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7 Questions with Tracy Leonard, Public Education Manager of SCAN

Tracy 2SCAN (Stop Child Abuse Now) works to stop the cycle of abuse through its parent education, child advocacy and community outreach programs. Tracy works to enhance how SCAN both engages and empowers community members to take action to stop child abuse. She facilitates SCAN’s Allies in Prevention Coalition — Northern Virginia’s only comprehensive coalition focused on child abuse prevention — as well as SCAN’s partnership with Darkness to Light.

  1. What motivated you to begin working with your organization?

SCAN and I found each other at just the right moment in time. After staying home with my two children for three years, it was time for me to go back to work. Children and children’s issues have always been a passion of mine so when I saw that SCAN was looking for a Public Education Manager, I knew it was the right fit. The position was a compliment to my background in elementary education as well as my recent Master’s Degree in Organizational Psychology. I was given the task of educating those in Northern Virginia about the scope, nature and consequences of child abuse and neglect and the importance of positive, nurturing parenting. A task that I met with open arms and an open mind.

  1. What exciting change or innovation is on your mind?

SCAN is known for its innovation in programming. One program we are planning to launch is Operation Safe Babies – an educational program that would teach new parents about safe sleep, how to soothe a crying baby, and the effects of Shaken Baby Syndrome. In addition to the educational resources, we hope to be able to provide cribs for their new bundles of joy. We are looking forward to working with other social service agencies in Northern Virginia to help reach the families they serve.

  1. Who inspires you (in the philanthropy world or otherwise)? Do you have a hero?

My parents are my biggest heroes and champions. They were young parents (17 and 18 years old) when they had me in 1973. Despite every obstacle they faced and every indicator that said they would not be successful parents or partners, they overcame each one and recently celebrated their 42nd wedding anniversary. They are a true testament to perseverance, hope and love.

  1. What was your most interesting recent project/partnership?

As a part of our Kids Need Connections Child Abuse Prevention Campaign, I developed a series (Children’s Stories that Build Resiliency) of fifteen popular children’s stories and corresponding questions that are engaging, provide a chance for adults to have open discussions with children about their emotions, and also allows adults to model what children can say or do when confronted with situations that test their resiliency. Through this project, we have partnered with the Alexandria City Library to make sure that the titles are available in their libraries and the stories have also been a part of their preschool story hour. I also presented a workshop titled Children’s Stories that Build Resiliency that was presented at the Arlington Out of School Time Conference and I have been invited to present it at the VAECE conference in March in Richmond. I have also written a white paper entitled Building Resilient Children, One Story at a Time that reinforces the research on resiliency and why using children’s stories is a good way to promote resiliency in children.

  1. What is the single greatest challenge that your organization faces (besides finances) and how are you dealing with this challenge?

One of the greatest challenges we face as an organization is opening up the community’s eyes to the fact that child abuse happens everywhere. Child abuse occurs across all boundaries of economic levels, race, ethnic heritage, and religious faith. Too many want to believe that child abuse and neglect are not occurring in their backyard and that it is an issue that does not directly affect them. The financial costs for victims and society are substantial. A recent CDC study, The Economic Burden of Child Maltreatment in the United States and Implications for Prevention,External Web Site Icon found the total lifetime estimated financial costs associated with just one year of confirmed cases of child maltreatment (physical abuse, sexual abuse, psychological abuse and neglect) is approximately $124 billion. ~taken from

  1. What advice do you have for other people in your position?

No one can do this work alone. It takes meaningful partnerships and various viewpoints to make change. We should be working together in thoughtful and systematic ways in order to create effective programming that maximizes our limited resources and reaffirms our own beliefs in the human soul.

  1. What’s next/coming up for you?

The next phase of our Kids Need Connections Campaign focuses on how the community can connect with kids. Through our Allies in Prevention Coalition, we will be highlighting the role that parks and recreation departments, faith communities, libraries and law enforcement can play in connecting parents to parents and parents to community resources. And as a result of our annual Advocacy Day, we will be implementing an “Advocacy Year Round” plan that keeps Child Welfare Advocate engaged in advocating for children on an ongoing basis rather than only when the Legislature is in session.


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