In June, TNOYS’ 38th Annual Conference on Services to Youth and Families virtually convened more than 500 youth and family services stakeholders from across Texas. The Annual Conference once again provided the opportunity to re-energize while exploring relevant issues that impact Texas’ youth and families. We at TNOYS know how COVID-19 has impacted youth and providers, and we wanted to continue our efforts to create opportunities to connect, recharge, and build important skills for serving Texas’ youth.
Guided by this year’s theme, Rooted in Power, attendees were inspired to dig into the unique skills and experiences that can help them grow their impact on youth and family services. The conference workshops and sessions brought issues of equity and inclusion to the forefront, and went in-depth on the challenges facing youth.
The event got started on Tuesday, June 8 with four full-day pre-conference institutes.
The first institute, hosted by trainers from The New Philanthropists, coached professionals on how to support their colleagues in an equity chair role on their leadership teams. The second institute was presented by TNOYS staff and introduced Youth Thrive™ to attendees, an approach developed by the Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP). The third institute was an orientation for the Commercial Sexual Exploitation-Identification Tool (CSE-IT). The fourth institute focused on implementing evidence-based Trust-Based Relational Intervention to serve youth.
After an opening from our very own, Fedora Galasso, the first round of workshops commenced! Youth & professionals broke out into smaller sessions where they had a choice between nine different topic tracks focused on unique skills and training needs. Workshops covered topics such as online safety education, exercising self-care, and creating affirming spaces for Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Non-Binary young people.
Before lunch, everyone was inspired and reenergized by a keynote from Ericka Huggins, a human rights activist and poet with experience as a Black Panther leader. She shared words of wisdom that guided us throughout the rest of the day’s workshop sessions.
TNOYS closed out Day 1 with a featured screening of Boys Documentary, Produced by Anna Smith and Chris Smith, and Directed by Kartal Peel. Boys Documentary tells the narrative of Commercial Sexual Exploitation (CSE) of boys and men through the voices of four brave men and a collection of allies who stand with them in solidarity. Following the screening, Producer Anna Smith hosted a panel discussion with three of the men featured in the documentary. Panelists discussed bringing awareness to CSE of traditionally overlooked populations and their unique experiences (such as boys and men, LGBTQ+ individuals, and the transgender community specifically), providing inclusive and unbiased services for survivors of CSE, and bringing a diversity of experiences and identities to the table to improve CSE prevention, identification, and response.
On the second full day of the conference, attendees got started with a block of workshops across nine topic tracks. Topics included the research behind adolescent adultification, needs of teens on the autism spectrum, and the challenges systems-involved youth face when getting a driver’s license or other forms of identification. The full group came together again after lunch for the keynote delivered by Toshia Shaw, MBA, MSW.
This year’s conference took place virtually, but TNOYS was thrilled to see participation from professionals across the full continuum of youth-serving systems. Attendees from different backgrounds came together to build skills, collaborate across systems and explore important topics — such as equity and inclusion— that were central to this year’s agenda. We hope that each and every attendee left feeling empowered and reminded that they are “Rooted in Power”!
We at TNOYS would like to thank our sponsors as this event could not be a huge success without them. We are also grateful for its continued partnership with the Office of the Texas Governor’s Child Sex Trafficking Team (OOG CST Team) to build Texas’ capacity to provide high-quality, specialized services for survivors of Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Youth (CSEY). Through their support, TNOYS’ 38th Annual Conference on Services to Youth and Families features dozens of sessions dedicated to strengthening services for survivors of CSEY, including a full workshop topic track focused on understanding CSEY, a documentary screening and live panel discussion that brings awareness to CSE of boys and young men, a Commercial Sexual Exploitation-Identification Tool (CSE-IT) User Training, and numerous sessions on evidence-based interventions and performance-driven practices such as Motivational Interviewing, Youth Thrive, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and more.