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Improving childrens lives is focus of conference|
By Karen L. Trimbath
| The 15th annual Childrens Interagency Conference, titled 2001: A Journey to the Future, provided 900 youth services professionals and families with the emotional and educational resources they need to continue improving childrens lives.|
The conference, the largest to focus on child care in the state, promoted the integration of human services and higher education, according to Dr. Marsali Hansen, assistant professor of behavioral science and education at Penn State Harrisburg. She is also the director of the Pennsylvania Child and Adolescent Service System Program (CASSP) Training and Technical Assistance Institute, which co-sponsored the event with the Pennsylvania Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. CASSP represents Pennsylvanias program of childrens mental health services, and its institute has been part of the School of Behavioral Science and Education at Penn State Harrisburg since 1996.
Hansen said the participants, many of whom are children and family specialists who have to handle difficult caseloads, attend the conference because they are seeking emotional rejuvenation through education.
If you look at these participants, youll see they enjoy themselves at the conference, she said. Its a conscious effort on our part. Many of them are underpaid, and they deal with some of the toughest problems around. But they go into our conference sessions, and they leave pumped up and committed to their jobs. Their rejuvenation through this educational experience proves that Penn State is a bridge between higher education and the professions that affect childrens lives.
The conference was a meeting of minds, and experts in a range of issues, theories and effective therapies, according to Hansen. It highlighted state-of-the-art and best-practice innovations for the future of childrens behavioral health services and new developments in policy and practice among Pennsylvanias child-serving systems.
Dr. Madlyn Hanes, provost and dean of Penn State Harrisburg and a licensed speech pathologist, welcomed the participants on the first day of the conference. She praised the institutes efforts in bringing together professionals and families in this collaboration.
The momentum and energy evident at this conference are indicative, I am sure, of increased advocacy at all levels, Hanes said. The beauty of this conference was in the gathering of divergent viewpoints. Only a meeting like this can facilitate individuals with an equally strong commitment to service. Its no wonder the attendance was so strong.
The Child and Adolescent Service System Program Training and Technical Assistance Institute is the major training center for child mental health professionals in Pennsylvania and the only state-funded training institute devoted to childrens mental health in the United States. The institute considers itself fortunate to be affiliated with Penn State, Hansen said.
We chose to join Penn State because the Universitys connections across the state would increase our ability to serve families, and Penn States excellence in higher education provided access to assist in the preparation of the next generation of workers, she added. Moreover, Pennsylvania has the best statewide system in the nation that effectively implements education for mental health staff. Penn State is now a leader in this area.
Penn State has made a strong commitment to serving the needs of youth and families, not only through the CASSP institute, but also through the Children, Youth and Families Consortium, a partnership of the colleges of Health and Human Development, Education, Medicine, Agricultural Sciences and Liberal Arts; The Dickinson School of Law of The Pennsylvania State University; and other groups.
The consortium promotes interdisciplinary teaching, research and service to enhance the quality of life of children, youth and families. Dr. Karen L. Bierman, director and Distinguished Professor of Psychology, and Dr. Mark Greenberg, the Edna Peterson Bennett Endowed Chair in Prevention Research and Professor of Human Development and Family Studies, head the Children, Youth and Families Consortium.
The conference featured scholars, educators, administrators, clinical staff, parents and children, many of whom shared their insights on making childrens lives happier, healthier and safer. Important components of this conference also included a youth track of children and adolescents who shared their life experiences, as well as undergraduate students enrolled in Hansens course on cross-system collaboration in the human services.
Other conference presenters also discussed their research and experiences:
Jim Prosper, a family-based therapist from Ridgway, Pa., in Elk County, has attended two CASSP conferences. He praised the variety of topics presented at the sessions.
As a therapist from a rural area, I like getting a look at different techniques and issues raised by a diverse group of presenters, he said.
For Claudia Cooley of Pittsburgh, the conference, her first, represented a chance to become educated on therapeutic issues affecting her son C.J., who has been diagnosed with several disorders.
This conference is a great resource, she added. It will help me get the right help for my son.