Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth Awards Grant to SCAN for partnership with ACPS & Alexandria DCHS

July 10, 2018–The Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth has awarded a three-year, $150,000 grant to SCAN of Northern Virginia to support parent education and engagement that facilitates youth tobacco use prevention in the city. SCAN of Northern Virginia, Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) and Alexandria Department of Community and Human Services (DCHS) will work together over the next three years to provide a series of Strengthening Families trainings in ACPS schools, Healthy Conversation forums for parents, and a variety of other public education and outreach events.

“We are thrilled that VFHY is continuing to support our work educating families about more effective parenting and the role it plays in reducing risk factors, as well as directly educating students about the dangers of tobacco and drug use,” said Marisol Morales, Parent Education Program Manager at SCAN of Northern Virginia.  SCAN received a similar grant from VFHY in 2015 to launch the program. During the first three years of the grant, SCAN reached 205 youth and 152 families with 12 series in both elementary and secondary schools throughout ACPS.

The Family and Community Engagement Center (FACE) at Alexandria City Public Schools will once again provide access to schools and outreach to parents in the district, as well as staff support during trainings. Alexandria DCHS will be responsible for implementing community awareness initiatives that build a school environment against youth tobacco use.

“Working with community partners like ACPS and DCHS, we have seen how our coordinated work can have an even greater impact on families in our community,” said Morales. “This grant is a valuable opportunity to reach students—where they are—as well as parents and other adults in the community who can connect with kids to make a difference.”

About SCAN of Northern Virginia
Stop Child Abuse Now (SCAN) of Northern Virginia is a non-profit organization whose mission is to promote the well-being of children, improve parent-child relations and prevent child abuse and neglect. Our vision is that every child in Northern Virginia will grow up in a safe, stable, nurturing family, with the supports they need to contribute to stronger communities today and as adults tomorrow. We EDUCATE the community about the scope, nature and consequences of child abuse and neglect and the importance of positive, nurturing parenting; PROVIDE direct parent education; and ADVOCATE for children in the community, the legislature and the courts. Learn more about SCAN at  @scanofnova

 About the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth (VFHY)
Established by the Virginia General Assembly in 1999, the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth is responsible for statewide efforts to prevent and reduce youth tobacco use, childhood obesity and substance use. Since the Foundation began its work in 2001, youth smoking in Virginia has been cut more than 75 percent! VFHY directly reaches about 50,000 children each year through classroom-based prevention programs in public schools, after-school programs, community centers, daycares and other youth centers across the state. VFHY’s award-winning marketing campaign delivers prevention messages to more than 450,000 children annually. For more information about the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth, please visit


Sarah Self, Public Education Coordinator
SCAN of Northern Virginia

Richard Foster, Public Affairs Manager
Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth
804-225-3947 direct, 804-497-0871 mobile



Red Ribbon Week: Kids, Parents and the Power of Talking About Drugs & Alcohol

Children of parents who talk to their children regularly about drugs are 42% LESS LIKELY to use drugs than those who won’t; yet, only a quarter of teens report having these conversations.

On October 24, Red Ribbon Week begins. An annual alcohol, tobacco and other drug prevention awareness campaign, it’s the oldest and largest drug prevention campaign in the nation. And this year—with the theme YOLO: Be Drug Free—it’s providing SCAN, Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) and other partners in Alexandria with an exciting new way to spark conversations in families:


  • SCAN and ACPS’ Family and Community Engagement (FACE) are providing Strengthening Families Parenting Classes, a series that helps build and strengthen the parent-child relationships and support families as they begin conversations around substance abuse prevention.
  • FACE has distributed original posters designed by ACPS’ very own students in Elementary, Middle and High Schools in Alexandria. (The poster creators are the winners of last years’ Red Ribbon Week poster contest.) Look for the posters in your schools or get a sneak peek of a winning poster here!
  • Our partners will also offer a series of parent/child forums in the fall and spring for ACPS families. Stay tuned!

So, what does Red Ribbon Week mean for the children and families in YOUR network? We hope you will:

  1. Empower families to discuss this message at home, at the dinner table, at family outings, and with friends and extended family. Explore the resources at and to get started.
  2. If you’re in Alexandria, encourage kids and teens to enter the poster and video contests being sponsored by FACE, SCAN and its partners. Learn more about details and deadlines on FACE Center’s Facebook page at
  3. Encourage kids and parents to follow the theme on social media using #youonlyliveonce and @redribbonweek. For information on the other program events mentioned here, please contact the ACPS FACE Center at or 703-619-8055.



Strengthening Families: 3 Key Ideas for Professionals

Last month, SCAN held its second facilitator training for the Strengthening Families Program, this time with a focus on the curriculum for elementary aged children (6-11). Heather Eshleman and Larry Williams, from the Strengthening Families Foundation, led the two-day training, sharing their expertise and extensive experience with the program.

Here are our three main takeaways from the training:

1. The objective of the program is key.

IMG_0357 2The Strengthening Families Program came about to combat the reoccurrence of substance abuse that, unfortunately, tends to be passed on through the generations of a family. The way the program does this is through parent and child education with the philosophy (and the statistics to back it up) that active parenting is the best anti-drug measure out there.

There are certain risk factors that put children in danger of developing substance abuse problems down the road, such as family conflict, lack of supervision or discipline, and lack of communication. Evidence shows that even when families are in the most at-risk of environments, strong families can avoid many adverse outcomes. The Strengthening Families curriculum aims to mitigate risk factors by leading both parents and children in strengthening their “protective factors”. Facilitators work with parents to promote and improve family bonding, parental monitoring and discipline, communication between parents and children, and consistent and predictable parenting. Children, in turn, work to improve their resiliency, a trait shown to greatly help youth to do well and bounce back despite family/personal challenges or set-backs.

2. Focus on strengths.

IMG_2191.jpegStrengthening Families is a strength-based curriculum, so rather than finding the flaws and problems in a family and “fixing” them, group leaders look for the strengths a family already has and builds upon them. The class provides a welcoming, non-judgmental environment for parents and children to feel free to express themselves and share their problems and struggles as well as successes with the group. Group leaders are encouraged to facilitate open communication with participants. Rather than dogmatically dictating the “do’s and don’ts” of parenting, facilitators lead and model, teaching by example. They actively listen to parents and support them instead of castigating them, making suggestions and talking with them, not at them.

3. Staying true to the program makes a difference.

IMG_7851Strengthening Families is an evidence-based program that promises robust results. It has proven to effectively increase parent efficacy, parenting skills, and marital communication, as well as decrease stress, depression, and alcohol and drug use among parents. At the same time, due to the program, children have shown decreased depression, conduct disorders, aggression, use of tobacco, alcohol and drugs, and increased cooperation, social competencies, school grades, and forging of pro-social friendships.

While the evidence for the program is undeniable, training attendees learned that adaptations can make the program more effective but modifications break fidelity and do not guarantee the fantastic results promised. Adaptations are changes made by group leaders to get the skills taught to the particular people participating in the program; they make SFP a better fit to culture, age, local custom, religion or gender of class participants and they can help improve recruitment and retention rates by 40%. Modifications, on the other hand, such as dropping, adding or rearranging lessons, make fundamental changes to the program. As modifications essentially create a new program, their effectiveness is unknown and therefore, the program is no longer evidence-based.

– Alice Clark, Parent Education Coordinator

SCAN will partner with ACPS (FACE) this spring to offer the Strengthening Families Program for families with children aged 6-11 for the first time. We are so excited to begin the program after this dynamic and engaging training! For more information on the program please visit SCAN’s website or contact us directly!

Top 5 Takeaways from our Strengthening Families Training

IMG_1343-2Last month, SCAN held a training for facilitators who will lead a new parenting program offered by SCAN’s Parent Education Program: Strengthening Families. Strengthening Families is an evidence-based program focusing on building positive relationships between parents and middle-school children. Charlie McLaughlin from the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth led the three-day training with lots of energy and enthusiasm. Here are our Top 5 Tips from the training:

  1. Give love and set limits.

Balancing showing love and setting limits for children can be hard. Some parents focus on setting limits for their middle school children and think that they do not need as much attention and affection as when they were younger. Other parents are afraid to set limits because they want their child to feel loved.

Children need both love and limits. Parents still need to show affection and tell their child that they love them. Parents also have a responsibility to set limits to keep them safe and teach them right from wrong. Parents should teach their child that actions have consequences and that certain behaviors are acceptable and others are not.

To keep a balance between love and limits, parents should speak openly about what the rules and expectations are and what the consequences will be for breaking those rules. If a child does not follow the rules, the parents should calmly follow through with the consequence. When children are following the rules, parents should be sure to compliment their child and thank them.

  1. Understand each other’s challenges.FullSizeRender-6

Some children may think that parents have easy lives. From their point of view, parents get to earn money, set house rules, stay up as late as they want and go anywhere, anytime. They may not understand how hard parents have to work to earn money, how stressful paying bills and taking care of all of the housework can be, and how much they may worry about their child.

Some parents may think that their children have easy lives. They do not have all of the responsibilities of paying bills or doing all of the housework. They do not have to work full-time jobs or give rides to their children. Parents may not understand how stressful it can be to try to balance school work (which can be really hard), after-school activities, friends and family. Youth also may have to deal with bullying or peer pressure to drink or use other drugs.

Both parents and youth need to be aware of the challenges everyone in the family is facing, so that they better understand each other and appreciate the challenges other family members are facing.

  1. Actively listen to your child.

Parents should listen to their children and let them finish talking before reacting. Sometimes parents respond before a they can completely explain something that happened. If a child tells his parents that one of his friends was caught cheating, the parents may jump in and respond at that point. If the parents respond by reminding the child that cheating is wrong or saying the child can’t spend time with this friend, then the child won’t have the chance to explain that he reminded his friend that cheating is wrong and tried to stop him. He will probably not come to his parents again with a problem because he may think that his parents do not listen to him and do not trust him to know that cheating is wrong.

Parents should let their child explain everything that happened to make sure they know the whole story before reacting. This can be difficult, but it shows the teenager that their parents will listen to them. When children feel their parents listen to them, they are more likely to come to them for help.

  1. Use “I statements.”IMG_0614

Parents should also make sure that they are clear with their children about what they are feeling. One effective way of doing this is using “I statements.”

“I statements” follow this format: “I feel ___ when you ___ because ___.” This is followed up with what the parent wants the child to do differently in the future.

Using “I statements” makes it clear how the parent feels without putting blame on the child. Parents should use “I statements” in a calm voice, and they should be willing to listen to their child’s response.

  1. Plan family meetings.

Making time to meet as a family can be difficult because of people’s busy schedules. However, family meetings are an important opportunity to address issues that come up and celebrate accomplishments. Having regular family meetings means that families do not only talk to each other when something is going wrong. Having a set for a family meeting that all family members participate in strengthens each family member and the family as a whole.

SCAN is very excited to begin this new program, and our facilitators are looking forward to meeting and working with parents and their children this Fall! Please contact us if you’re interested in learning more.

– Marisol Morales, Parent Education Manager