On Friday, April 3, in observance of National Child Abuse Prevention Month, the Indiana University Northwest School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA) and the Division of Social Work, in cooperation with Prevent Child Abuse Lake County (PCALC), Mental Health America, The Villages, Parents as Teachers of Lake County, Geminus Community Partners, St. Monica Home, the IU Northwest School of Nursing, the Indiana Department of Child Services (DCS), Lake Area United Way, and Northwest Indiana Chapter: American Society for Public Administration, will present the 19th Annual Forum on Child Abuse and Neglect. The theme for this year’s free program is “Child Abuse and Neglect in Indiana and Lake County: Notes for Challenging Times.”
The event begins at 8:30 a.m. with networking and registration in the Savannah Auditorium, located in the southeast corner of the main campus parking lot at 33rd Avenue and Broadway in Gary. Advance registration is required no later than Monday, March 30, at 5 p.m., in order to reserve a box lunch and seating in the continuing-education sessions. Walk-in guests are welcome but cannot be guaranteed either a lunch or availability in their breakout session of choice.
Email registration is preferred at firstname.lastname@example.org, but participants may also call in their reservations to The Villages’ Portage office at (219) 762-3465. Registrants must include the name, address, organization, phone number, choice of breakout session, and preferably email address for each person in the group that is registering. There will be free parking the day of the event for forum participants.
This year’s forum will follow the format of last year’s successful event, which drew capacity attendance for a mix of guest speakers, panel discussions and continuing-education sessions for social workers and foster parents. Special guests this year include David Judkins, who is deputy director of field operations for Indiana DCS, and Dr. Roberta Hibbard, M.D., director of Child Protection Programs at Riley Hospital in Indianapolis. Other speakers or panel participants include: Lake County Juvenile Court Judge Mary Beth Bonaventura; Lake County Magistrate Jeffrey Miller; Lake County DCS Director Jane Bisbee; Geminus Vice President for Family Services Mimi Gardner-Suggs; The Villages President and CEO Sharon Pierce; IARCCA An Association of Child Services Executive Director Cathleen Graham; and PCALC Vice President Wendy Kaplan, among others.
The popular continuing-education sessions available this year include:
A - "Child Welfare Funding in Challenging Times," which considers Indiana’s changes in funding levels and the effects of the economic downturn on child-welfare programs.
B - "What in the World Happened to this Child?," which seeks to answer foster parents’ questions regarding diagnosis, conflicted loyalty, issues with visitation, and other therapeutic concerns. This session will be moderated by Associate Professor of Social Work Denise Travis, Ph.D., who is a practicing counselor, and IU Northwest Master of Social Work student Bobbie Jo Hayes, who will provide her perspective as a former foster child.
C – "Keeping Children Safe: Local Initiatives," which offers important information about local programs and workshops involving child safety.
D - "Domestic Violence and Child Abuse," which looks at the effects of domestic abuse on children and the correlation between domestic abuse and child abuse.
E - "CASA vs. DCS: What’s the Beef?," which looks at the relationship between court-appointed special advocates and Department of Child Services caseworkers, and how cooperation between them may be improved.
Associate Professor of Public and Environmental Affairs Rick Hug, Ph.D., a longtime organizer of this annual event, said he expects this year’s speakers and breakout sessions to prove just as popular with Northwest Indiana’s child-welfare community as last year’s program did.
“Last year’s event was incredibly well-attended, and I believe that our continuing-education sessions, as well as our knowledgeable keynote speakers, contributed to that high level of interest,” Hug said. “Our planning committee has been working on this year’s event since last fall, and I believe our program this year will be equally dynamic. We’ve brought some of our most popular breakout sessions, such as the foster-parenting session, back for another year, and our new topics all address issues that are very significant for our social workers, foster parents and child advocates.”
Seating in the Savannah Auditorium is limited to 320, and attendance is limited to 30 or 40 participants for some of this year’s breakout sessions, including the CASA/DCS and foster-parenting sessions. In light of last year’s record turnout, Hug encouraged those interested in attending the forum to register quickly for their sessions of choice. Reservations are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. The breakout sessions will include complimentary box lunches provided by Family Express for all registered participants.
The formal April 3 program will begin at 9 a.m. with “The State Perspective” -- an address by Judkins, followed by a reaction-panel discussion featuring Pierce, Miller, Hibbard, Graham, and Bisbee. At 10 a.m., the program will switch to “The Local Perspective,” featuring comments by Bisbee, Kaplan and Gardner-Suggs.
Following the breakout sessions, Dr. Hibbard will deliver the afternoon plenary presentation, “Child Maltreatment: The Challenges,” starting at 1 p.m. Hibbard, who is also a professor of pediatrics at the IU School of Medicine in Indianapolis, is an authority on child abuse and neglect -- in particular, child physical and sexual abuse, and Munchausen syndrome by proxy -- who has served on a variety of national, state and community boards and commissions related to abuse topics. The event will conclude at 2 p.m.
The 19th Annual Forum on Child Abuse and Neglect is part of SPEA’s annual Public Affairs Week and is free and open to the Northwest Indiana community.