SCAN brings hope to families seeking to break cycle of abuse
BY DEBBIE PAGE
At its “A Child’s Wish Luncheon of Hope,” Stop Child Abuse Now (SCAN) of Iredell remembered the 25 children who died in 2017 at the hands of their caregivers.
SCAN representatives, including Miss North Carolina Laura Matrazzo and Mooresville Mayor Miles Atkins, placed red roses on an empty chair next to the podium to honor those children, aged 4 months to 18 years, whose lives were lost too soon.
The solemn crowd of several hundred that filled the Cove Church sanctuary on Thursday afternoon listened as the children’s names were called and the causes of death listed - poisoning, blunt force trauma, stabbing, gunshots, and strangulation.
Robin Nicholson, SCAN Parent Education Coordinator, reminded the crowd that these roses were just a stark reminder of the most serious consequences of child abuse and neglect. “However, for each one of these roses here, there are still thousands of children across the state of North Carolina where abuse and neglect is still an issue.”
Iredell County was no exception, according to Nicholson, who noted that the Department of Social Services investigated 1,270 cases of reported abuse that affected 2,559 children.
As of March 31, 2019, the department investigated 141 families with 302 children; the staff was still actively working with 96 families with 186 children. In addition, 178 children are in foster care in the county because of abuse or neglect.
Though most cannot understand how parents can treat their children in this way and want the parents locked up, Nicholson said that most of these children still love their parents and want to be with them - they just want the abuse to end.
Many cases are the result of generational abuse, which takes place over decades and thus takes time to break previous parenting habits. Because the parents were abused, they do not know how to raise their children without resorting to inappropriate behavior.
Most love their children and want to provide a safe and loving home, added Nicholson.
Parents do not want to repeat the cycle of abuse, but stress, poverty, and lack of parenting knowledge can cause them to act in an abusive manner. “With the right services, these parents can change their behavior,” said Nicholson. “Most can provide safe homes with help.”
Nicholson noted that seeking SCAN assistance is voluntary, which makes a big difference in the organization’s success rate. When parents are in control of their circumstances and choose help, the programs are much more successful than in court-mandated assistance.
Most parents receive assistance for one to two years, with 24/7 help available by phone. “We are non-judgmental and meet them where they are,” added Nicholson. SCAN works to meet parents’ needs, including help earning a GED, providing transportation or support during legal proceedings, or getting them to doctor appointments, so that the parents can provide better childcare.
SCAN also operates on the philosophy of being a “good finder” in the parents since fault-finding is counter-productive in these situations. “We look for the good, the parents’ strengths, to facilitate lasting change.”
Parent Rena Kirby, who has taken a SCAN parenting class and the “Love and Logic” class, shared her story with the audience. She is parent to a 12-year-old daughter, who is the subject of a custody dispute, and a 5-year-old son and 1 year-old daughter with her fiancee.
Kirby began classes in May of last year, realizing that she still bore the scars of losing her soldier father to war at a young age and being left to parent her younger brother after her mother’s ensuing depression and neglect.
Kirby realized that her choice of one abusive relationship after another was the result of this early trauma. After her last relationship ended with a gun to her head, DSS got involved to make sure Kirby did not return to the abuser.
Kirby said the support and parenting education that SCAN provided has helped her be a calm, structured parent.
Describing herself previously as a “jellyfish parent” who gave in to her children, Kirby realized through the classes that she needed to provide a clear structure and use differing techniques to find the ones that worked best with each’s unique personality. SCAN is also assisting her with getting help for her son, who has sensory issues.
Kirby said that as she practiced what she learned in SCAN training, positive change began occurring in her relationships with her children and in their relationships with each other. She realized that creating a regimen for her household was “what children like and need.”
Kirby credits SCAN’s programs with giving her the courage to stand up to her abusers as well as building her confidence as an individual and a mother. “I realized that I could control what happened in my house.”
Her relationship with her fiancee is now loving, caring, and kind. “We don’t use harsh words - we communicate our frustrations instead.” Kirby is also thankful for her in-home parent aide who helps her with creating the best home possible for her children.
“I’m just glad I’m not a statistic out there - a dead mother who can’t take care of my children.”
SUPPORT FOR SCAN
After Tennille Kilby-Sherrill performed the moving song “For Good,” Exchange Club President and lunch organizer Ryan Pegarsch urged the audience and community to support SCAN with their money and their time. “You have an opportunity to change lives for the good. We need help because it takes a lot to run this organization.”
Pegarsch noted that SCAN represents hope in the community, and described the SCAN staff and volunteers as “angels in our community who go into homes to help build families back with the parenting skills to grow their children. Since the early 1990s, they have been making a real difference in our community.”
He thanked SCAN Executive Director Amy Eisele and her dedicated staff for their work in the community.
WANT TO HELP OR GET HELP?
Visit https://www.iredellscan.org to learn how to donate to the organization or how to access classes and programs to improve parenting skills.