Last week, TNOYS hosted our 34th Annual Conference on Service to Youth and Families, with programming focused on the theme of “Many Voices, One Song.” As they have for many years, service workers, clinicians, administrators, and others came together in Houston to gain valuable information and learn together about the best way to ensure a strong future for Texas’ youth. And this year, thanks to conference partners including the Texas Council of Child Welfare Boards, Child Protective Services, and the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health’s Harris Transition Coalition, we also had some of the youth and family members we serve and the community volunteers who help support them join us.
Pre-Institutes Provide In-Depth Knowledge for Administrators
We started the week on Tuesday, with a full day of conference pre-institutes, including two sessions focused on equipping youth services administrators to enhance their management practices, through lessons on how to handle public media crises and how to prevent abuse and false allegations of abuse within their organizations. Praesidium, Dr. Angelo Peter Giardino, and The Comms Shop LLC were on hand to lead the sessions. TNOYS’ own Lara O’Toole and Jack Nowicki also led a separate pre-institute for a wider audience that shared information about Recovery Through Participation, our newest collaborative initiative to better integrate trauma-informed care and youth engagement practices within programs.
Conference Themes Emerge in Keynote Presentations
The full conference began the next day and kicked off with inspirational words from Manny Diotte and Tracee Black-Fall, to help attendees start the conference motivated to get the most out of the week.
A series of keynote speakers followed throughout the two-and-a-half day event, including Nina Rodriguez of Drum Café, who brought our conference theme to life by having hundreds of attendees work together in a drumming exercise that showed the power of harmony and cooperation. Other keynotes were similarly focused on the importance of inclusiveness, particularly educator and activist CeCe Jordan and University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work Dean Alan J. Detlaff, who both highlighted the value of diversity and understanding different cultures.
While much of the conference was energizing, we chose to end by bringing attendees together in an exercise led by Brooke Binstock and Melanie Holst-Collins focused on reflection and self-care. The experiences of both youth services professionals and the youth and parents we serve can be demanding, and sometimes even traumatic – Brooke and Melanie led attendees in exercises focused on stillness and reflection that can help counteract some of those experiences.
Variety of Experts Share Their Knowledge in Conference Workshops
In addition to our excellent keynote speakers, we were excited to have experts from across the state and the nation with us to lead over 40 workshops throughout the two-and-a-half day event. We were grateful to have government leaders who came to share their knowledge, including the Governor’s Office, the Office of the Attorney General’s Child Support Division, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, and the federal Department of Health and Human Services’ Runaway and Homeless Youth Program.
These and other experts helped us provide a robust amount of information across seven different conference tracks: building organizational capacity, promising and evidence-based practices, youth and family rights and legal issues, navigating systems with parents and youth, government and community collaboration, cultural competency and youth engagement, and youth leadership development.
We want to thank all of the attendees, presenters, and exhibitors who participated in our conference, as well as our many conference sponsors. We hope everyone had fun and came away with new learnings, and we are looking forward to next year!