AGENDA 2019-10-04T18:21:40+00:00

Tuesday, October 15


12:00 PM – 7:30 PM | Registration and Exhibit Area Open

1:00 PM – 2:00 PM | Welcome and General Session by Matthew Butensky, Center for Schools and Communities and Alicia Tyler, Pennsylvania Department of Human Services

Hear about the state of foster care in Pennsylvania, including reminders and updates for ensuring the educational stability for youth in foster care. There will be time for Q&A with state points of contact.

2:00 PM – 2:15 PM | Exhibit Exploration

2:15 PM – 4:15 PM | Institutes

Research demonstrates that many youth in foster care struggle academically, which may be caused by unplanned school changes. The 2015 Every Student Succeed Act (ESSA), in conjunction with other federal laws, provides historic education-related protections for youth in foster care aimed to increase school stability. Learn more about these protections and ESSA as well as apply learned concepts using a popular game show format.

Presented by Christina Endres, Program Specialist, SERVE Center, Browns Summit, NC; Rosa Parks Green, Regional Coordinator, School District of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA; and Kristen Hoffa, Regional Coordinator, Berks County Intermediate Unit, Reading, PA

Achieving positive outcomes for highly mobile youth requires a highly effective network of stakeholders. The integration of the Every Student Succeeds Act’s provisions for foster care and homeless youth requires regular collaboration among school, child welfare, and shelter partners. Poor communication and tarnished relationships can not only lead to disagreement, but also negatively impact outcomes for highly mobile youth. Efficient communication between all parties, both within and outside of one’s school or organization, is integral to the process of providing educational stability. This session will explore and apply research-based collaboration strategies to this work in providing educational stability for youth in foster care and youth experiencing homelessness.

Presented by Kedren Crosby, President, and Sarah Colantonio, Partner, Work Wisdom LLC, Lancaster, PA

Using a blend of scientific research, qualitative accounts, and practical application, this interactive institute will provide a foundational overview and awareness of trauma, resilience, and trauma-informed care, with a focus on resilience and self-care, for professionals who interact with children and families with histories of trauma.

Presented by Melanie Snyder, Trauma Informed Specialist, Penn Medicine, Lancaster General Health, Lancaster, PA

4:15 PM – 5:30 PM | Exhibit Exploration

5:30 PM – 7:30 PM | NO MORE TICKETS AVAILABLE – Dinner sponsored by the Milton Hershey School, Remarks by Debra Turnpaugh, Milton Hershey School and Keynote Address by Rob Scheer, Comfort Cases

If you are interested in attending, please check at the conference registration desk when you arrive to see if there were any cancellations.

For 110 years and counting, Milton Hershey School (MHS) has provided children in preK-12 from low-income families with a safe and stable place to learn and grow. Students discover their interests and talents in a live-in setting, and MHS helps them develop skills to lead fulfilled lives. Participants will learn more about this life-changing opportunity and how students and families they work with can benefit.

Growing up in an abusive household before his placement in foster care, Rob Scheer had all the odds stacked against him. Kicked out of his foster family’s home within weeks after turning eighteen – with a year left of high school to go – he had to resort to sleeping in his car and in public bathrooms. He suffered from drug addiction and battled with depression, never knowing when his next meal would be or where he would sleep at night. However, by true perseverance, he was able to find his own path and achieve his wildest dreams.

Recognizing a troubling yet consistent trend that many youth in foster care carried their personal belongings in trash bags, Scheer and his husband started Comfort Cases in 2013, with the conviction that all children in foster care should be provided with everyday essentials and the comfort of a few things to call their own.

The dream is for every youth to receive a Comfort Case upon entering foster care and for no child to have to experience the indignity of carrying a trash bag ever again. The organization is continuing to expand its reach and will continue to grow with Rob’s passion and determination. Comfort Cases looks forward to the day when the organization can utilize local partnerships to reach every youth entering foster care in communities throughout the United States.

Wednesday, October 16


8:00 AM – 4:30 PM | Registration and Exhibit Area Open

8:30 a.m.-10:00 a.m. | Remarks by Storm Camara, Pennsylvania Department of Education and Keynote Address by Melissa Kull, Chapin Hall

Dr. Kull’s research focuses on promoting the use of evidence in systems that address family and youth homelessness and on supporting cross-system partnerships. She has authored numerous articles and briefs on housing quality, instability, and neighborhood effects on children, youth and families. Her current work includes: disseminating finding from a recent federally funded supportive housing demonstration project for families involved in the child welfare system; expanding the use of a screener for detecting housing instability among families enrolled in early childhood programs; drawing on research evidence to strengthen youth homelessness systems; and, as part of a new primary prevention model for youth homelessness, facilitating the universal screening of junior and high school students in two large urban school districts to identify youth at risk for homelessness and early school learning. She has also conducted research on child and family housing contexts, family instability, and children’s early education experiences.

In the first Voices of Youth Research-to-Impact brief in 2017, researchers estimated that nearly 4.2 million youth and young adults in America experienced some form of homelessness during a 12-month period. In the fifth brief, released in October 2018, Missed Opportunities: Youth Homelessness in Rural America, researchers found that rural youth homelessness is just as prevalent as urban homelessness. Youth in rural areas, however, experience homelessness quite differently, facing unique challenges in accessing education, employment, services and support. Dr. Kull will share findings from Chapin Hall’s research about the nature and prevalence of rural youth homelessness. Insight will be provided regarding the intersection of educational challenges and youth homelessness in rural areas. Additionally, Dr. Kull will describe an emerging prevention initiative that Chapin Hall is piloting in two school districts that could be useful for children, youth, and families experiencing homelessness in rural areas.

10:00 AM – 10:15 AM | Exhibit Exploration

10:15 AM – 11:45 AM | Workshops

Utilizing poverty statistics and the research of people like Eric Jensen, Ph.D., Dr. Ruby Payne and Jonathan Kozol, this workshop addresses the characteristics and traits of students/families in poverty. Topics include the “hidden rules” among the classes, the behavior patterns of many in poverty, assessing resources available to families, and how economic realities affect daily living. The workshop will include video clips from the PBS documentary “People Like Us,” group discussion and exercises, and lecture. Participants will receive handouts including the training outline and a listing of recommended resources.

Presented by Stacey Spangenburg, Admissions Counselor, Milton Hershey School, Hershey, PA

In an informal discussion format, this morning’s keynote speaker will be available to answer questions about Chapin Hall’s findings on rural youth homelessness and discuss with participants ways in which we as professionals can better support children and families in the rural areas of Pennsylvania.

Presented by Melissa Kull, Researcher, Chapin Hall, Chicago, IL

Which students are homeless? Which students should we transport? How should we get homeless students ready for graduation? What else should we be doing for homeless students? This session will cover these topics as well as the core tenets of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act.

Presented by Christina Endres, Program Specialist, National Center for Homeless Education, Greensboro, NC and Yolanda Yugar, Data Specialist, Allegheny Intermediate Unit, Homestead, PA

The American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law’s “Education Barriers Project” works to bring together child welfare, education, and court partners to identify education barriers and implement successful strategies and reforms to increase school stability and success for youth in foster care. Hear about the project’s methodology and goals, and the impact of the project from Westmoreland County stakeholders including the child welfare agency and a local school district. This session will review how the “Education Barriers Project” can be brought to your region or county.

Presented by Emily Peeler, Staff Attorney, American Bar Association; Todd McMillen, Coordinator of Student Services, Greensburg Salem School District; and Dawn Trail, Program Specialist, Westmoreland County Children’s Bureau

In this session, the presenters will discuss the challenges for students experiencing homelessness and those in foster care transitioning to college and ways to help students navigate this process. Specific strategies to provide support, from financial aid, to how school and agency staff can support the transition, will be shared. Information will also be provided regarding the development of state-wide Single-Point-of-Contact programs.

Presented by Tiffanie DeVan, Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency, Harrisburg, PA; Paula Beltran Franco, College Outreach Coordinator, Reading School District, Reading, PA; and Stacey Havlik, Associate Professor, Villanova University, Villanova, PA

11:45 AM – 1:15 PM | LUNCH ON YOUR OWN and Exhibit Exploration

1:15 PM – 2:45 PM | Workshops

This session is an overview of the legal foundations of the Pennsylvania Juvenile Dependency System, designed specifically for educational professionals. This one and a half hour session, trained by SWAN Legal Training Specialists who previously served as parent and child’s attorneys, will walk participants through the life of a dependency case from intake to case closure. Discussion will include statistics reflective of the children in care as well as relevant state and federal laws, child welfare initiatives, and roles and terms specific to foster care and the greater child welfare system. Attendees will receive unique insight into the basics of the child welfare system.

Presented by Alyssa Holstay, SWAN Legal Training Specialist and Ilene Dubin, SWAN Legal Training Division Manager, Family Design Resources, Inc. / Statewide Adoption and Permanency Network, Harrisburg, PA

Human trafficking is the act of recruiting, harboring, transporting, providing or obtaining a person for compelled labor or commercial sex acts through the use of force, fraud or coercion. It can happen anywhere – even in your own community. During 2018, 127 human trafficking cases were reported to the Pennsylvania Human Trafficking Hotline. Attend this session to learn more about how you can identify and better protect the young people in your school or program.

Presented by Heather LaRocca, Anti-Trafficking Assistant Director, Salvation Army, Philadelphia, PA and Heather Shnyder, Community Education Specialist, Transitions of PA, Lewisburg, PA

Students who have experienced homelessness or foster care face extensive barriers in the pursuit of higher education. Institutions of higher learning hold great potential to positively impact educational outcomes for this population. With creative applications of campus supports and the engagement of community stakeholders, schools can ensure that students with experience in foster care or homelessness can make their dreams of college success a reality.

Presented by Rona Anderson, Anchor Program, Bloomsburg University, Bloomsburg, PA; Tori Nuccio, Assistant Director of Financial Aid, West Chester University, West Chester, PA; and Sarah Wasch, Program Manager, The Field Center for Children’s Policy, Practice & Research, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA

As a McKinney-Vento homeless liaison, the individual assigned to this position plays a crucial role in ensuring that students experiencing homelessness are promptly identified, and provided all necessary services and supports to maintain their educational stability and progress toward their high school graduation. In this session you will learn about the ways in which your peers are making this possible in their own school or district.

Presented by Barbara Boland, Student Assistance Program Coordinator, Conrad Weiser Area School District, Robesonia, PA; Jacy Cugston-Hess, Assistant Superintendent, Ephrata Area School District, Ephrata, PA; Kate Diorio, Supervisor of Pupil Services, Red Lion Area School District, Red Lion, PA; and Julie Heckman, School Social Worker, Claysburg-Kimmel School District, Claysburg, PA

In Pennsylvania, more than 35,000 children and youth are identified as experiencing homelessness each year, and close to 20% of that number includes those who are separated from their parents or guardians – unaccompanied youth. These students might be living temporarily with relatives, “couch surfing” with friends, living in shelters on the streets, or at risk of trafficking and victimization. This presentation will look at this population from both a rural- and urban-focused perspective, comparing and contrasting strengths and challenges of each setting. Strategies for identification, ideas for connecting to appropriate support systems, issues related to a success transition to higher education, and barriers encountered when serving this population, will be explored.

Presented by Wendy Kinnear, ECYEH Region 5 Coordinator, Midwestern Intermediate Unit, Grove City, PA and Al Quarles, ECYEH Region 1 Coordinator, Philadelphia School District, Philadelphia, PA

2:45 PM – 3:00 PM | Exhibit Exploration

3:00 PM – 4:30 PM | Workshops

Researchers estimate that students experiencing homelessness and those in foster care are chronically absent from school at a rate that is at least double that of the overall student population. In this session, participants will learn how Pennsylvania is addressing this issue, the relationship between student attendance and academic achievement, and why measuring student-level attendance is important. Specific strategies at the school level to increase and support students’ school attendance will be shared.

Presented by Tina Onassis, Residency Verification and Truancy Officer/Homeless Student Liaison/Foster Student Liaison, Chichester School District, Marcus Hook, PA and Sherri Smith, Advisor to the Deputy Secretary, Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, Pennsylvania Department of Education, Harrisburg, PA

Given the misperceptions about individuals with mental health disabilities and families experiencing homelessness —and especially about people at the intersection of the two—it is critical to understand the connection between these challenging circumstances. This session’s attendees will explore the nature of this connection and ways in which schools and organizations can assist in addressing these challenges.

Presented by Kristin Labezius, Intensive Case Manager and Homeless Outreach Assistant Program Director, Community Services Group, Mountville, PA

Students experiencing homelessness face many barriers to their educational success and their goal of high school graduation. This session’s panelists will describe how they assess and support academic achievement for these students. Specific strategies that you can use in your own school or program for building success for vulnerable student populations will be shared,

Presented by Wendy Kinnear, ECYEH Region 5 Coordinator, Midwestern Intermediate Unit, Grove City, PA; Tabitha Kramer, ECYEH Region 2 Program Specialist, Berks County Intermediate Unit, Reading, PA; ; John Mozzocio, Administrator, New Castle Area School District, New Castle, PA; and Lisette Rivera, Families in Transition Coordinator, School District of Lancaster, Lancaster, PA

Making the best decisions for children and youth involved in the child welfare system can be challenging and may involve multiple factors such as a child’s special education needs, history of truancy, juvenile justice involvement, the confidentiality of records, etc. This session, led by national experts, will describe best practices and model policies relating to the school placement best interest determinations (“BIDs”), special education, school stability for youth in the juvenile justice system under new PA Juvenile Court Rule 1148 and its implications for the BID process, and how LEAs, child welfare agencies, and the courts can work together to ensure both school stability and academic success for children and youth in foster care. Attendees will learn about innovative programs, concrete examples, and effective tools to facilitate successful cross-systems collaborations.

Presented by Maura McInerney, Legal Director, Education Law Center and Emily Peeler, Staff Attorney, American Bar Association

Title I and the McKinney-Vento Act are separate laws that share a common goal: helping vulnerable students succeed. In this session we will cover basic legal requirements for building partnerships between the programs and then look at examples of real world implementation that work.

Presented by Christina Endres, Program Specialist, National Center for Homeless Education, Greensboro, NC

Thursday, October 17


8:00 AM – 12:00 PM | Registration and Exhibit Area Open

8:30 AM – 10:00 AM | General Session by Students Kehiliarys Concepcion-Cano, Eriel Gaylord and Mark Stokes, and Youth Advocate Anthony Simpson

In this special youth panel presentation, you will learn about the experiences of some of Pennsylvania’s young people in homelessness and foster care. These students choose not to let their life situation define them, and instead have persevered to maintain their focus on their education rather than be deterred by the obstacles that have been set before them. As those charged with assisting them in maintaining their educational stability, we can learn from them how best to support these students in our own school or agency.

Presented by Kehiliarys Concepcion-Cano, Junior, Reading School District, Reading, PA; Eriel Gaylord, Senior, Conrad Weiser Area School District, Robesonia, PA; Anthony Simpson, Youth Advocate with Youth Fostering Change, Juvenile Law Center, Philadelphia, PA; and Mark Stokes, Freshman, Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology, Lancaster, PA

10:00 AM – 10:15 AM | Exhibit Exploration

10:15 AM – 11:45 AM | Workshops

Families experiencing homelessness face myriad challenges and barriers in identifying, accessing and paying for services that they and their children require. Attend this session to learn how schools are finding effective ways to provide assistance through creative outreach and innovative partnerships within the school and the greater community.

Presented by Patty Hawley, Warren County School District, Warren, PA; Carrie Heinsey, Manheim Central School District; Tammy Wood Moghal, Bensalem Township School District, Bensalem, PA; and Michelle Siruc, Homeless Liaison/Confidential Secretary, Mifflin County School District, Lewistown, PA

This session will provide an opportunity for experienced school district foster care points of contact and homeless liaisons to engage in discussions regarding unique situations and complicated case scenarios with their colleagues and ECYEH/Foster Care staff. Bring your questions and solutions for addressing the challenges in meeting the needs of students experiencing foster care and/or homelessness.

One of the discussions will be on ECYEH Data Collection, Submission for new and experienced liaisons with related questions.

Moderated by Storm Camara, ECYEH State Coordinator, Pennsylvania Department of Education, Harrisburg, PA; Matthew Butensky, State Education Foster Care Point of Contact, Center for Schools and Communities, Camp Hill, PA; Yolanda Yugar, Evaluation Specialist, Allegheny Intermediate Unit, Homestead, PA; and ECYEH/Foster Care Regional Coordinators

To promote positive developmental outcomes, we must understand children and adolescents’ strengths as well as their liabilities and challenges. The role of significant protective factors (e.g., connection, compassion and hope) will be uncovered as they relate to increased pro-social outcomes among children and youth. Practical strategies will be highlighted throughout and promoting resilience through effective mentoring will be explored.

Presented by Charisse Nixon, Professor of Psychology, Penn State Behrend

This workshop will explore a framework for responding to the needs of children and families of the incarcerated in schools and communities. Participants will be provided with an overview of data and demographics; examine what is known about the impact of parental incarceration on children including the effects of trauma and toxic stress on brain development. The training also provides a national perspective on promising practices and strategies for responding to the needs of these children and families and provides guidance on creating environments within schools and organizations that promote resilience, minimize stigma and provide cost effective services.

Presented by Ann Adalist-Estrin, Director, National Resource Center on Children and Families of the Incarcerated at Rutgers University Camden, Camden, NJ

Unaccompanied homeless youth have unique needs and present challenging questions for schools and service providers. Youth who do not complete a high school diploma are at greater risk of experiencing homelessness according to a national survey. This presentation will review the legal requirements for educating unaccompanied homeless youth, and for providing support services outside of school so that youth can succeed. Too often, a lack of effective collaboration across the systems that serve these young people and families create barriers to critical services and resources. In this session, attendees will learn how to effectively break down silos and encourage collaboration across key service systems, with a particular focus on schools, homeless services, and child welfare.

Presented by Andrew Palomo, Director of Community Strategies, National Network for Youth, Washington, DC