June Events Celebrate Dedication, Gird Continued Work
Dr. Veirdra Jackson presents the opening keynote of the 2023 SWAN/IL Summer Statewide Meeting.
The network gathered in Northeast Pennsylvania for two back-to-back events in June—the SWAN/IL Summer Statewide Meeting (SSW) and the 31st Pennsylvania Permanency Conference—where celebrations and affirmations took center stage. Reading’s own, Dr. Veirdra Jackson, kicked off the week with her SSW keynote, Social Intelligence: Longing to Belong, which spoke to every person’s want and need to belong, a value central to adoption. Dr. Jackson’s emphasis on the sustained value of relationships and engagement provided a relevant backdrop as the entire network convened for the conference.
More than 800 parents, child welfare and independent living professionals, legal professionals and advocates attended the conference, which opened on Wednesday afternoon, June 21 (view opening video). Opening keynote presenter, Kenisha Coon, provided a compelling presentation on targeted family recruitment for children of color. Ms. Coon provided practical and attainable strategies for engaging, developing and supporting families who reflect the diversity of children in foster care waiting for permanency Specifically, she challenged the network to build competencies to partner well with families of color, proactively conduct cultural assessments of oneself and one’s agency, and provide staff with ongoing professional development.
Training continued throughout the week with more than 25 workshops and institutes and a closing keynote from A’ric Jackson. Mr. Jackson’s message again reinforced the importance of effective and genuine connection with those we care for and, most importantly, on behalf of the children served by the network.
Connecting was the focus of a matching event coordinated by the Pennsylvania Adoption Exchange and held in conjunction with the SSW. William Hagenbuch, the father of five young siblings whose adoptions were finalized one year ago, shared his family’s inspirational and encouraging story and experiences with adoption through SWAN. Prospective families had opportunities to talk one-on-one with affiliate caseworkers at their agency exhibits and, in some cases, interact with waiting youth.
More than 55,000 adoptions have taken place since the inception of SWAN in 1992, including 2,042 adoptions and 690 exits to permanent legal custodians in federal fiscal year 2022. The annual recognition banquet, held June 21st, celebrated this effort and honored specific individuals and teams for their particular contributions. Check back here as award winners’ compelling stories are highlighted in the website news over the next several months.
Finally, new childcare director, Melissa Beehler, and teen care director, Angela Damiano and the children and youth in their programs shared their energy and talents through a song as part of the conference’s final session. Their voices closed the week and sent participants back to work and home with a reminder of all that was learned and shared until we meet again.
The June 2024 SWAN/IL Summer Statewide Meeting and 32nd Pennsylvania Permanency Conference will be held June 18-21, 2024.