TNOYS’ 41st Annual Conference: Looking Ahead to the Bold Futures of Youth-Serving Systems


Last month, TNOYS was thrilled to welcome youth, young adults, and professionals from across systems to our 41st Annual Conference for Services to Youth and Families! Over 550 attendees joined us in Houston for a week packed with inspiring keynotes, workshops, and sessions that enthusiastically embraced this year’s theme of “Bright Stars, Bold Futures.” We were inspired to see attendees of all ages and backgrounds work together to collaborate in building a brighter youth services field in which all young people can thrive.

Our conference kicked off on Tuesday, June 4th with three day-long, in-depth Pre-Conference Institutes: Motivational Interviewing Skills for CSEY Advocates, and Turning Down the Heat: Preventing Conflict & Counter-Aggression. Additionally, personnel from the Texas Department and Family and Protective Services (DFPS) joined TNOYS’ custom training Building Alliances to Prevent and Address Children without Placement that centers youth voices in building trust with young people in foster care.

The full conference got started on Wednesday, June 5th with a warm welcome from our CEO, Fedora Galasso, and an engaging keynote session by author and speaker Anna Runkle. She shared her insights and lived experience with childhood PTSD, energizing attendees with her dynamic remarks. Youth and professionals then attended separate workshop tracks with information tailored to their unique needs. Youth learned valuable skills such as self-care in stressful situations and using poetry as a guide to their power.

Professionals participated in their choice of workshops on important topics such as generational diversity in the workplace, addressing mental health challenges in students experiencing homelessness, and reproductive rights for Texas youth.

Day 1 closed out with youth alongside professionals attending a special panel discussion featuring members of our Young Adult Leadership Council (YALC). They spoke on why lived experience matters and how it contributes to youth empowerment. This was followed by an electrifying performance by dance troupe Son Kiss’d Dance Concepts.

The day wrapped up with a special celebration of the 120+ organizations and professionals in the TNOYS member network and the dedicated professionals that make our work possible. We were thrilled to recognize the incredible member award winners of 2024:

Additionally, the Preparation Initiative for Leaders of Tomorrow (P.I.L.O.T.) Programs from Harris County Resources for Children and Adults was named as this year’s Steve Wick Innovation Program winner. Finally, we were thrilled to name the Greater Houston Opportunity Youth Collaborative as our Rising Star Award winner. Congratulations to our members!

Day 2 opened with remarks from Ashley Elgin, Chair of TNOYS’ Board of Directors and CEO of TNOYS’ member Lena Pope Home. Next, consultant and speaker Kathy Givens shared her lived experience in a captivating story with attendees. To close out the morning, youth-led slam poetry team Meta4 Houston energized attendees with an inspiring performance. 

The day continued with workshop sessions open to both youth and professionals on topics such as college resources for youth with foster care experience, employing youth with lived experience, and the important role of stability for youth. TNOYS YALC members led several sessions where they shared their own perspectives as young leaders who have lived expertise in systems.

A luncheon followed, with a special graduation ceremony for the 10 members of TNOYS’ 2023 – 2024 YALC cohort Unstoppable Youth Voices. Attendees shared a few words of encouragement to these youth and young adults as they continue their leadership journeys. This session also featured a special panel featuring members of TNOYS’ Texas Emerging Leaders Board (TELB).

The third and last day of the conference opened with a breakfast for the Statewide Collaborative on Youth Homelessness (SCYH), a TNOYS-led committee that facilitates information sharing across systems and around the state among those working to prevent and end youth homelessness. Attendees heard critical updates from state agency leadership including Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) Commissioner Stephanie Muth, as well as leadership from Texas Department of Housing Community Affairs, the Office of the Texas Governor’s Child Sex Trafficking Team, Texas Workforce Commission, and others. 

Day 3 featured a final block of workshops, covering topics such as serving “unseen survivors of Commercial Sexual Exploitation (CSE), how to support youth storytelling, and navigating trauma to avoid burnout. Our closing keynote session was with author and speaker Di Ciruolo whose keynote focused on her own experience as a youth in foster care and how to better support young people with neurodiversity.

We at TNOYS were 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 the conference feeling informed and optimistic for “bold futures” ahead!

More event highlights are available in our Facebook photo album.

We at TNOYS would like to thank our sponsors and exhibitors as this event could not be a huge success without them. We hope to see you all at next year’s event!

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