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The National Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect is unique for its scope and the deep diversity of its participants, which include professionals, researchers, policy makers, parents, and volunteers representing a wide variety of disciplines. It provides a unique opportunity for those who are committed to achieving better outcomes for children, youth, and families to come together, learn from and support each other, take in new knowledge, build new understanding, and re-energize for the always-changing and challenging work ahead. We anticipate that more than 2,000 in-person and virtual attendees will participate in the 21st NCCAN from across the United States, its territories, and around the world.

Conference Theme

The 21st NCCAN offers a unique opportunity to come together for leadership and action-oriented dialogue around creating a continuum of supports to ensure that we are a nation of Strong and Thriving Families—the theme of this year’s conference. The Children’s Bureau is committed to advancing national efforts that strengthen the capacity of families to nurture and provide for the well-being of their children. At the 21st NCCAN, child welfare staff, child maltreatment prevention partners, the legal and judicial community, parents, foster care alumni, child and family serving professionals, and community members will explore strategies for making this vision of strong and thriving families a reality.

Learning Tracks

To achieve our vision, the 21st NCCAN offers diverse sessions addressing current approaches, policies, strategies, programs, and practices in the following five target areas.

  • 1. Prioritize Prevention

    Nurturing and safe family relationships are key to child well-being. Prioritizing families and focusing on primary prevention, through flexible funding and community-based services that strengthen the protective capacities of all parents, will help children and their families thrive. We must also focus our interventions in ways that prevent unnecessary placements, keep children in their communities and schools, and build family strengths as a primary intervention. This track explores a variety of topics related to primary prevention, in-home services, family engagement, and other service innovations intended to support families and keep children with their families.
  • 2. Focus on Well-Being

    We should ensure that our interventions support the physical, emotional, and psychological well-being of all children and families. This track explores a wide variety of topics relevant to the social, educational, economic, behavioral, cognitive, and relational well-being of children and families. We particularly welcome sessions focused on measuring well-being, addressing trauma, strengthening protective factors, and building resilience.
  • 3. Reshape Foster Care as a Support for Families

    Engagement with the child welfare system should have positive impacts on children and families—equipping parents and caregivers with enhanced protective factors, skills, and supports to safely care for their children and improve child well-being. Even when parents are unable to keep their children safe at home, children need to feel connected to their parents, siblings, and relatives. Parents should remain actively involved with their children in foster care in safe and healthy ways, with foster and birth families working together to support children and ensure successful reunification whenever possible. This track explores innovations in child welfare practice with a special emphasis on efforts that keep families meaningfully engaged and connected, even when out-of-home care is necessary. We welcome sessions highlighting approaches that promote the active involvement of parents in their children’s lives while in out-of-home care, promote healthy relationships between birth and foster parents, provide timely and successful reunification, address kinship care, and avoid unnecessary family separation and trauma.
  • 4. Build Community Capacity

    Primary prevention of maltreatment and a focus on well-being occur best in the communities where children and families live, and cannot be the work of child welfare alone. A wide array of stakeholders and systems must work together–guided by the communities they serve–to build programs and systems that get needed supports to families where they are and when they need it.This track explores ideas and initiatives for leveraging diverse community-based partnerships to better serve children and families. We especially invite proposals related to reaching rural communities, engaging non-traditional partners, and moving beyond traditional services.
  • 5. Support the Workforce

    To serve families well, we must have a strong, competent, and healthy workforce. An effective child welfare system requires social workers, attorneys, and service providers to have adequate supports and supervision, manageable workloads, and the skills needed to do their work well. Inspire, competent leadership can garner the support of community partners, staff, and families on the path to meaningful and sustained improvement. This track explores ideas and initiatives for supporting the child welfare workforce in ways that enhance their effectiveness and ensure their well-being. We especially invite proposals related to addressing secondary traumatic stress, creating a safe and supportive organizational culture, and reducing staff turnover.

Session Formats

The 21st NCCAN will offer participants the opportunity to engage in discussion with and learn from one another in a variety of formal and informal settings. Through the Call for Abstracts, we are soliciting proposals for the following session formats:

Workshops are designed to increase knowledge and understanding and provide practical applications for a broad range of research, policy, and programmatic issues. Up to three presenters engage participants in exploration of a single topic over a 90-minute period.

Skills Seminars engage participants in intensive, hands-on training designed to enhance proficiency and learn new skills and strategies. Presenters will use various formats, including dialogue, role-play, brainstorming, and other active learning modes, and are encouraged to share tools and resources that participants can access after the session. Skills Seminars are 1.5 or 3 hours in length.

Spotlight Sessions are 45-minute discussions that do not involve the use of audio-visual equipment. Spotlight Sessions are ideal for showcasing innovations or convening in-depth discussions around issues or practices. Please note that the rooms will not be equipped with AV.

Poster Presentations offer unique opportunities to present original research, new data, exciting service delivery initiatives, educational activities, and other pioneering work impacting our field today. CB/OCAN strongly encourages submissions on innovative and cutting-edge research from child welfare and other related disciplines to help inform discussions around research, policy, and practice. Posters will be available for general viewing throughout the Conference; specific presentation times are to be determined.

Policy Forums are half-day (3-hour) sessions offering the opportunity to dig deep into a policy issue. Policy Forum sessions may include a number of presenters but are intended primarily to allow for the type of dialogue that is critical to informing the development of policies or improving policies being implemented.

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