June 09, 2014

Conference will focus on child welfare

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- An upcoming conference at Southern Illinois University Carbondale will bring professionals together to examine child welfare delivery services and provide recommendations for improvements. 

The symposium, “Protecting Our Children: Using Data as the Foundation,” is June 17 in the Student Center Ballrooms.   The symposium is from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.  The free event is open to the public, and geared to professionals in the child welfare and protection agencies. 

The Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, the Center for Rural Health and Social Service Development, and the SIU School of Medicine are event sponsors. 

“A lot of people are working hard to protect our children.  The focus of this conference is making better use of the data and information these people have and find ways they can work together,” David Yepsen, institute director, said. 

Lunch is included but advance registration is required for meal considerations.  The registration deadline for lunch is Friday, June 13. To register, contact Vanessa Sneed, institute project coordinator, at 618/453-4004 or by email at rsvp@paulsimoninstitute.org 

The morning sessions will include discussions on how to use data to understand and address child welfare trends in Southern Illinois and data limitations about minority and overrepresented populations. 

Linda Renee Baker, an institute and university professor, said the symposium will focus on the child welfare data already available from a variety sources and try to find ways to bring all of the information together.  Being able to share the information across a variety of systems, including the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), judicial systems, school districts and multijurisdictional child welfare agencies will help in protecting children, she said. 

Baker said that data indicates there is disproportionate number of children who live south of Interstate 80 in Illinois’ child welfare system and that children in Southern Illinois tend to stay in the system for longer periods of time.  Analyzing the data will help generate ideas on what can be done differently to provide better outcomes for children, she said. 

A luncheon panel discussion will focus on Illinois’ child welfare policies.  The current scheduled panelists include state Sen. David Luechtefeld, R-Okawville, retired Judge George Timberlake and Bonnie Wheeler, a representative with “Voices for Illinois Children.” 

The final afternoon session will examine a unified approach to family services and building and maintaining interagency teams, with Robert Blackwell, central region administrator with DCFS. 

Additional information on the program is available at paulsimoninstitute.org.