for collecting links to these valuable online resources, and readers can continue to share their finds in the comments section so we can add them to the list.
Today we welcome guest blogger Laura Yager, the Director of Partnerships and Resource Development for the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board. Laura has worked in the prevention and treatment field for over 25 years, and offers an important perspective for SCAN and its supporters as we celebrate our 25th anniversary.
Preventing a problem before it starts might sound like common sense. From Smokey the Bear —“Only YOU can prevent forest fires!” —to seat belt safety— “Click it or ticket!”—we’re inundated with simplified but effective messages about how we can prevent something bad before it happens. If only protecting children could be that easy.
As a social issue campaign, child abuse prevention also has come a long way in the past 25 years. The protection of children from harm and maltreatment has long been touted as a cultural value in the U.S. In colonial times, adults had ideas about “right” and “wrong” ways to treat children, but the focus was less on child abuse prevention than punishment for a child’s misbehavior.
A century later, in 1875, the New York Society to Prevent Cruelty to Children was established as the first organization dedicated to child protection, its roots emerging from animal rights efforts. By 1920, the Child Welfare League of America began supporting agencies serving vulnerable children and families. In 1962, the modern age of child protection took off with amendments to the Social Security Act requiring states to organize statewide child welfare services that were in place nationwide by 1975.
Prevention has nearly always focused on raising awareness as the first step in inspiring positive change. But the methods used have evolved, becoming increasingly sophisticated to reflect changing societal norms and values:
In the 1950s and earlier, scare tactics and shame were seen as appropriate ways to change/correct children’s behaviors.
By the 1960s and 70s, efforts to change child behavior took on a psychological focus, with an emphasis on the importance of self-esteem (i.e. “If your child feels good about him/herself, their behavior will improve.”). While changing feelings were important components of behavior change, they were narrow in focus and only mildly effective.
A new focus on youth resistance skills emerged in the 1980s that had limited success (think “Just say no!”).
The late 1990s saw more research and scientific approaches used to determine effectiveness, including learning more about “risk factors” that put people in danger of becoming victims and “protective factors” that help buffer against risk. We also began working across spheres of influence—peers, school systems, families—and building individual resiliency skills, such as problem-solving, relationship-building, and managing risk.
In the past decade, we’ve learned that focusing on preventing just one danger (whether it be substance abuse, child abuse, delinquency, etc.) is not the best approach. Factors placing someone at risk for one problem often correlate with risk factors for others. In response, we are moving beyond traditional “prevention programs” and are focusing on multi-faceted efforts—both practice and policy—that are geared towards the whole community.
Sonia Quiñónez is the executive director of a local nonprofit organization called SCAN (Stop Child Abuse Now) of Northern Virginia. “Our organization turns 25 years old this year,” says Quiñónez, “and over the years, we’ve seen a real shift in how people view and address child abuse and neglect, producing positive results in our community.” The real challenge, though, is securing sustainable funding to invest in prevention programs. When a crisis occurs, the ensuing public outcry almost always includes demands for more prevention efforts. Yet funding for prevention is often the first budget category cut in lean times.
Prevention begins when a child is put first. The next evolution for prevention will be growing our community commitment to prioritizing funding, supporting parents and facilitating cooperation among agencies and organizations.
When that becomes our community’s collective common sense, that’s when we’ll begin to see significant progress in how we protect and nurture our youngest citizens. That’s why putting children first has to be more than a slogan.
– Laura Yager
Laura Yager, M.Ed., LPC, CPP-ATOD Laura is the Director of Partnerships and Resource Development for the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board in Fairfax County, Virginia, and has worked in the prevention and treatment field for over 25 years. With a focus on community capacity building, mobilization, community strengthening, and, more recently, primary and behavioral health integration, she has been involved in the development of prevention programs that have received national recognition including: the Leadership and Resiliency Program, named a SAMHSA Model Program in 2000 and an OJJDP Promising Program in 2003; and Girl Power, named a NASADAD Exemplary Program in 2005. In March 2013, the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare awarded her office the “Impact Award” honorees for the Mental Health First Aid program. She is a past Chair of the Prevention Council of the Virginia Association of Community Services Boards and served on the Governor’s Prevention Advisory Council.