Families Stronger Together 2023

September 11-12, 2023

University of Washington Tacoma William W. Phillip Hall

1918 Pacific Avenue, Tacoma, WA 98402

We acknowledge that our conference is being held on the traditional homelands of the Puyallup Tribe. The Puyallup people have lived on and stewarded these lands since the beginning of time, and continue to do so today. We recognize that this land acknowledgement is one small step toward true allyship and we commit to uplifting the voices, experiences, and histories of the Indigenous people of this land and beyond.

In order to learn more about the Puyallup Tribe and to familiarize yourself with the Tribe’s history and culture, we request that you click here. These materials, made available by the Puyallup Tribe, will guide you to a deeper understanding and respect for the Puyallup people and the land we will be meeting upon.


We want to welcome you to the first ever jointly presented conference of the Washington State Office of Public Defense, the Office of Civil Legal Aid, and Children’s Home Society. Our conference is entitled Families Stronger Together because it is true and affirmed by those with lived experience, literature, and practitioners.

This joint conference offers a mix of plenary and breakout sessions designed to enhance the advocacy of all the participants. Plenary and breakout sessions will include topics ranging from the harms of removal, to the safety framework, racial equity, and self-care.  We hope that this opportunity to socialize and learn with each other will help us keep families stronger together.


Quick Links:


September 11, 2023

10:00 AM – 12:30 PM: Registration
(Lunch IS NOT Provided)
12:30 PM – 1:15 PM: Welcome and Land Acknowledgment
1:15 PM – 2:15 PM: Keynote – Monique Mitchell
2:15 PM – 2:30 PM: Break
2:30 PM – 3:30 PM: Case Law & Legislative Updates
3:30 PM – 3:45 PM: Family and Youth Justice Programs (FYJP) Demo
3:45 PM – 4:00 PM: Break
4:00 PM – 5:00 PM: Break Out Session 1
5:00 PM – 7:00 PM: Dinner & Open Space Discussion

September 12, 2023

7:00 Am – 7:45 AM: Guided Meditation
7:30 AM – 8:00 AM: Light Breakfast
8:00 AM – 9:00 AM: Agency Breakout Session
9:00 AM – 9:15 AM: Break
9:15 AM – 10:15 AM: Keynote – Corey Best
10:15 AM – 10:30 AM: Break
10:30 AM – 11:30 AM: Breakout Session 2
11:30 AM – 11:45 AM: Break
11:45 AM – 12:45 PM: Lunch and learn with P4P
12:45 PM – 1:00 PM: Break
1:00 PM – 2:00 PM: Breakout Session 3
2:00 PM – 2:15 PM: Break
2:15 PM – 3:15 PM: Plenary – Supreme Court Chief Justice Gonzalez
3:15 PM: Closing Poem

For a downloadable, abbreviated paper agenda, please click here. For the complete agenda, please click here. Please note that OPD/OCLA/CHSW will not be distributing paper agendas at the venue.

For a CAMPUS MAP, please click here.

For a campus parking map, please click here.

Keynote & Plenary Presentations

Monique B. Mitchell, PhD, FT.
The Harm of Removal: What Children & Youth Have to Say

Drawing upon child-centered research, this presentation will address how children and youth are impacted by removal from their original home and entry into foster care. The seven major types of ambiguity experienced by children and youth in foster care will be explored, and the implications of these experiences in relation to psychological and emotional trauma will be discussed.

Monique B. Mitchell, PhD, FT, is a nationally recognized authority on the lived experience of children, teens, and young adults in foster care, representing the experiences of youth in the United States, Honduras, and Canada. Using youth-centered research, Dr. Mitchell has provided extensive training to judges, attorneys, child welfare state agency personnel, foster parents, and other child welfare partners. Dr. Mitchell is regularly invited to provide consultation on state child welfare policies and practices, and serves as an Expert Witness in dependency cases. She is an expert on youth’s experiences of loss and grief in the child welfare system and is the National Director of the L.Y.G.H.T. program, a trauma-informed and evidence-based intervention for youth in foster care who are grieving death and non-death losses. Read more at www.moniquebmitchell.com.

Presentation Materials:

Corey Best
Nurturing Freedom Dreams Through a Principled Struggle

This experience is fueled by the assumption that participants will have the capacity to nurture freedom dreams and come together to embrace what we are called to do in our “aftertimes.” Each generation has a legacy of healers, organizers and ancestors that have paved a way to ensure that our collective humanity is actualized. We will welcome the audience with asking “What has racism cost you?” We will hold the weight of the charges to hold change, listen, reflect, notice, pause, engage in truth-telling.

Together, we will grapple with ways to infuse “family integrity” and abolitionist thinking into the work of cultivating approaches, practices and behaviors that embody what we know parent representation needs to mean for families—justice. We invite you to embrace JUSTICE as an acknowledgement of one’s humanness. Proactively pursuing healing systematic harm, while repairing fractured relationships from the past, equity of voice and personhood.

As you enter this container, we ask that you consider removing “what we can’t do” from your vocabulary. We also ask that you remove the “What abouts?” from your memory. To challenge us to be BIG in our quest to think culturally versus strategically, we will walk you through a nuanced way of understanding what the principled struggle for “justice doing” looks like in public, and how to LEAD; Learn, Explore, Act, Discover. We invite the audience to dream accountability and bravery as we embrace this experience that aims for impact over outcome.

Corey B. Best is foremost, a dedicated father, originally from Washington D.C., and now resides in Florida. Corey founded Mining For Gold in 2020. Mining For Gold is part of a larger movement; in pursuit of racial justice, liberation, and belonging. As a practice and a discipline, Mining For Gold is held accountable to holding gathering spaces with communities and institutions and believes that justice-centered culture building is the most effective strategy to achieve relational and communal health. Mining For Gold embraces the universal application of co-design and community organizing to guide child and family serving systems toward a more robust and ideal way of thinking and practicing.  The approach centers the knowledge, proximity and experiences of the most impacted. Corey was awarded the 2021 Champion for Children’s Award in Advancing Equity, the 2022 Outstanding Service in the Advancement of Cultural Competency in Child Maltreatment Prevention and Intervention award and was recognized as a 2022 Breakout Star by Evolve Strategy Group.

Presentation Materials:

Chief Justice Stephen Gonzalez

Chief Justice Steven C. González has served on the Washington Supreme Court since 2012 and was sworn in as the first chief justice of color on January 11, 2021. Before joining the high court, Chief Justice González served for ten years as a superior court judge hearing criminal, civil, juvenile, and family law cases.

Passionate about access to justice, he has served on several boards and commissions coordinating access to justice efforts across the state, including laying the groundwork to convene the first statewide task force to author a comprehensive report on the racial disparities in Washington’s criminal justice system. Chief Justice González mentors students, regularly participates in the Northwest Minority Job Fair, and serves as a Board member for the Washington Leadership Institute, a program that aims to develop Bar and community leaders who reflect the diversity of Washington State. As Chief, he currently leads efforts to enhance judicial administration as state courts respond to post-pandemic challenges and to the Supreme Court’s June 4, 2020 letter calling on the legal community to “work together to eradicate racism.”

Among his many honors, he’s received the “2022 Spirit of Excellence Award” and the “2012 Difference Makers Award” from the American Bar Association, multiple “Judge of the Year” awards from statewide organizations and the U.S. Attorney General’s Award for Distinguished Service and the Director’s Award for Superior Performance from the U.S. Department of Justice.

Chief Justice González co-chairs the Board of Judicial Administration (BJA). He is a member of the Conference of Chief Justices at the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) where he serves on several committees. He also served as an advisory member to the working group that developed the NCSC’s Racial Justice Organizational Assessment Tool for Courts.

Chief Justice González earned a J.D. from U.C. Berkeley School of Law and Honorary Doctor of Laws Degrees from Gonzaga University School of Law and the University of Puget Sound.

Presentation Materials:

General Session Materials


Other Presentations

Welcome and Land Acknowledgment

Case Law & Legislative Updates

In both the legislature and the courts, child welfare advocates have continued to push the envelope in order to keep families together. This plenary will summarize the important updates in the legislative session and will provide a preview of what may be next. Then, we will look back on the caselaw that has shaped the past year, touching on issues related to race, reasonable efforts, evidentiary rulings, developmental disabilities, active efforts, and more!

Presentation Materials:

Family and Youth Justice Programs (FYJP) Demo

The Administrative Office of the Courts’ Family & Youth Justice Programs (FYJP) provides support, training, and technical assistance to judicial officers and court systems that hear child dependency cases. Over the last year, FYJP has collaborated with court system partners across the state to create a variety of online resources and tools that support dependency court systems in aligning with the changes of the Keeping Families Together Act (HB 1227), increasing equitable access for dependency-involved families, and reducing racial disproportionality in child welfare. In this session, FYJP staff will provide a short overview of these resources, along with a preview of the resources that have been most impactful for practice.

Presentation Materials:

Dinner & Open Space Discussion

This session is a call to action with a reading of Justice as the Through Line by Ivory K. Bennett and Corey B. Best and an opportunity to learn, explore, act, and discover ways to reinvent ourselves as legal practitioners.  In the words of the authors “Now is an unavoidable time for reinvention. And that reinvention begins with self. What can you do as an individual practitioner to create concrete restorative justices on micro and macro levels? The shift from injustice to restorative justice begins internally and moves outward. You are the holders, the keepers, and the defenders of our personal practices. You are the change we have been unknowingly pursuing.”

Presentation Materials:

Guided Meditation (Cherry Parks (CP) 106)

Participants will be taken through a session of the meta loving kindness meditation technique. Participants will understand the core components of meta loving kindness meditation to both support legal practitioners in stress reduction around dependency practice as well as support collaborative communication strategies with opposing parties. Participants are encouraged to bring a yoga mat or meditation pillow if they have them. Participants may also have a better experience if they chose to wear loose or comfortable clothing.

Presenter Materials: Loving Kindness Meditation Workshop

Agency Breakout Sessions

The Powerful Impact of Peer Support through P4P

Parents for Parents is a supportive, educational, and empowering program built for and by those most impacted in the system. Despite years of empirical evidence demonstrating its intrinsic value, the program continues to face challenges. This presentation will introduce practitioners to the program, its development, supportive literature, and end with a call to action to partner with, invest in, and expand programs infused with lived expertise.

Presentation Materials:

Location & Transportation

Conference Location

Whilliam W. Philip Hall (WPH). A Campus map can be found here, or the location on Google Maps below:

Hotel Locations


From the Airport via Transit

Seattle Sound Transit 574 (Lakewood – Sea-Tac Airport) Schedule, click here.

CE/CLE Reporting & Evaluations

CE Reporting

For all Washington State social workers, please contact Mike Heard at michael.heard@opd.wa.gov to discuss reporting opportunities.

CLE Reporting

There is a total of [more information to follow] possible credits available, pending WSBA approval, for this CLE. CLE credits are divided into 3 WSBA categories (Law and Legal, Ethics, and Other) depending on which sessions you attend. Please complete the form below by marking either “Attended” or “Did Not Attend” or checking the specific break out session. If you did not attend a breakout session, please leave the answer incomplete. If you are requesting partial credit, please use the “Other” box. Note: One credit is equal to one hour of attendance at a seminar. Credits can be obtained in quarter hour increments: 15 minutes equals .25 credits.

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