May 01, 2013

An Inside Peek: Center on Children and the Law Summer Conferences

Claire Chiamulera

The views expressed herein have not been approved by the House of Delegates or the Board of Governors of the American Bar Association, and accordingly, should not be construed as representing the policy of the American Bar Association.

It’s just around the corner. This July, the ABA Center on Children and the Law will host two conferences in Washington, DC for child law practitioners. The 3rd National Parent Attorneys Conference will be held July 10-11, and the 15th ABA National Conference on Children and the Law will be held July 12-13. Two optional Preconferences -- one on trial skills for child welfare attorneys, and one on children and trauma—will also be held July 11. Here’s an inside look at what the conferences have to offer.

What’s new and exciting for this year’s conference?

Timely Themes - Family Well-being is this year’s theme for the Children and the Law Conference. While family well-being has long been a core issue in child welfare, it is receiving new attention at the federal level. Conference sessions will weave in well-being issues and their importance in decisions for children and families. Some examples are sessions on education for children in foster care, advocacy for immigrant children in the child welfare system, and addressing the health needs of children in care.

Improving Representation is the theme for the Parent Attorney Conference. In child welfare legal circles, parent attorney representation quality has lagged behind children’s and agency representation. Conference sessions will stress the skills and knowledge parent attorneys need to take their representation to the next level. Sessions on working with substance abusing clients, improving appellate practice, negotiating the housing system and examining experts are sure to give parent attorneys solid skills geared specifically to them.

Practitioner-Friendly Format - Conference sessions will feature a variety of formats to appeal to different learning styles and promote interaction. You’ll hear from experts, but also get the chance to share and interact, providing for a richer more meaningful experience. No law school lectures!

Skill-building Preconferences – The Center’s Trial Skills for Child Welfare Attorneys is back this year by popular demand. This one-day training combines lecture and on-your-feet exercises to apply what you’ve learned in a mock court room setting. You’ll never have so much fun learning, and you’ll leave with take-home skills that will improve your advocacy.

New this year is a preconference on Children and Trauma, a critical issue for practitioners working with children in the child welfare system. This information-packed session will share the latest research on children who experience trauma (often many forms) and how to best identify and advocate for them.

In-DC Location—The Woodley Park neighborhood in northwest DC will host both conferences. Conference attendees are in for a treat, with many fine restaurants within walking distance, as well as the famed (and free) National Zoo, beautiful Rock Creek Park, and a metro stop that will transport you to all the great sites throughout DC (no car needed). Of course, that’s if you can leave the Omni Shoreham Hotel – a four diamond luxury hotel.

Any can’t-miss speakers? 

Kevin Ryan, President, Covenant House International, will kick off the Children and Law Conference. Joining him will be Tina Kelley, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author. Together they have written Almost Home: Helping Kids Move from Homelessness to Hope, an inspiring book highlighting coming-of-age stories of six extraordinary children, now young adults from across North America. Despite almost unimaginable suffering and adversity, these six exceeded almost everyone’s expectations as they fought to move from homelessness after aging out of foster care. All attendees get a free copy of the book!

At the Parent Attorney Conference, plenaries with Marty Guggenheim from New York University (inspiration behind the parent attorney movement) and Judge William Thorne (best practices for representing Native American and all families) will be a big draw. Many workshops will focus on improving practice including those on expert witnesses, drug testing, applying constitutional law, immigration and applying best practices for solo practitioners.

What’s the top reason child law practitioners should attend?

Joining together as a professional community—The chance to meet practitioners from around the country, network with your professional peers, and learn from one another is a top reason. Coming together and seeing that you’re part of a greater community of professionals can spark your motivation and dedication to this field. Learning from top national experts with frontline practice experience deepens your knowledge base and gives you a shared understanding of the most critical issues in the field; it’s hard to get that from a book, or in-state training. 

The Parent Attorney Conference is the only conference in the country tailored specifically to them. Parent attorneys will get so much from meeting and talking with colleagues and will leave feeling rejuvenated to return to their practices and use the new tools they’ve acquired.

Money’s tight. What makes the conference a great bang for the buck? 

Best training opportunity money can buy—The conferences offer extensive child welfare law training in just 2-4 days. You will take home a rich range of knowledge, tips, and strategies to use in practice right away. The ABA is working with each state to offer CLE credit, another plus for you. And your learning will continue after the conference with three complimentary Child Law Practice Online issues (the Center’s monthly flagship practice subscription newsletter). Plus, a free copy of Almost Home: Helping Kids Move from Homelessness to Hope.

Keeping costs low—The ABA has negotiated a low rate for conference attendees at an in-DC luxury hotel, and we’ve worked hard to keep conference tuition as low as possible without shortcutting the conference program or quality. If you are a group of 7 or more, you can receive a 10% discount on registration fees.

Claire Chiamulera is the editor of CLP Online.

Select Conference Topics:

  • Sexually Exploited Children
  • Crossover Youth
  • Medical-Legal Partnerships
  • Drug Testing in Child Welfare Cases
  • Special Needs of Adolescent Girls in the Child Welfare System
  • Education Advocacy in Juvenile Dependency Proceedings
  • Medicating Foster Youth Off-Label
  • Transitions Planning for Older Youth
  • Trauma-Informed Courts