Being Bilingual: A Volunteer Interview

Emma Pazos is a bilingual CASA volunteer in SCAN’s Alexandria/Arlington CASA Program. Originally from Peru, Emma is an internal auditor at a firm in D.C. She is currently on her first assigned case as a volunteer, and thus far has proven to be a dedicated, intelligent and caring CASA. We decided to sit down with her and ask why she thinks it’s vital for the CASA program to have bilingual volunteers.


CASA: Thank you, Emma, for taking the time to give us your insight as a bilingual CASA.

Emma: I’m very happy to do it, I think it’s very important for the families we work with.

CASA: What do you believe is the most important factor in being a bilingual CASA?

Emma: Being a Hispanic person really helps break down the barrier in cultural connections, and in building rapport and trust. The family may think, ‘Here is a person that shares a similar sense of culture and may understand me better;’ even if the connection is as basic as speaking the same language. It makes a huge difference to a family who might have an entirely different exposure to and understanding of parenting and the law. This issue of abuse often occurs in families who may not have the same resources or education regarding disciplinary alternatives as you and I may have.

CASA: Are there any barriers you find unique to Spanish-speaking families?

Emma: Yes. I think foreign families have a strong fear of the legal system, law enforcement, and social services, which seems to defer a sense of trust in the system. Thus, they simply comply with what they are asked to do. They may hesitate to ask questions or shy away from learning the rights or opportunities afforded to them out of fear. Compounded by a possible legal status circumstance, families may view questions as stirring the pot and are scared it may jeopardize their opportunity at the American dream.

CASA: What have you learned as a bilingual CASA thus far?

Emma: That a family just wants to be understood. They come to this country wanting a better life for their family, but they also bring with them generational models of parenting that may have been acceptable in their internal family dynamic, but deemed unfit in this culture. It’s important that these families have a person or persons with whom they feel are not placing judgment or even perhaps a stereotyped viewpoint.


Emma’s advocacy for the children in her case has been a significant contributing factor to the family’s proactive involvement with social services. The family has risen to the occasion and immersed themselves in the services offered. The children’s parents often comment to Emma that her dedication and unwavering promotion of their well-being has inspired them to gain trust in the juvenile court and team members active on their case. The family has been able to form a safety net with other parents in parenting classes, as well as mental health therapists. The parents have demonstrated a consistent ability to remain cognizant of their actions, and often comment how the family is now united and supportive of one another.

Emma’s skills as a bilingual CASA is a potent remainder that persons of a different culture or ethnicity that immigrate into a new country–with differing systems, language and laws that govern that society–have the right to be provided efficient guidance, support and compassion as they navigate and learn about the social system and cultural norms.

Learn more about SCAN’s Alexandria/Arlington CASA Program here.


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!


SCAN INTERNS 101: Making the most out of the energy and ideas at our fingertips!

student-849822_1280SCAN has been fortunate to have the support of interns to help not only in our day-to-day operations but also when research and program implementation are needed. It was through the hard work of our intern Megan Sharma last summer that we were able to get the support and materials written for our newest initiative, Operation Safe Babies.

Many managers in the non-profit world are afraid of interns because it can mean “more work” and someone else to supervise. But if you can put that thinking aside and change your perception of interns, they can prove to be an invaluable asset to your organization and help you do even more to support your mission.

This summer, we have interns supporting us from George Mason University (Rebecca) and the Institute on Philanthropy & Voluntary Service program through The Fund for American Studies (Allison). We asked them a few questions to better understand their role as interns within a human services setting, and share some of their thoughts on how interns and employers can get the most out of the experience:

  1. How do you relate your own expectations to your intern site and intern supervisor? What if your expectations aren’t being met, what would you do?

ALLISON: I relate my expectations to my supervisor during meetings that we have to check in about how projects are proceeding and what is coming up in the future. If my expectations were not being met, I would ask if and how it might be possible to incorporate them into my assignments.

REBECCA: I try to use the interview process to express my expectations and to get a solid understanding of what the intern site’s expectations will be before accepting an internship, if that is possible. If my expectations are not being met, then I try to find a way to express that appropriately to my supervisor and discuss what changes, if any, can be made to try and meet my expectations.

  1. What is one thing you want your internship supervisor to know about you?

ALLISON: I would want my supervisor to know how my past experiences can be best utilized on the job, but perhaps more importantly, what skills and learning experiences I hope to take away from my time interning. Most young people I know take internships (especially when unpaid) to develop the skill sets they believe will be valuable in the field or industry they hope to pursue.

REBECCA: I am self-motivated enough that with adequate support I can learn any skills I did not have before starting this internship.

  1. What makes for a successful internship?

ALLISON: A successful internship is one in which there is an open dialogue between the intern and supervisor and the intern is actively and consistently challenged without being overwhelmed.

REBECCA: I believe adequate support and supervision, as well as a supportive relationship between the intern and supervisor, make an internship successful.

  1. How can an organization best support your internship experience?

ALLISON: An organization can best support your internship experience by encouraging conversation about how things are going on both sides, and being supportive but still offering honest criticism. Internships provide great opportunities to experience a given workplace without too much pressure, so it’s a perfect opportunity for the intern to learn what he or she does well as well as where he or she needs to further develop skills.

REBECCA: An organization can best support interns by providing the support they need through consistent feedback and supervision. Interns should feel like they are truly valued by the organization and that they are contributing to the organization’s work.

  1. What are effective ways that an internship supervisor can engage you in the work they are asking you to produce?

ALLISON: Knowing what skills an intern hopes to strengthen and allowing him or her to incorporate those aspects into projects is a great way of maintaining his or her engagement. Also, maintaining that open communication so as to provide opportunities for him or her to ask questions and clarify any confusion can prevent stalls and / or disengagement.

REBECCA: Taking time to thank interns for their work, even briefly, and providing feedback are effective ways to engage interns in their work.

  1. What impact do you hope to make at SCAN?

ALLISON: I hope to aid the individuals here in their work, complete my assigned projects, and hopefully provide the insight that can come from having different perspectives.

REBECCA: I hope to create meaningful and useful materials to support the Parent Education Program’s work with caregivers and children.

NEWS: SCAN to Benefit from “Rock at the Row”

July 14, 2015

SCAN has been selected to benefit  from Pentagon Row’s outdoor summer concert series “Rock at the Row.” Returning for its 13th year,  the live music event will take place Thursdays, July 16th thru August 20th from 7-9pm. Guests can enter the VIP section for $10 a person, taste local brews (with our friends from On Tap Magazine) and sample food from some of Pentagon Row’s favorite eateries. For the second year, all proceeds from VIP admission will be donated to SCAN. SCAN volunteers will be on-site to staff the VIP section and share information about our programs. Interest in volunteering? Email to sign up for a shift today! The schedule of live music includes:

July 16 – Slippery When Wet
VIP Featuring Coastal Brewery, Sine Irish Pub & Bonefish Grill

July 23 – Kristen and The Noise
VIP Featuring O’Connor Brewing Company, Nando’s Peri Peri & Champps Americana

July 30 – White Ford Bronco
VIP Featuring South Street Brewing Company, Bonefish Grill & Noodles & Company

August 1 – Special Saturday Night Concert: The 257th Army Band, Band of of the Nation’s Capital

August 6 – The Reagan Years
VIP Featuring Devil’s Backbone Brewery, Nando’s Peri Peri & Sine Irish Pub

August 13 – The Rockets
VIP Featuring Mad Fox Brewing, Bonefish Grill & Champps Americana

August 20 – Gonzo’s Nose
VIP Featuring Star Hill Brewery, Noodles & Company, Nando’s Peri Peri & Sine Irish Pub

Guest Post: A New Volunteer’s (Beautiful) Perspective

IMG_0627.JPGWe were thrilled to hear about Lainie Morgan’s experiences during her first volunteer experience with SCAN. Enjoy her story — we hope it inspires you to volunteer, too!

As someone who used to teach children and families in Baltimore but now supports educators from a national office and misses being in the classroom, I sought out the opportunity to work directly with my new community through SCAN’s mission and activities seemed to align well with what I’d learned supporting family resiliency strengthening for 15 years, so I signed up after attending one of SCAN’s monthly volunteer orientations.

Paired with the class of children five years and older, I assumed that the kids would come begrudgingly, antsy after a day of school, and be completely uninterested in the curriculum. Instead, students asked if they could come more than once a week, ran to the door each evening excited to start, greeted me with a big smile and stories of their week, and for the most part, engaged fully with our class. I was truly taken aback by how much the kids opened up and shared their talents and enthusiasms. From computer coding, patiently helping younger students and balancing with closed eyes to reading eagerly during snack, inventing new ways to explain an idea and really witty humor, these students have a ton to offer and build upon.

One week, our lone second grader gave me a card she’d made to celebrate her graduation from ESOL. I felt so special after she’d thought about me at school and wrote this beautiful note that I decided to write all the kids individual cards for the next class so they could enjoy that same feeling. During the volunteer debriefing that same evening, a parent educator asked if I’d share my observation about how well one of the kids was doing with her parent the following week. It can be hard for parents to recognize all the gifts children have when they spend a lot of time with them while managing the frustrations and annoyances of everyday life, so I was happy to reflect back what I was experiencing with the kids.

The next week each student got a letter describing what I’d noticed them doing especially well and how their presence in class specifically contributed to what we were all getting out of it. I also made a copy for each family, so that parents and caregivers could see how their kids were thriving. Parents and students alike were more excited than I expected; families talked about how grateful they were to hear such a glowing report and kids were surprised they’d achieved so much. One student gave me a big hug, another recited back to me one of the talents I’d mentioned in a later class, and a third made his own thank you card for me.

Strong self-esteem and consistent connections with a supportive adult greatly impact a child’s development. I feel extremely privileged to get to contribute even a tiny bit to that by working with the children touched by SCAN’s Parent Education Program. I would strongly encourage others to get involved as well; matching your talents with SCAN’s various needs ultimately puts you in a place to serve the needs of children and parents right here in our community.

– Lainie Morgan, SCAN Volunteer

p.s. SCAN’s next Volunteer Orientations this summer will be held on July 14 and August 6. Register here.

Our CYP, in their own words (and numbers!)

Lots of people at SCAN often work behind the scenes, including our Council of Young Professionals. The CYP is relatively new, and people often ask us about this group of 20- and 30-something supporters. CYP President Elect, Christine Chambers, had a great idea – instead of talking about members, she decided to tally some numbers and give us this quick snapshot of today’s CYP:


Still have more questions about the Council, or know someone interested in joining? You can learn more on our website here, or download the application here.

Don’t forget – you can post your questions below as well. We’d love to tell you more about the CYP!

SNEAK PEEK @ SCAN’s Croquet Day

Wondering what our new Croquet Day on May 18th will be all about? We have to keep some of the fun a surprise, but we can share a few photos of the preparations in full swing for this family-friendly event. Enjoy this sneak peek of the FUN, then contact us to VOLUNTEER ( or REGISTER TODAY (it’s the final day to register!)…Family Teams are only $75 and Spectator Tickets (for other lawn games and treats) are only $15 per person! Otherwise, stop by to see the fun, buy a snack and play a lawn game or two. See you on the 18th!

And now, for the official Sneak Peek:









April: It’s time to get personal

Today’s guest blogger is Kim Fiske, a longtime supporter and current Board Member of SCAN. Kim’s perspective on SCAN’s change and growth over the years is valuable, but it’s her personal connections and networking that we find especially uplifting. She is an individual who has put her heart into her commitment to SCAN on many levels, and we’re so glad she’s sharing a plea to make SCAN “personal” with our readers today:

blogblock_kimfiskeApril2013This is an exciting year for SCAN – we are celebrating 25 years of helping vulnerable children and educating our community. During this year we are taking some time to review our accomplishments and growth (see a timeline of our history here) while looking forward to new ways to engage with the community (see information about our upcoming 1st Croquet Day here).

One accomplishment I am particularly proud of is the Allies in Prevention Luncheon.  Eleven years ago, SCAN launched this event to thank and celebrate those who work every day to protect children and support families in Northern Virginia. Many contribute to make the event special, including hosts like ABC7’s Leon Harris, keynote speakers (learn more about past speakers here) and our long time Campaign Sponsor Verizon, often represented at the luncheon by our friend Doug Brammer.

Each year, we honor five individuals who have gone above and beyond to prevent child abuse and neglect in their communities, but everyone in that room is a hero.  The work they do is emotionally difficult; I often wonder how they can keep on going day after day. This year we asked past award winners what inspires them to continue their work in prevention.  Some shared stories of a single child’s success making it all worth it. Others noted that sincere gratitude from families they serve proved motivational. And several respondents said they were inspired by the work of others – their colleagues and members of their community.

That last response made me think about the many people who have told me they volunteered with or donated to SCAN because of a single person. Because of Dave Cleary, our founder.  Or because of Jason Osser, a board member. Or Sonia Quiñónez, our executive director.  People are inspired by the works and actions of people they know and respect.  Members of my book club, friends, employees and even clients have become involved with SCAN in one way or another because they have heard me talking about my personal involvement with the organization over the years.

Think about that as April – Child Abuse Prevention Month – draws to a close.  Someone might be inspired by YOU and YOUR actions this month.

So I challenge you to get personal with SCAN today. Share a volunteer experience. Tell someone that you made a donation. The impact you have will be very personal for the children and families in our programs. I can promise you that.

– Kim

Kim Fiske, SCAN Board Member

CYP Kicks off April! Book and Toy Drive for Children in CASA Program

Today’s guest blog post comes from SCAN’s Council of Young Professionals, an energetic group of 20- and 30-something-year-old volunteers getting ready to make a big impact in April for National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Thanks to Meghan Tuttle and Angela Walter for contributing to this special post!

Blog1April is Child Abuse Prevention Month and, it goes without saying, is also a special time of year here at SCAN! The Council of Young Professionals put their creative juices to work last week decorating boxes for our new Book and Stuffed Animal Drive. SCAN’s CYP is hosting this drive throughout the month of April to provide books and stuffed animals for the children served by SCAN’s Alexandria/Arlington CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) Program.

The Alexandria/Arlington CASA Program provides trained volunteers appointed by the court to serve as a direct voice for children in the juvenile court system. Our hope is that the stuffed animals may provide some comfort to children who are involved in court proceedings as well as other difficult times throughout the process. Many times children served by the CASA Program have to wait for long periods of time in court for their individual proceedings to begin. The books will provide them with a good, constructive way to pass the time.

The most important thing about this drive is being able to provide a little comfort and entertainment to children in need. We all have old childhood books on our shelves that we can donate to this cause.  Nemo, giant zebras, and cuddly teddy bears can bring a smile to a child’s face when they need it most. Let’s celebrate this special month of awareness by bringing a little joy into the hearts of CASA children.

Blog2It’s just one way CYP is giving back during the month of April, and you can be a part of this effort too! Drop off a new book or stuffed animal at local businesses like Whole Foods in Alexandria and Los Toltecos restaurants in the area. More details regarding additional drop-box locations will be announced soon (be sure to follow SCAN on Facebook for updates!) – in the meantime, feel free to bring your donations to SCAN.

Thank you for your support! We’ll build hope for children one book and one stuffed animal at a time.

– Meghan and Angela, CYP Members

CASA ASKS: Do CASA volunteers make a difference?

This is the second 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.

AR_FemaleCasaThe Alexandria/Arlington Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Program provides trained volunteers appointed by the Court to serve as a direct voice for children in the juvenile court system. Volunteers conduct interviews with the children, families, and professionals involved in the case, monitor compliance with the Court orders, and attend Court hearings where they advocate for the best interest of the child.

While it’s difficult to evaluate a CASA volunteer’s impact, many local and national studies have tried to capture some of the important ways CASA volunteers help court-involved children. One large study using CASA program data and a national data set found that:

  • Children with a CASA volunteer received significantly more services than children without a CASA volunteer, particularly mental health services and medical services.
  • Parents of children with a CASA volunteer received significantly more services than parents of children without a CASA volunteer.
  • In over 80 percent of cases, all or almost all of CASA volunteers’ recommendations to the Judge were accepted.

Another study, a large survey of judges in areas with CASA programs, found that:

  • 97 percent of judges agree that children and families are better served because of CASA volunteer involvement.
  • 97 percent agree than the personal knowledge that CASA volunteers have about children is beneficial to the judges’ decision-making.
  • Judges particularly value volunteers’ ability to consider the best interests of children and monitor the case.

More rigorous studies, such as those that randomly assign children to a CASA volunteer or a control condition, would be invaluable to help better isolate and quantify the impact of CASA volunteers.

While CASA volunteers love their role and want to help children, we all wish that the CASA role wasn’t necessary. Stay tuned for an upcoming post on a great way to prevent abuse and neglect from happening in the first place – home visiting programs for new parents.

– Lindsay

CASA volunteers advocate for the best interests of many of these children in court. In Alexandria and Arlington, 77 volunteers served 177 children in 2012. Stay tuned for an upcoming post on how CASA volunteers can make a difference in the lives of abuse and neglected children.