Discussing Race & Racism: A Primer for Parents

For many parents, talking about race with children is a difficult concept. Adults often question how much children already know and how much information is appropriate to share, while balancing a need to protect children from the United States’ complicated (and often violent) racial history.


We recently taped a Parenting Today segment on this topic with guest Natalie Bailey from the Department of Family Services in Fairfax County through out partnership with iHeartRadio. LISTEN HERE!

It is important to note that children are perceptive, and often pick up the nuances of race even without direct commentary. Adults need to realize there may be awkward moments, but by engaging children in conversations about race at an early age and continuing to do so throughout adolescence, parents have an opportunity to shape children’s self-esteem as well as perspectives in regards to race. Each moment is a learning opportunity to affirm children’s questions, challenge stereotypes, and teach children how to navigate an increasingly racially diverse community in positive, productive ways.

In the radio show linked above, Sonia and Natalie also mention three books that may be a good starting point for families:

How are families in your community talking about race and racism?

– Today’s blog post was written by SCAN MSW Intern Chamone Marshall

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!


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


  • 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!


The Sibling Factor: What We Might Learn in China

brothers-1429263Dr. Avidan Milevsky presented on the topic of siblings at an Allies in Prevention Coalition meeting in 2013, and will serve as the Keynote Speaker at this year’s Allies in Prevention Awards in April. (Nominations for the award are open and must be submitted by February 12th.) Dr. Milevsky’s recent article for The Huffington Post brings to light an interesting aspect of China’s recent decision to allow multiple births — how might the sibling dynamic change a society?

[Excerpted from The Huffington Post:]

…In addition to the new policy’s impact on health, child welfare, and the broader economy, this new shift will offer the Chinese people a life-long gift that will transform their families and society in profound ways. Children born any time after the policy was implemented in 1980 were lacking an irreplaceable component of healthy childhood socialization: siblings.

As a steady, international body of research is showing, growing up with siblings offers children a matchless context in which they learn about relationships, social engagement, sharing, ownership, identity, conflict resolution, and problem solving.

The first microcosm of a complementary relationship exists with a sibling. Siblings constantly competing for attention, resources, and space offer each other a great milieu to begin learning about the world. During the course of the day, children find themselves in countless basic social situations with their siblings that can offer them a training ground for working on social and emotional development. For example, a fight about a toy, which to parents may seem like an annoyance, is actually a training ground for children to learn about property ownership, respect, self-control, and conflict resolution.

What happens in the sibling relationship is the catalyst for all future social engagements. When children talk, yell, fight, interact, share, and play with their sibling they are developing vital social understanding. These early competencies learned from growing up with a sibling will have lifelong consequences. Studies have suggested that sibling closeness in childhood is linked with social-emotional understanding, cognitive abilities, and psychological adjustment. During adolescence, sibling closeness contributes to healthy identity formation and minimization of teen problems. In adulthood, siblings may offer shared responsibility/negotiation over aging parent care, and sibling warmth is linked with well-being and successful aging. Bringing all these findings together makes it quite obvious that siblings offer a fundamental and unrepeatable life provision.

Considering the important life-long lessons we learn from our siblings about relationships, social engagement, sharing, ownership, identity, conflict resolution, and problem solving I wonder how growing up with a sibling will impact the broader Chinese society. How will growing up with a sibling impact Chinese public and international policy in the future? [Continued…read the complete article by Dr. Milevsky on The Huffington Post here.]

We look forward to hearing more from Dr. Milevsky at the 2016 Allies in Prevention Awards this April. Nominations for this year’s awards are still open! Learn more and download the official nomination form here.

CASA ASKS: How do home visits help prevent child abuse & neglect?

This is the third post in a series of three from SCAN’s CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) Program, written by Lindsay Warner Ferrer. Lindsay is a CASA Case Supervisor and was previously a trained volunteer with the program.

blogblock_homevisitsOne of the best ways to prevent abuse and neglect is through home visiting programs for new parents. There are many different programs, with varying levels of research evidence. These in-home programs pair trained nurses or paraprofessionals with new parents to help them develop parenting skills, access community resources and ensure their children are safe and thriving. Virginia communities offer many different home visiting models.

One of the most effective programs for preventing child abuse and neglect is the Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP). NFP pairs low-income, first-time mothers with a trained public health registered nurse beginning in the second trimester of pregnancy and lasting through a child’s second birthday. Several high-quality, randomized control studies show that abuse and neglect can be cut in half among children whose mothers participate in NFP, compared to children whose mothers are left out. Children whose mothers participate are also less likely to later become involved in crime. Participating mothers have better prenatal health and are less likely to have closely spaced births than mothers left out. The first NFP program in Virginia was launched in 2012, thanks to federal Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program funding.

Another nationally established program, Healthy Families, can also improve outcomes for young children and their families. Healthy Families Virginia works throughout the state to promote positive parenting, improve child health, promote responsive parent-child interaction, and prevent child abuse and neglect among pregnant women and families of children under age 5. The most recent Virginia data show that over 90 percent of participating families received recommended prenatal care, were delivered at an appropriate birthweight, were connected to medical providers and were immunized. The FY 2011 statewide rate of confirmed cases of child abuse and neglect among program participants was only 0.7 percent, a very low rate for such a high risk population.

SafeCare is an example of a home visiting program that can help families who have already had an incidence of abuse and neglect or are deemed at a very high risk. A high-quality, randomized statewide study in Oklahoma found that adding SafeCare to the state’s existing child welfare in-home service program helped prevent repeat abuse. SafeCare reduced reports for neglect and abuse by about 26 percent compared to the same in-home services without SafeCare for parents of children ages 0-5. Few programs have had success with families with a history of abuse, making these results even more impressive. SafeCare does not yet operate in Virginia.

These are only a few of the many program models that can help Virginia families thrive and keep their children safe from abuse and neglect. Since 2006, the Virginia Home Visiting Consortium has been improving the quality, efficiency and effectiveness of early childhood home visiting services in the state.

Supporting—and understanding—the immigrant parent

blogblock_immigrantparentsImagine you’re a parent. Raising a child is one of the hardest jobs you have EVER had. Now imagine you’re suddenly doing it in a new country, where very few people can speak your native language. Where you know little about the resources available to your family. Where few—if any—of your family and friends are there to support you.

This is the life of an immigrant parent.

More than 24 percent of children in the U.S. – about 17 million kids – have at least one foreign-born parent. Parents raising a first generation in the U.S. face a very special and difficult set of challenges. Obvious issues such as language barriers and lack of access to resources often mix with the more personal stresses of isolation, confusion about cultural identity and legal issues.

Last month, SCAN produced a Parenting Today radio show on the topic, with guest Shirley Jones from HACAN (Hispanics Against Child Abuse and Neglect).

“Parents are isolated because of the language—because of everything, really—and so they’re just trying to cope the best way they can,” explained Shirley. “They need a lot of support, a lot of help, to obtain some degree of safety for their family.” [Listen to the FULL RADIO SHOW here.]

At SCAN, we serve hundreds of immigrant families every year through multiple programs. Many of the parents in these families have shared their fears and frustrations with us, and as an organization we want to be a source of support. Over the last few years we’ve developed a number of fact sheets for our Parent Resource Center covering topics such as:

Resources from organizations for immigrant parents are valuable, but we understand very well that the isolation issue—when parents are feeling like they are on the outside of the very community in which they live—requires action on a person-by-person basis.

“They don’t know who to ask and where to go; that exasperates the isolation,” says Shirley. But by listening and being available, she insists each of us can have an impact.

“Slowly and carefully and lovingly, it can be done,” she says. “Invite an immigrant family that plays with your child to go to a movie, and now that family knows where the movie is and they will invite another immigrant family. Those sorts of things—just a little thinking and a little heart—will do it every time.”

This unique parenting experience is the norm for MILLIONS of parents today; the parents raising nearly a quarter of this country’s future citizens. It’s critical that we support immigrant parents as well as take the time to understand them.

Have you put “a little thinking and a little heart” into connecting with the diverse families in your community? Share with us – we want to know!

What happens when you believe?

HolidayAppeal_dec2012_TITLEThe theme of SCAN’s year-end report this year touches on the essence of our work…

Believing in children as the hope for tomorrow;

Believing in the family as an essential fiber in the fabric of our community;

Believing that we each have a role and responsibility in supporting parents around us in order to ensure children can experience childhood as it is meant to be – a safe, nurturing time for learning, growing, and becoming.

As I reflect back on 2012, I am literally engulfed in gratitude – for the dedicated staff who lead each of SCAN’s programs; for the more than 250 volunteers whose selfless dedication touched the lives of more than 1,300 children last year; and for the many donors and community partners who sustain these valuable programs. I hope you will take a look at our Annual Report and discover what can happen when you believe!

HolidayAppeal_dec2012_REV3As we look forward to 2013, I am equally excited about the creative ideas being discussed in order to commemorate SCAN’s 25th anniversary! Our silver anniversary year means a quarter century of providing parent education, advocating for abused children, and engaging the community in public education around child abuse and the power of positive parenting. Already 46 donors have contributed more than $18,500 toward our holiday campaign goal of raising $25,000 for SCAN’s programs in 2013. What an outpouring of support!

If you are not a regular subscriber to SCAN’s Building Blocks blog, I encourage you to sign up so that we can update you throughout the coming year about the impact SCAN’s programs are having for vulnerable children and families in Northern Virginia and ways you can get involved as we celebrate 25 years of making a difference in this region.

My wish for each of you is for a safe, nurturing home of your own; opportunities to engage with one another in 2013; and the joy and peace that comes from being part of an effort that is making a real difference in our own community. Happy holidays!

Sonia Quiñónez
Executive Director
SCAN of Northern Virginia

Raising Issues, Raising Voices

Last week we hosted a special Training for Citizen Advocates on Children’s Issues. So often at SCAN we work directly with individual children and families, but we also take time to focus on state-wide issues impacting thousands of families in our region. Along with Prevent Child Abuse VirginiaVoices for Virginia’s Children and The Commonwealth Institute we hosted elected officials Sen. Barbara Favola (a SCAN Honorary Board Member), Del. Charniele Herring and Del. Dave Albo (see a photo of our guests at the bottom of this post!)  The day included a basic advocacy training and policy briefing, as well as a legislative briefing for the more than 50 participants learning how to best make their voices heard on behalf of children and families.

(The press was there, too! Read more about the training in the West End Alexandria Patch here.)

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So many of our friends and supporters ask us how their voices can be heard as they speak up for children in our community. Here are three basic steps based on what we learned at the training to get you started:

1. Get educated. We’re especially interested in Medicaid Expansion in Virginia and what it means for children and families. Whatever the topic, learn as much as you can and be a resource for your community and local legislators. The Commonwealth Institute has great information on Medicaid Expansion here.

Photo Nov 30, 3 32 29 PM

2. Go to Richmond. On January 23rd, SCAN staff and volunteers with our CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) Program will head to the General Assembly in Richmond for our annual Advocacy Day. Want to join us? Meet your legislators? Discuss children’s issues? Contact us for more information.

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3. Contact your legislators. You may hear it all the time, but one of the elected officials at our training said that if their office receives just FIVE LETTERS on a particular subject, then it’s important enough to take more time on that issue. FIVE LETTERS! What an empowering piece of information! Our Virginia legislators cover so many issues in a given year, and they rely on constituents to voice their concerns and help them focus on the most critical topics. Find out who your legislators are here.

It’s so important that we KEEP TALKING. So, how do you advocate for children and families? What issues are most important to you and your community as we head into the 2013 legislative session? Let us know in the comments section below.

How can I teach my child gratitude?

As many of the families in our community get ready for the Thanksgiving holiday next week (not to mention the rush into gift-giving season), we’ve heard parents struggling with how to teach their children gratitude.

  • “Will my son ever say ‘thank you’ without being reminded?”
  • “Why is my daughter focusing on what she DOESN’T have rather than everything she DOES have?”
  • “Is gratitude something I can actually teach my kids?”

Let’s be honest–it’s not just children who often miss the focus on giving thanks. Many of us grown-ups could also use a reminder this time of year when it comes to being thankful and expressing gratitude.

So here’s your official reminder, parents: Take 5 minutes this week to consider how YOU can bring more gratitude into your daily family routine. Read our fact sheet on Being a Role Model for your kids, and check out our new Teaching Kids Gratitude Board over on Pinterest!

We also love this article, Giving Thanks: 7 ways to teach kids, from parenting blogger Jeana Lee Tahnk over on The Huffington Post. Our favorites are #2 (Be a role model.) and #4 (Volunteer together.)

What about you? How do you teach gratitude to your children? Please share in the comments below.

Co-Parenting: It’s hard, but worth it.

Putting your kids’ needs ahead of your own is a defining part of being a parent (that, and sometimes DNA plays a role).  But what happens if you and your spouse decide that separating as a couple is what you want?  It’s not the end of your road as a parent, and it’s certainly not the time to stop working as a team to raise the children you have together.  Co-parenting is best for your children, but many divorced or separated parents have a difficult time adjusting. We thought we’d share some great tips we found at helpguide.org, a non-profit that serves people looking for information regarding healthy living, childhood and family issues, as well as mental and emotional health.

  1. Set aside your anger and hurt feelings. The best way to do this is focus on your children – remember that your child’s best interests are the most important.  You should also make sure you are not using your child as a messenger or talking negatively about your ex.
  2. Be peaceful, consistent and purposeful when communicating. Before you contact an ex, think about what you want to say and how you want to say it. Helpguide.org suggests setting a business-like tone, making requests (“Would you be willing to…?”), listening, showing restraint, talking consistently and keeping your conversation child-focused.  If you are interested in rebuilding a relationship (not necessarily a romantic one), keep three things in mind: relax, apologize sincerely when you feel badly about something, and ask for your ex’s opinion.  Keep topics simple (do not ask his or her opinion with a topic on which you know you disagree), and make sure you are ready for a relationship.
  3. Parent as a team. The real key to this is consistency. Parenting styles don’t have to be exactly the same, but it won’t work if one parent is trying to undermine the other.  Make sure you have general rules (you don’t need the exact same rules at both homes) so your child knows what to expect going between parents and there isn’t a radical change.  Another idea to keep in mind is making sure you and your ex are disciplining similarly. If your child loses dessert privileges at one house, make sure your ex carries the punishment over to their house.  The same goes for rewarding good behavior! Lastly, children need schedules.  Make sure dinner, bed and homework times are the same at each house so the child feels like they aren’t being disrupted. Important issues need to be talked about and agreed upon by both parents.  These topics include medical care, education and financial decisions. If you have disagreements, try to be respectful, keep talking (not arguing) and be prepared to compromise.
  4. Make transitions easier for your child. Separation or divorce can be very hard on a child. There are two specific times to make sure your child is comfortable: when your child leaves and when they return. During these times, do not exchange more than pleasantries with your ex, you are only there for your child at that time.When your time with your child is coming to an end, remind them they will be going to see their other parent (this should be a day or two ahead of time) so they are prepared. Make sure your child’s things are packed so they don’t forget anything they will miss (a special toy or stuffed animal, for example). Finally, always drop off your child – do not “pick them up.” If you go to the other parent’s home to get your child, you might interrupt a special bonding moment between your child and ex. Make sure there is an agreed upon drop-off time (5 p.m. or ‘after dinner’) so you don’t worry and your ex gets all of their time with the child.When your child is coming home, keep things relaxed and low-key – for example, you can read a book together or talk about their time away. It’s important to allow them some space to transition.  Make sure there are two sets of necessities like toothbrushes – one for each house – so the child isn’t worried about unpacking. Have a routine for their return, such as a special dinner or game night.Something many parents deal with (and worry about) when going through a separation or divorce is “visitation refusal.”  This is when a child doesn’t want to leave one household to go to the other. Something important to keep in mind is that this is common!   Find the cause, go with the flow and have a respectful conversation with your ex about the problem. And remember: most visitation refusals are temporary!

Listen to our recent radio show on Co-Parenting and download a Fact Sheet on our Parent Resource Center here, or visit these other useful links:

YOUR TURN: Have you and your ex found creative ways to make co-parenting work? Please share with us in the comments section below!

SCANStop: Foster care and my family

This week’s guest blogger is Dan Fleig, a member of SCAN’s Public Education Committee and 2011 recipient of the Allies in Prevention Award. Dan is President of We-R-Safe, an all-inclusive program providing tools to make sure volunteers are checked and trained before being given the responsibility of being around youth. He is also a foster parent, but we’ll let him tell you about that now…

May is National Foster Care Month, and as such is intended to draw attention to the efforts and needs of foster care programs throughout the country.  But one needn’t look any further than our own neighborhoods in Northern Virginia to see the crucial role these programs play in making a difference in the welfare of children.

As a foster care family in Fairfax County, VA, we’ve witnessed first-hand how these programs benefit children. When their lives have been turned upside down, foster care programs and foster parents (or “resource parents” as we’re sometimes referred to today) provide hope and a chance those children might not otherwise have been given.

Children in foster care are those who, through no fault of their own, have experienced some form of abuse or neglect, or have been subject to some life-altering circumstances which put them at risk.  As a result, many different parties such as the child’s family members, local child welfare and legal advocates, and in some instances the child (if he or she is old enough) each offer their perspectives regarding the child’s current home environment and caregiver(s) to a judge who ultimately makes the decision about whether or not a child will be placed in foster care.

Amazingly enough, all many of these children need is love, support and a renewed sense of safety. Which is exactly what foster care families are enabled to provide, and the very same conditions most of us take for granted.

While the ultimate goal of foster care is to reunite children in care with their families, it can’t always happen. In my family’s case, it resulted in the adoption of a beautiful and loving boy who now calls me dad. (In Fairfax County, VA, more than 70 percent of adoptive families begin as foster parents, then commit to adopting the child in their care. Source: Fairfax County DFS)

It never ceases to amaze me when someone (usually a neighbor) discovers we are a foster family. The typical response is one of unnecessary praise: “How wonderful,” or “You are such special people.” The reality is that we are a family who has many of the same resources as any other family in our neighborhood: an extra bed and a warm place in our hearts for children. We’ve just decided to use those to make a tangible difference in the life of a child and family in need.

If you have ever entertained the prospect of becoming a foster care family, I implore you to contact your local agency and attend a no-obligation orientation meeting.  Becoming a foster family will require training, background checks, an in-home study and much more! Fairfax County has an informational brochure available online.  Please check it out for yourself. Like me, I’m sure you will be amazed at the incredible resources available to foster care families and most importantly, the families of children in need.

– Dan Fleig
SCAN Public Education Committee Member

More local resources:

Foster Care in Alexandria
Foster Care in Arlington
Foster Care in Fairfax
Foster Care in Loudoun
Foster Care in Prince William
– Learn more about Volunteer Emergency Families for Children