As we reflect on the impact of our programs in 2017, it’s an important time for us to gather new data about children and families in our communities. One of our favorite resources for statistics is Voices for Virginia’s Children, especially their links to the Kids Count Data Center, a project of the Annie E. Casey Foundation. We also refer to the Virginia Department of Social Services’ online information system here.
The newest numbers on child abuse in Northern Virginia report that more than 6,500 children were involved in valid cases of child abuse or neglect last year. We are committed to these children, and will continue to work in 2018 on both advocacy and prevention — and we hope you will too. (Perhaps 2018 is the year you join our Allies in Prevention Coalition!)
Please download our new Child Abuse in Northern Virginia fact sheet and refer to it in the coming year as we work together to protect children and prevent child abuse in 2018.
August 25, 2017—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. Expecting parents will be able to 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 will receive a certificate good for one Baby Box filled with a few supplies for baby. SCAN is currently the only distribution site in Northern Virginia.
Virginia launched a statewide Safe Sleep initiative at a launch event on August 23, 2017. At that event, Carl Ayers, Director of the Division of Family Services at the Virginia Department of Social Services, said that safe sleep related deaths are the leading cause of infant deaths, age 1 month to 1 year, in Virginia. In an effort to reduce this tragic statistic here in Northern Virginia, for the past two years, SCAN of Northern Virginia has led a partnership with a dozen other local agencies to distribute more than 700 pack-n-plays to low income families in need of a safe sleep environment for their baby. 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 numerous parenting resources offered by SCAN. 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/SUID (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome/Sudden Unexplained Infant Death), only 49% of mothers always put their babies on their back to sleep (https://www.cbsnews.com/news/too-parents-still-put-babies-at-risk-of-sids/). This program is not all about the box, it is about engaging parents and caregivers and talking about safe sleep.
At SCAN, we believe that every child deserves love and nurturing as they learn and develop. We also believe that parents truly love their children and want to be good parents; but we also know that parenting can be tough. Many parents feel isolated in the difficult job of parenting and need information, skills and support to become positive, nurturing influences in their children’s lives. Our partnership with the Baby Box Co. will allow us to continue to be an accessible, useful source of parenting information, support and connections among families and those who influence families throughout Northern Virginia.
Parents who are interested in the Baby Box University should go to www.babyboxuniversity.com . If you are interested in learning more about Operation Safe Babies and would like to volunteer with the program, please contact Tracy Leonard, Public Education Manager at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last month, SCAN hosted an Allies in Prevention Coalition meeting to discuss the crisis—and our response as child welfare professionals—in Northern Virginia, where in 2016 we experienced 248 drug related deaths, 80% of which were opioid related .
Professor Valerie Cuffee, LCSW, MSW, CPM from George Mason Univerisity (and a SCAN board member) led a presentation entitled Helping Parents with Heroin and Opioid Addiction Using SBIRT(Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment).
Those in attendance learned how to:
Recognize heroin/opioid addiction as a health epidemic
Emphasize the impact of heroin/opioid use or addiction on parenting
Introduce & practice SBIRT tools to address use and addiction
Emphasize the importance of assertive & collaborative referral to treatment
Opioid use, including prescription oxycodone and fentanyl as well as illicit heroin, is widespread in the United States, cutting across virtually all health, racial, socioeconomic, and geographic boundaries. Experts estimate that more than 2.5 million people abused or were dependent on opioids in 2015. As the nation’s opioid use has skyrocketed, more individuals are being impacted by opioids’ adverse effects, including Northern Virginia residents.
This means an increasing number of children are born into families and environments that revolve around an addiction to these drugs. ChildTrends reports that at least 2 million children annually have a parent who uses illicit drugs, including opioids. Parents who abuse drugs often place their children in danger. This danger may result in neglect, physical abuse, or domestic violence. Nearly 1/3 of children entering foster care do so in part because of parental drug abuse. Even with early intervention, many children of opioid-dependent parents are diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder later in life, in part due to the diminished care and unpredictability associated with opioid use.
Opioid use is also impacting adolescents with greater frequency. Among youth, prescription opioid use is often intentional and for recreational use. Many youth need to go no further than a medicine cabinet to find opioids. Adolescents may be at an increased risk due to the common misbelief that prescription opioids are safer than heroin, and that noninjecting routes of administration are associated with less risk of overdose. Adolescents may be more likely to overdose from prescription opioids because they underestimate the strength of the drug they are using and they see their use as very different from that from what they consider to be “street users”.
Adults and adolescents also utilize opioids as a coping mechanism for childhood trauma and/or mental illness. In working together to stem opioid use it is important for communities to reduce the stigma associated with seeking assistance. Innovative programs are growing in places like Massachusetts and Ohio, as well as in Family Drug Treatment Courts like those we have in some of our own local communities.
We need to help abused, neglected and otherwise traumatized children by providing tools that are tailored to their specific issues before they turn to drugs for self-medication. And for those already dependent, the message needs to be clear: it is not too late. Opioid use is not just an individual crisis; it is a community health crisis affecting our children and families. To reduce opioid dependence, the community needs to be educated and involved.
– Today’s blog post was written by SCAN MSW Intern Chamone Marshall
This Spring, SCAN hosted a series of free film screenings and panel discussions about the award-winning documentary Resilience: The Biology of Stress and The Science of Hope. Held with partners in Alexandria, Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William, we engaged parents and professionals in discussions about what it means when a child is resilient, how trauma affects the brain and body, and what we can do as a community to use this research in our work with children and families.
Here are the top 5 things we learned by hosting these screenings:
Attendees are committed to creating a common language around trauma informed care in our communities.
Hundreds of viewers left with greater knowledge of childhood trauma and resilience.
We need to have a greater appreciation of the connection between the physical body and mental health.
Attendees appreciated the professional insight from the panelists and the value that the post-movie conversation added.
It takes one caring adult to make a difference in the life of a child.
We’d like to send a special thank you to our panelists:
Dr. Katherine Deye
If you’d like to learn more about the movie and the possibility of future screenings, please contact SCAN’s Public Education Manager Tracy Leonard: tleonard(at)scanva.org
How does it feel to be a kid in today’s world? How can we help children and teens manage new 21st-century realities — from the impact of online bullying to LGBTQ issues to the tragedy of rising suicide rates among youth? Earlier this month, we gathered in Arlington to discuss this new “Culture of Kids” with our Allies in Prevention Coalition.
Ask kids about their support network. (Explain what it means to have a support network, if they don’t know.) Who would they go to if they needed help? What is the best way to get in touch with those connections? Kids should be aware of and think through this network before a crisis occurs. EXPERT TIP:Identify trusted adults. It doesn’t have to be a parent – help them brainstorm possible contacts.
When it comes to bullying, peer training is key. Bullying prevention programs that include peer training – kids working with kids to model positive behaviors — are more successful and tend to increase parent involvement by linking families to community resources. EXPERT TIP:If online bullying is an issue and kids need help, there are some great resources for kids (and parents) at NCMEC’s NetSmartz.org
Gauge (and be sensitive to) every child’s safety level. When talking to youth, we must try to understand how safe they are in their home and in their greater community. (Neighborhood, school, etc.) For example, is it safe for a gay teenager to “come out” to her family? Her circle of friends? Her school community? Sensitivity when asking questions is also key: “Are you dating anyone?” is better than “Do you have a boyfriend/girlfriend?” Even intakes should be considered — instead of a simple “gender” it might work better to include “gender at birth; current gender.” EXPERT TIP: Post a rainbow or HRC (Human Rights Coalition) sticker in your workplace so LGBTQ youth recognize a person and/or space that could be helpful for them.
Don’t be afraid to have touch-point conversations with teens. And don’t be afraid to talk about difficult topics and open conversations around things like suicide: “Do you feel like hurting yourself?”, “Have you thought about killing yourself?” EXPERT TIP:Don’t talk about someone who “committed suicide” because it carries a note of guilt/crime. Instead, use “killed themselves” or “died by suicide.”
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?
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!
We’re reading some great books this summer at SCAN! Here are some of our current picks:
Our CASA volunteers just finished reading Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble and Coming of Age in the Bronx by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc as part of their quarterly book club for in-service hours. LeBlanc chronicles the lives of two teenage girls in this New York Times bestseller, giving a glimpse of the tragedy they endure through homelessness, betrayal, the heartbreaking separation of prison, and, throughout it all, the damage of poverty.
Parenting with Presence: Practices for Raising Conscious, Confident, Caring Kids by Susan Stiffelman, MFT, was recommended by SCAN’s Parent Education Program Manager. An easy, non-academic read, the book covers concepts through the author’s own experience working with families. Stiffelman expresses the challenges many families face, and provides insight on why certain behaviors are happening, ways to help parents build awareness about these behaviors and small changes families can make that can make a big difference.
Know a tween/teen reader? Check out Auggie & Me: Three Wonder Stories, R.J. Palacio’s sequel to the wildly popular Wonder. These stories are an extra peek at main character Auggie before he started at Beecher Prep and during his first year there. Readers get to see other perspecties of Auggie and his life through Julian, the bully; Christopher, Auggie’s oldest friend; and Charlotte, Auggie’s new friend. Wonder is a book in SCAN’s Young Adult Stories that Build Resiliencyseries; discussion questions and other resources can be found here.
What are YOU reading this summer? We’d love to hear!
Darkness to Light has aspired to reach a tipping point with adults in their home state of South Carolina to make sure that they are “actively preventing child sexual abuse by training 5% of the adult population to prevent, recognize and react to child sexual abuse!” This idea comes from The Tipping Point, a book by Malcolm Gladwell that says social change can occur if 5% of any given population is influenced to think and act a certain way.
So what does that mean in Northern Virginia? Our tipping point would be 115,000. Can we do that? At SCAN, we would certainly like to think that is attainable. We alone have trained 1,129 adults and have a network of facilitators across the region who are training even more. Other local organizations – including the Center for Alexandria’s Children, Arlington CAC and Quantico Marine Base Family Advocacy Program – also provide trainings in the area.
We realize at SCAN that we cannot do this alone. I am now a certified instructor with Darkness to Light, meaning I can train other facilitators to continue to build capacity in Northern Virginia to train even more adults in Stewards of Children. As of May 12th, there are now 7 more authorized facilitators who can help that number grow.
With 23 facilitators now in our network, it would take each of us training 5,000 adults in a year to reach our region’s tipping point. That might not be within our grasp this year, but we can certainly begin to make a dent and start tipping the scale. Will you help us? Have you been trained in Stewards of Children? Do you know of an organization, school, faith community or group of parents that should have this training?
Child welfare professionals like you can help us tip the scales! Not only to ensure change in the way adults prevent, recognize and react to child sexual abuse, but to help us reduce the instances of mental illness, substance abuse, teen pregnancy, delinquency, and school dropouts associated with child sexual abuse.
Please contact me to learn more.
– Tracy Leonard, Public Education Manager
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.
When you hear about child sexual abuse, many thoughts might go through your mind:
“They should go to jail.”
“Parents should keep a closer eye on their children.”
“Who would do that to a child?”
These statements distance us further from what has happened. These thoughts make it easier to dismiss the sexual abuse because it happened to someone else – whether with celebrity status, or it happened a long time ago, or it happened within a certain institution. We believe it will never happen to the children that we know.
We need to shift our thinking though because 1 in 10 children will be sexually abused by their 18th birthday and 90% of victims are abused by someone they know and trust. The thought that goes through your mind should be, “What can I do to prevent it from happening in the first place?” As parents, professionals, or simply members of the community, we need to learn to recognize the signs of child sexual abuse, react when child sexual abuse is disclosed, and respond. We also need to learn how to prevent it from happening in the first place.
In the case of Josh Duggar, it appears that not only those who are considered mandated reporters failed in their job, but other adults who were aware of what happened, including his parents. So what exactly is a “mandated reporter”? According to our national partner Darkness to Light, “A mandated reporter is one who is required by law to report reasonable suspicions of abuse. Mandated reporters typically include social workers, teachers, health care workers, child care providers, law enforcement, mental health professionals, among others but keep in mind that some states designate all citizens as mandated reporters. Regardless of specific mandated reporters, all persons can and should always reports suspected abuse. It is the job of all adults to protect children.”
It is not the job of a child to protect themselves from strangers or from bad things happening to them. It is the responsibility of the adults in a child’s life to do that. And if a child is sexually abused, or is the one sexually abusing other children, we must know how to react and respond.
“40% of child sexual abuse is by an older, more powerful youth”— www.d2l.org
Do you know how to recognize, react and respond? Within the last 3 years, SCAN has trained over 825 Northern Virginia community members to be Stewards of Children using the curriculum created by Darkness to Light. They know how to recognize, react, and respond. Shouldn’t you?
If you are interested in becoming trained or organizing a training within your organization, please contact me. We cannot do this alone. Children need all of us.
– Tracy Leonard, Public Education Manager