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The 2019 Texas CASA Conference features nationally and internationally recognized speakers and industry leaders shaping the child welfare system and advocacy for children and youth. Sessions will focus on four main subject areas: Trauma, Well-being, Collaborative Family Engagement (CFE), and Diversity and Inclusion.

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General Sessions Friday & Saturday

Opening Keynote Address | JOSH SHIPP
Friday 9:00 AM – 10:30 AM

Statistically, Josh Shipp should be dead, in jail or homeless. But his success as a preeminent author, speaker and global youth empowerment expert is living proof of the power of one caring adult. A former at-risk foster kid turned youth advocate, Josh is renowned for the documentary TV series on A&E that followed his groundbreaking work with youth and families.

Thanks to the support of teachers, counselors and a wonderful set of foster parents, Josh went on to be listed on Inc. Magazine’s 30 under 30 list, and is now a postgraduate student at Harvard himself, further honing his skills in persuasive communication.

Closing Keynote Address: Bryan Samuels
saturday 9:00 AM – 11:30 AM

Bryan Samuels is the Executive Director of Chapin Hall, a nonprofit research institute focused on improving the well-being of vulnerable children and youth, families, and their communities. His work centers around the creation of a well-being framework based on the best scientific developmental understanding of normal childhood development; understanding the effects of exposure to violence, trauma, poverty and averse childhood experiences on the mental, emotional, behavioral and physical health of children.

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Thursday, Oct. 24 | 1:00 – 4:30 PM

Intersection of Domestic Abuse, Trauma & Child Welfare 

Dr. James Henry, Ph.D. Director, Southwest Michigan Children’s Trauma Assessment Center

Childhood trauma, like domestic abuse, can have a lasting impact on the lives of children and can even leave them more likely to develop chronic substance abuse. Hear from Dr. James Henry, co-founder and director of the Children’s Trauma Assessment Center, as he explores the link between childhood trauma and future substance abuse and the necessity of identifying and addressing childhood trauma in the treatment of substance abuse. The session will also take a closer look at the intersection between domestic abuse, substance abuse, childhood trauma and intergenerational trauma, and the impact of trauma on the brain and the importance of trauma screening.

ALL RISE Movie Screening & Panel Discussion 

Panelists: Judge Carole Clark, Georgia Beard, Licensed Professional Counselor & TBRI Practitioner Moderator: Olive Talley, Filmmaker & Director of ALL RISE

ALL RISE: For the Good of the Children is a new film from the Karyn Purvis Institute of Child Development at TCU thattakes you inside the courtroom of an unconventional East Texas judge who uses a trauma-informed, trust-based approach to healing broken families in the child welfare system. Two families share how they transformed their lives through the support and intervention offered by Judge Carole Clark and her team of lawyers, mental health experts and child advocates. Attendees will get an exclusive look at the new film along with special bonus footage before hearing from a panel of guests including Judge Clark, filmmaker Olive Talley, and Georgia Beard, a licensed professional counselor and TBRI practitioner who has worked closely with Judge Clark and her team in Smith County. 

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Managing the Business of Personal Change: Families as Equal Partners in Care

Dr. April Fernando, Policy Fellow, TCOM Workforce Development Lead, Chapin Hall

In Texas when a child enters the system, CPS is required to complete a Child and Adolescent Needs and Strengths (CANS) Assessment by the child’s 30th day in care. But what happens next? How can we use this information to support mental health assessments and decision-making for the child and family? CANS, an evidence-based, standardized assessment, was developed to support decision-making, including level of care and intervention planning, to facilitate quality improvement initiatives, and to allow for the monitoring of clinical and functional outcomes. Attendees will learn the different action levels of the CANS rating scale and take a closer look at Transformational Collaborative Outcomes Management (TCOM), the approach that underlies the CANS assessment and shifts from managing services (time spent) to transformations (helping people change their lives in some important way). Together, CANS and TCOM guide the development of a shared vision for children, families, providers and systems, and lead to better outcomes.

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Transforming Trauma – How to Do This Work & Sustain

Laura van Dernoot Lipsky, Founder & Director, The Trauma Stewardship Institute

When we are exposed to the suffering, hardship and crises of other living beings, how do we care for them and ourselves at the same time? We will discuss the context for how a cumulative toll arises when one is engaged in the work of caring for others in traumatic circumstances, whether one is an advocate, a family member, a foster parent or a caseworker, or in another role. We’ll discuss some principles that may be helpful in transforming trauma and will look at the Trauma Exposure Response: the specific manifestations of this cumulative toll, from numbing to anger to cynicism. What tools can we use to reconcile and heal our exposure? We’ll dive deeply into how one is impacted individually and collectively. We’ll look at very concrete strategies for how to create sustainability for oneself, then broaden the conversation by looking at how to create organizational, institutional and movement-level change. This presentation will move, restore and inspire anyone involved in the child welfare system.

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Friday, Oct. 25 | 11:15 AM – 12:30 PM

Justice Doing, Dignity Giving, Family Seeing: Supporting Greater Safety for Children 

Kevin Campbell, Family Finding Model Author

The path to safety, permanency and well-being for a child can also be a path of healing and recovery for a child or youth’s parents and family. The need for connection, belonging and having a network of support is a foundational human experience, and fundamental human right. It may be as important for the parent and family as it is for the child when seeking positive outcomes. This session will explore the notion and need of networks for parents, the role CASA can play in this important work, and how ultimately the healing of parents through connection leads to greater safety for children. In addition, this session will expand on the concept of “best interest advocacy” to include working in support of a child’s family and community. 

Supporting the Best Outcomes for LGBTQ+ Youth

J. Jessie Rose Cohen, LCSW; Director of Community Based Clinical Services & Training, Child & Adolescent Gender Center, University of California, San Francisco

Statistics suggest that there are high rates of LGBTQ youth in out-of-home care, foster homes, group homes and kinship placements. Additionally, these youth face high rates of mental health distress that can lead to suicidal gestures, drug/alcohol use and other high-risk behaviors. CASA and those who work directly with children in foster care are in a unique role to offer increased supports to these youth and their families where applicable. Participants will be given an opportunity to think together about children and youth they have on their caseloads who may identify as LGBTQ and learn new strategies and tools to best support these youth as well as ways to support caregivers in increasing acceptance of LGBTQ youth in their care. As transgender children and youth have become specifically more visible and are the most vulnerable group, this session will also look closely at understanding gender identity and needs.  

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Creating Cultures of Belonging: Mapping Systems of Power to Make Our CASA Work Equitable for All   

Martha Ramos Duffer, Psy.D. Clinical Psychologist, Consultant & Trainer

Every one of us wants what is best for children. However, despite our best efforts, statistics tell us that deep injustices remain. Until we understand how implicit biases and dominant cultural norms make us see some cultural behaviors as “better” than others, we risk making unfair case decisions. How can we create a child welfare system in which every child, youth and family is valued, and the outcomes of their lives can no longer be predicted based on their race? In this session, we will learn about implicit biases and the structures that sustain them, learn ways to prevent them getting in the way of our goals and best intentions, and be better equipped to ensure effective advocacy, particularly those who have been historically marginalized.



Key research findings from Texans Care for Children shows that parental substance use is a contributing factor in most removals, and that nearly all removals that involve parental substance use as a contributing factor are related to neglectful supervision rather than abuse. The session will start by taking a closer look at the research with a focus on preventing entries into foster care by improving how the state interacts with families struggling with substance use. Building off of the research, attendees will then hear from a panel about best practices based on real-life examples and experiences. The goal of this session is to understand the effects of substance use as well as the treatment and recovery process, understand how often children are entering foster care for reasons related to parental substance use, identify policy opportunities to safely reduce entries into care, and highlight areas where everyone involved in case can better support parents with substance use treatment needs in the early stages of a Child Protective Services (CPS) case.

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Friday, Oct. 25 | 2:00 – 3:15 PM

Healing Ambiguous Loss: Promoting a Sense of Home 

Gina E. Miranda Samuels, Associate Professor, the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration

For those of us who experience disconnections from our families of origin, part of the healing process is awareness of that loss and coming to terms with it as a part of our life story. Though the lost time cannot be replaced, there are many ways in which we can heal, grieve the loss, and build relationships that can foster belonging, love and authentic connections across our lifetimes. These relationships can take many forms, and sometimes involve the very family members from whom we were first disconnected, or who were the source of harm or cause of pain. This work requires child welfare systems, and those who work within it, to rethink the role of biological parents beyond their tasks of caregiving. It requires professionals and adults to see the value of maintaining relationships with siblings, parents or extended family, even when legal placement or reunification is not possible. This session explores ways of redefining “best interests of the child” to consider long-term developmental needs, to reimagine creative ways of (re)building connections and grounding a child’s sense of self in multi-family networks that include their full story. This session will extend beyond understanding ambiguous loss of home to exploring specific ways to support the meaning making and grief work that can facilitate healing and well-being into adulthood. 

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Tools & Case Studies for Equitable Advocacy 

Martha Ramos Duffer, Psy.D. Clinical Psychologist, Consultant & Trainer

We know that powerful advocacy must be inclusive of cultural differences. We also know that strong societal forces (sometimes called oppressions), such as racism, sexism and classism, create many unfair situations and lead to inequitable outcomes for many people – particularly those from historically marginalized communities. In this session, we will discuss asset-based approaches to cultural differences, which recognize these differences as assets to value and build upon, rather than deficits to overcome. We will increase our understanding of the role that power plays in creating unequal outcomes for children and youth, and learn specific tools and strategies to interrupt unfair systems of privilege and power. We will analyze case studies and identify equitable advocacy practices that will translate directly to your work. 

Strong Voices Supporting Bright Futures 

Kevin Campbell, Family Finding Model Author; & TNOYS youth panel

Renowned expert on family finding and building support for older youth in care Kevin Campbell will inspire and share ways to give youth a meaningful voice and opportunities to participate in decisions affecting their future. Where is support for youth voice needed? In court, when developing plans of service, with health providers addressing and planning for medical and mental health care, when preparing for adult living and transitioning from care, and more. Isn’t this already happening? Is there more CASA can do? A panel of youth formerly in foster care will join Kevin and share personal stories about when their voice was supported, when their voice was not and how having a voice would and did make a big difference.

The Fork in the Road: Making Trauma-Informed Recommendations for 0-3


One of the hardest parts of advocacy is making choices for preverbal children who can’t tell you how they have experienced life. We have the challenge of piecing together facts and feelings to make our best, often life-changing recommendations. There is no perfect answer, but we can draw from specialized understanding needed to advocate for the largest and most vulnerable Texas CPS population, children ages 0-3. In this session, we will review components of Infant Mental Health as a foundation for lifelong well-being. By defining healthy attachment and development, attendees will be better able to explore deficits as we identify the impact of trauma and toxic stress on infants and toddlers. Research and best practices will be reviewed with creative solutions to promote healthy interactions. Through our support and facilitation of early therapeutic intervention and corrective experiences, we can come alongside families to repair early hurts and strengthen current relationships, even when permanency decisions do not lead to reunification. We can advocate for prevention and treatment measures that reveal resilience and defy adversity, making the fork in the road feel less oppositional and more collaborative for familial well-being.

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Friday, Oct. 25 | 4:00 – 5:15 PM

When Homelessness Starts at Home: Experiences of Ambiguous Loss Among Youth Navigating Housing Instability 

Gina E. Miranda Samuels, Associate Professor, the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration

Drawing from a national study of 215 youth, ages 13-25, experiencing homelessness in the U.S., this session will explore youth’s responses to the question: Where does your story with homelessness begin? Their answers are embedded in earlier experiences of loss and trauma within their biological family systems and include entrance into foster care, family homelessness, parental struggles with addiction and mental health, parental rejection, and within-family stigma and discrimination. From there, attendees will then be introduced to ambiguous loss theory and specifically to the concept of ambiguous loss of home as a distinct type of loss and complex trauma. We will connect this form of loss as also deeply relevant to the lived experience of youth and families involved in child welfare systems and identify ways in which our practices and ideas of family and permanence contribute to, or even cause, ambiguous loss of home. This session will conclude by emphasizing the role of relationships, identity and belonging as core to our practice goals of not only safety and permanence, but in fostering well-being of children and families in child welfare. 

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Mindfulness, Neuroscience & Digital Detox 

Carin WinterCEO & Founder of Mission Be

During this orientation to mindfulness, participants will be provided with information about the science and research behind mindful education, the benefits of mindfulness as well as the practical applications for their benefit and those they work with. We will share information on the impact of technology on well-being and engage in a group activity to discover how digital detox can improve our relationships and health. CASA volunteers will understand the benefits of mindful listening and being present, and learn how to integrate these teachings into the work they are doing with children and parents, to help them manage stress, and increase their own resilience. 

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When Identity Adds Risk: Getting LGBTQ+ Youth in Focus

J. Jessie Rose Cohen, LCSW; Director of Community Based Clinical Services & Training, Child & Adolescent Gender Center, University of California, San Francisco

Note: This session builds off the morning session, “Supporting the Best Outcomes for LGBTQ+ Youth,” though it is not necessary to have attended this session. 

This in-depth session will get LGBTQ+ youth “in focus” by going deeper into real case examples and ways CASA, family or program placements and caregivers can increase positive outcomes for youth regarding mental health, housing security, eating disorders, sexual health and more. Examples of LGB and specifically Transgender/Gender Expansive youth will be offered to bring more awareness of the unique risk factors LGBTQ+ youth face and real examples of strategies for protective and supportive interventions for these youth. Participants are also encouraged to bring cases and questions from their work or lives.

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The University of Texas at Austin estimates that there are 79,000 Texas children and young adults that have been sexually exploited at some point in their lives. This workshop will provide an overview of the dynamics of this crime and public health crisis and the strategies the State of Texas are implementing to end it. Emerging promising practices and recent research will also be shared. Lastly, CASA advocates and stakeholders will learn how they are uniquely positioned to help recognize and help victims heal, bring exploiters to justice and prevent victimization of at risk youth.

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