This year's conference brought together about 200 professionals and volunteer advocates from across the state and beyond to learn from national and regional experts on child welfare, mental health, addictions, education, disabilities, and many other topics. Workshops focused on issues that impact children, families, the courts, and child welfare programs, and had a childhood resilience lens.
The First Day, Thursday September 23, featured a half-day Institute on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and included plenary and workshop sessions that explored strategies for equitable practices in the child welfare system. Dr. Nathaniel Bryan spoke on the topic: And How are the Children?: Pedagogies of Healing to Support Black Youth who Experience Trauma. Dr. Brandynicole Brooks spoke on the topic: Black Single Mothers and the Child Welfare System. These experts educated the audience about the concept of Intersectionality.
Day 2, Friday September 24, featured Maryland's traditional conference format, with keynote speaker, Delegate C.T. Wilson, followed by a variety of workshops on childhood resilience, adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), trauma, and many other related child welfare topics. Dr. Wilson wrote a book titled, 10,000 Hills: One Boy's Journey, about his personal adverse life experiences. Matila Jones educated attendees on NEAR -- Neuroscience, Epigenetics, Adverse Childhood Experiences and Resilience. The afternoon breakout sessions covered important and interesting subjects including: Youth with Incarcerated Parents (Veronica Cruz) and Owning What's Yours to Own as a CASA (Lisa Drake)
The final day, Saturday September 25, featured a half-day Institute on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) and explored resilience strategies for children and families impacted by FASD. William Edwards and Larry Burd spoke about Identifying and Building Resilience in Children with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders. Then Natalie Novick Brown and Richard Adler educated the group about Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders and the Brain. The second half of the morning included a panel discussion about FASD, moderated by Tom Donaldson. The panel was made up of experts from NOFAS (National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome) and experts from other entities. Sharnell Tull aka SistaBig concluded the conference experience with a powerful poem, Road to Resilience, written in honor of the conference.
The Maryland CASA staff was ever present and ever helpful over the three day conference. Director, Ed Kilcullen and staff members, Meghan Resler, Shekinah Davis and Trish Woodward were on hand to answer questions, facilitate the sessions and provide technical support. They really knew what they were doing!
The entire conference was broadcast using the Whova platform and Zoom. The technology worked almost flawlessly, allowing about 8 volunteers from the Washoe CASA Program to attend this conference and access this timely and useful information right from our homes. Thanks to the WCF for covering the registration fees and thanks to Maryland CASA for allowing our Reno contingent to attend.