Report Back from the National Conference sponsored by the Representative for Children and Youth

The National Conference on Keeping Kids Safe and Connected featured a wide range of dynamic and notable keynote presenters. Dr. William Bell from Casey Family Programs spoke, as did Dan Savage from the It Gets Better campaign, Travis Price, co-founder of Pink Shirt Day, Sheldon Kennedy, and Spoken Word Artist Shane Koyczan.

Casey Family Programs

“Every child deserves a community of hope, where they are safe and have the support they need from the adults in their lives to grow up healthy and succeed.” - Casey Family Programs

Hispanic Man, Woman and Child having fun in the park.Casey Family Programs is the largest operating foundation in the United States focused entirely on foster care and improving the child welfare system. Dr. Bell talked about the work of their organization and their revolutionary 2020 Strategy, which calls for a 50% reduction of the number of children and youth in foster care; a reinvestment of the savings from foster care to strengthen families and improve child welfare systems; and ensuring equitable access to health care, education and mental health services for children and adults connected to the foster care system.  Click here to access this strategy and here to visit their website.

Dr. Bell introduced the traditional greeting of the Masai tribe in Africa. This group of warriors greet each other by asking, “How are the Children?” Dr. Bell questioned why all societies and cultures don’t similarly place child welfare at the centre of everything they do. He then urged conference delegates to ask themselves and those they work/live with, “How are the children and where is your commitment to change?”

Dr. Bell also mentioned Promise Neighbourhoods . A US Department of Education initiative, Promise Neighbourhoods receives funding for non-profit organizations, faith-based organizations, institutions of higher education and Indian tribes with the vision that:

“All children and youth growing up in Promise Neighborhoods have access to great schools and strong systems of family and community support that will prepare them to attain an excellent education and successfully transition to college and a career. The purpose of Promise Neighborhoods is to significantly improve the educational and developmental outcomes of children and youth in our most distressed communities, and to transform those communities...” 

Other Speakers

Writer, TV personality and activist Dan Savage discussed the It Gets Better website and movement, aimed at letting LGBT youth know that “it gets better.”

Jody Paterson, former journalist and current Cuso International Volunteer discussed her years with PEERS Victoria, an organization that provides supports and resources for past and current sex trade workers.

Travis Price, co-founder of Pink Shirt Day discussed the bullying he experienced in elementary and high school, as well as what motivated him to wear a pink shirt and stand up to bullying.

Shane Koyczan, the spoken word artist made famous by the Opening Ceremonies of the 2010 Winter Olympics presented a range of pieces including his recent piece on bullying, To This Day.

Sheldon Kennedy, former NHL player and sexual assault and abuse survivor, presented the work of the Respect Group , an organization he founded that provides training for coaches, community leaders and parents working with children and youth.  The Activity Leader training program focuses on:

  • Empowering and educating youth leaders/coaches on the prevention of abuse, bullying and harassment.
  • Building a holistic culture of respect within the community.
  • Providing fundamental training tools which enable ALL coaches and youth leaders to become even better role models for the youth in our care.

This includes training on noticing the signs of abuse, responsibilities around disclosing and reporting, and how to report suspected abuse. This training may be a compliment to what your organization already offers your staff in this area.