2010 Family Strengths Symposium

We are pleased to welcome you to the University of Houston-Downtown's Center for Family Strengths First Annual Symposium on Family Strengths and Diversity: Power, Promise, and Practice. This theme affirms UHD's commitment to families and diversity in all of our educational, service and research endeavors. Families are at the heart of our city and nation. And families are at the center of our work, whether it is through public or private agencies' services to families with neglect and abuse, mental health needs, developmental delays, or justice, substance abuse or violence issues. Our goal is to save families for children and each member.

As you will see throughout all 50 workshops, we have the social technology, research and knowledge to keep families together (in most cases), and we should. Many sessions are led or co-presented by family experts who share with professionals what works and what doesn't. Our keynote speakers will affirm the principles of how to recognize what is right in each family and how to build on these strengths. We have many wonderful agencies and universities with exhibits for you to visit and the Kidsart exhibit and sale.

This Symposium could not have happened without the dedication and insight of many people, beginning with our planning committee listed in this program. All of our wonderful presenters and their agencies have graciously donated their expertise and time to share their work with us. Dean Susan Ahern, Dr. Adolfo Santos and Dr. Jo Bailey supported the development of Center for Family Strengths through their ideas and resources. The Social Work program and its students have implemented the vision of this Symposium. Many individuals have spent endless hours to bring this conference to you, including Steve Sucher; Yolanda Bridges and Marcus Benoit in the Center's office and Mary Rodriguez, Carmen Allen, Penny Cureton and Courtney Branch in the President's office.

Wells-Fargo bank has generously supported the Center for Family Strengths through scholarships for family members' registration and for the Social Work scholarship fund. We are pleased to thank and recognize Mr. Mark Praigg, Vice President and Houston Regional Marketing and Community Relations Manager for WellsFargo.

Please enjoy the Symposium and the UHD campus and do engage our students, as they are our future. We are sure the presentations will help you continue the important work you do every day with families. We appreciate your dedication and service and are glad you chose to join us! Have a great Symposium!

Supplemental Files

Download 2010 Symposium Program (pdf)

Keynote Speakers


Angelo Giardino is the medical director of Texas Children's Health Plan, a clinical associate professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine, and an attending physician for the Texas Children's Hospital's forensic pediatrics service at the Children's Assessment Center in Houston, Texas. He graduated summa cum laude from Temple University and earned his MD and PhD at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Giardino completed his residency and fellowship training in pediatrics at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

Dr. Giardino led "Little Partners", a lay home visiting program focused on fostering enhanced prenatal care and improved healthier birth outcomes. Additionally, Dr. Giardino began the Child Abuse and Neglect Team for Children with Special Health Care Needs, which was funded by a three-year grant from a local philanthropy. Dr. Giardino is a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Texas Pediatric Society, and the Harris County Medical Society, where he serves on the Managed Medicaid Forum and the Medical Directors Committee. He is 10-year member of the American College of Physician Executives and a member of the American College of Medical Quality.

Prior to relocating to Houston, Dr. Giardino served as chair of the Philadelphia Branch Board of the Southeastern Chapter of the American Red Cross, president of the Board for Bethany Christian Services in Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, and a member of the Board for the Support Center for Child Advocates, where he was named a 2005 Champion for Children. His academic accomplishments include publishing eight textbooks on child abuse and neglect, presenting on a variety of pediatric topics at national and regional conferences, and, most recently, being appointed to a three-year term on the National Review Board for the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.


Karl Dennis retired as the Executive Director of Kaleidoscope, Inc., a non-profit community-based childcare agency in Chicago, where he provided leadership and vision for 27 years. Under Karl's direction, Kaleidoscope became nationally recognized as one of the top five child and family serving agencies in the country. Karl is a youth worker, a teacher, and a cultivator of strengths. His profound international reputation is based on fundamental principles which he brought to life and seeded: that children can best be served in their families, in their communities; that the assets and strengths of their situation are best known to those closest to the child and family. Through WrapAround services, the youngster and family with individual human care, supervision, and concern is safer, better and cheaper than tearing apart child, family, community and systems. Karl has provided training in all 50 states and many foreign countries, including New Zealand. He has been the keynote speaker for such prestigious conferences such as the National Conference of Juvenile Court Judges, Roselyn Carter's Mental Health Conference, and Tipper Gore's National Mental Health Symposium.

Everything is Normal Until Proven Otherwise, co-authored with Dr. Ira Lourie, a noted child psychiatrist is a series of stories about the children and families that Karl has worked with over the years. Written for parents and professionals, the book provides guidance for using creativity and compassion in the delivery of services.

Part African American, Cherokee, Blackfoot, and Irish, Karl brings to his presentations an understanding of culture and the important role that it plays in the healing process. Karl has received many honors for his visionary work...but he is truly revered for his passion, humor, and humanity in working with those who are most often forgotten.

Family Expert Panel


Audrey Deckinga is DFPS Assistant Commissioner for Child Protective Services. Prior to that she was senior policy analyst at the Health and Human Services Commission in the office of health services. She has worked in the human services field for over 30 years in three states. Ms.Deckinga has a Bachelors Degree in Psychology from Calvin College in Michigan and a Masters Degree in Social Work (MSSW) from the University of Texas at Austin.


Family Expert Keynote Panel Moderator, DeShaun Ealoms is currently the Parent Program Specialist for Child Protective Services (CPS), Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. Family experts will share how what workers do to help families and ways to improve services. A focus on collaboration with families is critical to family based services. The statewide Parent Collaboration Group provides technical assistance to the CPS regions across Texas with their local parent information and support groups for parents involved with the CPS system.

Ms. Ealoms is also a parent who has utilized CPS services to access needed support and services for her son who has autism. Ms. Ealoms is a member of Autism Society of America, and has served on the Austin Independent School District Special Education Advisory Committee and Mental Health Mental Retardation Center Advisory Committee. Ms. Ealoms received her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from Huston-Tillotson College and a Masters Degree in Special Education from Texas State University.

Workshop Presentations

Child Welfare, Mental Health, Juvenile Justice, Domestic Violence, Schools, Self Care, Kinship Care, Fatherhood, Developmental Disabilities, Health, Program Evaluation/Program Development.

Working with and Identifying Strengths within Families of Color

Presented by Sharon McKinley

In the past, social work practice focused on a deficit or problem-based model of interacting with families. Current practice emphasizes a strength-based model of working with families that facilitates engagement and promotes positive outcomes. By promoting protective factors, positive attributes that strengthen all families, child welfare professionals can better ensure the well-being of children and families. This workshop will focus on how child welfare workers can use a family strengthening approach with African American families and other families of color. Using the Protective Factors model we will look at the strengths within families of color, particularly African American families, and discuss ways to use protective factors to identify family strengths, and engage families in case planning that will result in better outcomes, including a reduction in the number of African American families in the child welfare system.


The Impact of Stigma on Bahamian Families: An Ecological and Indigenous Interactive Change Process Model

Presented by Darlene Rolle-Cargill

A recent study that examined the role of social and economic risk factors in the lives of persons living and working with HIV/AIDS in the Bahamas has illuminated the devastation that was occurring in families as a result of the stigma attached to the disease. The results have led to the development of an Ecological Indigenous Interactive Change Process Model that places PLWHAS at the center of the healing process, thus fostering self-empowerment and self-determination. It also promotes family reunification and an indigenous approach to treatment that is consistent with the ecological approach to social work practice and pedagogy.


Family Engagement

Presented by Ellen Letts

Why are engagement skills so important to our work with children and families? How do you teach engagement to others? Come join us for a facilitated discussion on engagement where participants will have the unique opportunity to share openly their ideas and perspectives about engagement and to learn simple techniques to teach others the "how" to engagement. The voices of our parents, children, and youth will guide our discussion and aid in the learning experience.


Mindfulness Meditation: Adapting an Ancient Wisdom Tradition to Empower Families and to Promote Worker Wellness

Presented by Betsy Wisner & Catherine Hawkins

Meditation, derived from ancient wisdom traditions, has gained wide recognition in the U.S. as a practical tool, supported by empirical research, for enhancing stress-management and self-care, increasing focus and concentration, and improving interpersonal relationships. Mindfulness meditation refers to a specific technique for achieving an empathetic, present moment, non-judgmental state of awareness. This workshop explores the mindfulness meditation literature and its applicability to promoting strengths and empowering families and promoting worker wellness. Participants will learn a simple meditation technique and will be offered guidance in using meditation as a valuable resource in their personal and professional lives.


The Ten Principles of Wraparound

Presented by Pam Schaffer & Barbara Sewell

Wraparound is a philosophy that is expressed in the way that we approach, engage and work with families to meet their needs when living with high-need children and youth. Adhering to the underlying principles of Wraparound becomes a touchstone for our practice and ensures that decisions and services created with families remain true to the underlying principles.


Supporting Families After a Death

Presented by Corrine Walijarvi

Drawing upon research with bereaved families, this workshop will provide insight into the diverse reactions that different families, and different members of the same family, may have following a death. The workshop will focus on a discussion of factors that can contribute to progress in the grief journey and will identify a variety of ways that service providers can help grieving families. The workshop will include a brief presentation, discussions, and activities oriented toward helping clinicians and service providers respond in a supportive manner to grieving clients.


Balancing the Family with Mental Health

Presented by Ada Gomez

This presentation will include information on how families can empower themselves to handle the issues surrounding mental health while providing a safe environment for their children. We'll review how to identify mental health issues and appropriately refer a child/adult to be assessed, how to be mindful of barriers, stigmas, and challenges faced while working with families with mental health issues, how to appropriately assess progress, how to identify and establish a support system, how to utilize family team meetings and community resources, and how to empower the family to succeed. By the end of the workshop, you will be able to see how families who have mental health issues are able to successful parent with the support of family and community resources.


Coaching as a Skill Set for Family Practice and Supervision

Presented by Rebecca Hegar

Coaching, an approach to helping staff and organizations develop their potential, recently has gained traction in the fields of health care, education, and business. Less application of coaching concepts has been made in child and family services. However, coaching is one of the core implementation strategies of the newly established National Implementation Research Network, funded by the U.S. Children's Bureau to provide technical assistance to state and tribal child welfare programs. The presenter, who is working with the Mountains & Plains Child Welfare Implementation Center based at UT-Arlington, applies principles and skills of coaching to both practice and supervision.


Statewide Parent Collaboration Group Video

Presented by DeShaun Ealoms

At this workshop participants will be shown the recent addition and revision of the statewide Parent Collaboration Group video, which highlights the importance of parent participation and collaboration/partnership with caseworkers in child welfare cases. Parents will be available for Q&A after showing of the video. The video is 53 minutes long.


Finding and Using the Strengths in Families

Presented by John Ronnau

Every family has strengths; even in those families in which children must be removed for a short time (or even long term) in order to insure their safety and well-being. The focus of this workshop is to provide a framework and tools for finding and using the strengths of families. One premise of this workshop is that the best place for children to grow and thrive is in their families. Another underlying premise is that the concept of "family" must be defined in a very inclusive manner that respects and values the tremendous diversity of families throughout the world. Respect, understanding, knowledge and valuing cultural diversity is a must.


Round II Results: Implications for Family Centered Practice

Presented by Ray Worsham

For more than twenty years family centered theory and practice has been taught in most University and agency training programs for child welfare workers and supervisors. At the end of the first decade of the CFSR effort, what do the outcomes of the two reviews and agency efforts through their Program Improvement Plans, suggest regarding the impact and implementation of Family Centered Practices at the casework level? In this facilitated workshop participants will have an opportunity to review the available results for Round II informed by PIP efforts and discuss Family Centered Practice in light of these outcomes. With a brief review of current initiatives in Family Centered Practice, participants will have an opportunity to explore the implications for casework service in anticipation of Round III.


Introduction to Strength Based Family Support Supervision

Presented by Bonnie Mikelson

This is an introduction to the Family Support Supervisor Certification Training, "Strengthening Family Support through Supervision". Supervision is a separate and essential practice requiring skill development and training. Focus will be on one key aspect of supervisory practice: providing reflective strength based supervision. We will consider ways that supervisors may supervise their workers from a collaborative, strengths based model that parallels the strength based interventions their workers do with families. Participants will learn about reflective supervision, view a demonstration of traditional vs reflective supervision, and practice strength based supervisory interventions.


2010 Exhibits

Taking Care of Children - Sgt. Bill Davis Enterprises

Sgt. Bill Davis will have his nationally acclaimed true crime novel, So Innocent - Yet So Dead, available for purchase along with his DVD and pepper spray. His life saving data packet could save your life, and your family's life.

University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work

The mission of the Graduate College of Social Work is to educate professionals for social work practice, research, and leadership. We advocate for innovative, collaborative, inclusive, and humane policies and solutions that promote social, economic, and political justice. Our College generates new knowledge through critical thinking that links rigorous scientific inquiry, ethical social work practice, and community engagement.

Harris County Systems of Hope

Our mission is to provide effective support and care which is family driven and youth guided to families and their children who are experiencing serious emotional and behavioral problems. The Harris County Systems of Hope utilizes integrated, holistic, and individualized methods based on strengths and an appreciation of the many cultures represented in our community.

Mississippi Children's Home Services

Mission Statement: To improve the lives of children and families by providing a continuum of compassionate, measurable and effective behavioral health and social services. Vision Statement: Our vision is a Mississippi in which children are nurtured in healthy families and communities. Organizational Values: Integrity, Respect for the dignity, diversity, and potential of others, Optimism, Responsiveness to changing individual, family, and community needs, Continuous quality improvement.

DeBakey VA Medical Center

The mission of the Veterans Healthcare System is to serve the needs of America's Veterans by providing primary care, specialized care, and related medical and social support services. To accomplish this mission, VHA needs to be a comprehensive, integrated healthcare system that provides excellence in health care value, excellence in service as defined by its customers, and excellence in education and research, and needs to be an organization characterized by exceptional accountability and by being an employer of choice. Healthcare Value begins with VA. The new Veterans Healthcare System supports innovation, empowerment, productivity, accountability and continuous improvement. Working together, we provide a continuum of high quality health care in a convenient, responsive, caring manner - and at a reasonable cost.

Child Protective Services - DFPS Mission

The mission of The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services is to protect children, the elderly, and people with disabilities from abuse, neglect, and exploitation by involving clients, families and communities. DFPS Vision The Department of Family and Protective Services: Is recognized for innovative, effective services; Builds strong, effective partnerships with clients, communities and state leaders; Provides effective leadership that is accountable for its actions and communicates openly with clients and stakeholders; and Supports staff who are highly motivated, diverse, ethical, well trained, and professional. DFPS Values We protect the unprotected. We involve clients, families and communities in decision-making. We provide quality services. We are innovative and strive for excellence. We are ethical and accountable. We promote diversity. We value our staff.

Child Welfare Information Gateway

Child Welfare Information Gateway promotes the safety, permanency, and well-being of children, youth, and families by connecting child welfare, adoption, and related professionals as well as the general public to information, resources, and tools covering topics on child welfare, child abuse and neglect, out-of-home care, adoption, and more. A service of the Children's Bureau, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, we provide access to print and electronic publications, websites, databases, and online learning tools for improving child welfare practice, including resources that can be shared with families.

Lyceum Books

Since its founding in 1988, Lyceum Books has earned a reputation for excellence in the field of social work education. We are an independent publishing house with the editorial freedom to select books for the quality of their ideas, research, writing, and their usefulness to students and practitioners. OUR BOOKS are innovative and attuned to the realities of social work as it is today. They explore the importance of theory to practice and to the understanding of human behavior, the significance of different practice interventions, the diversity of people and communities, and the links between practice, ethics, research, and policy. Our books are designed to fit both undergraduate and graduate courses. OUR AUTHORS are seasoned professionals and teachers who know how to share the wealth of their experience with and inspire those who are at the threshold of a social work career as well as working practitioners.

Authors will be available to autograph books

  • Karl Dennis – "Everything is Normal Until Proven Otherwise," co-authored with Dr. Ira Lourie. Written for parents and professionals, the book provides guidance for using creativity and compassion in the delivery of services.
  • Cedric McKenzie – She Never Answered, a riveting story of how a child left behind at only six days old, grows up survives in the Arkansas Foster Care System, and prevails. Cedric McKenzie's story is one of drama, comedy, and tragedy, along with redemption and triumph.
  • Dr. Angelo Giardino – Dr. Giardino will have several child abuse books available for purchase.
  • Bill Davis – So Innocent – Yet So Dead, a story that sees through the eyes of an innocent child into the mind of her killer, and, finally, into a search for justice that is nearly blinded by politics and circumstance--but delivered through a series of what Davis describes as spiritual interventions in the midst of tragedy.
  • Alvin Sallee - Child Welfare: Clinical Theory and Practice and The Methamphetamine Handbook: What you Need to Know