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2017 Conference Opening Remarks

Thursday, August 10, 2017   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Daniel Trujillo
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An adaptation of the opening remarks presented August 10, 2017.


Thank you to our Board President De Kirkpatrick for the kind introduction and welcome.  It is truly my honor to take the helm as NACC’s new executive director  

and to kick off this 40th National Child Welfare, Juvenile, and Family Law Conference. 


There are few places I would rather be than at a national convening dedicated to advancing the rights and well-being of children, youth, and families.  I share the experiences of so many of you who come into this work, and grow as practitioners and leaders through learning opportunities and professional exchange. 


We gather here because we serve children and families in crisis --which leads us to know more than we would like about pain and suffering, separation and loss. 


But we gather with determination to do our best work and flip the script.  To stop the harm in whatever form it takes, to help our clients find a more hopeful future, and to insist on a system that is fair and just, and provides opportunity for healing. 


That’s what brings me to this work, and that’s what brings me to NACC --to support your individual advocacy and to elevate our collective voice.   


We at NACC are thrilled with this year’s conference faculty and are so grateful for their time and leadership supporting this community.  This event would not be possible without the incredible work of our small but mighty team at NACC.   Please join me in thanking Conference Co-Directors, Sara Whalen and Daniel Trujillo.  Daniel is also our Certification Director and Sara is NACC’s Membership Director.  Rounding out the Colorado Team is Ginger Burton, Certification Assistant, who supports certification and training.  I’m pleased to announce Brooke Silverthorn is now Director of Legal and Policy Advocacy at NACC, working out of the Barton Center at Emory Law School in Atlanta.  Thank you to the NACC team for supporting my leadership transition in a very busy time at NACC.  Thank you to the Louisiana Conference Committee, our Conference Sponsors, and Exhibitors. Thank you all for coming together in this historic New Orleans Hotel. 



This is an exciting moment for NACC as we begin to celebrate our 40th Anniversary as a nonprofit children’s legal advocacy association. 


40 years ago, Jimmy Carter was president, Apple had just released is second computer, and Star Wars first opened in movie theaters. 


And while some people were boogying to the Bee Gees on their roller skates, a man named Don Bross put pen to paper and incorporated two new non-profit associations this very week in August of 1977: The International Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse & Neglect, and the National Association of Counsel for Children. 


NACC developed at a meeting of attorneys in Denver, Colorado Don Bross and others recognized the need for the effective representation of children in abuse and neglect cases, and sought to address the lack of infrastructure to support children’s attorneys.   Don and a group of about 15 people established NACC and held its first conference in 1977.  John Ciccolella created a 400-page trial notebook and everyone had to pay $50 to attend --even the faculty.  They started the Guardian and a membership program.  It was the beginning of a national back-up center for child welfare professionals—to serve those who serve children.   


And look at our community today! Over the last 40 years practitioners became leaders, who developed organizational partnerships, and leveraged funding to grow a coalition of children’s legal advocates.  Together as a field we produced impactful results advancing the rights and well-being of children and families.  We thank and acknowledge Don Bross for all of his work advancing children’s justice and children’s representation. 


A nonprofit organization doesn’t flourish over 40 years without the contributions of many, many people. 


Thank you to the current and past NACC Board of Directors, for your incredible commitment to the mission and the success of the National Association of Counsel for Children.    And we also remember Judge Willie Lovett, who was a mentor to many in this room, and served on NACC’s Board of Directors until he passed earlier this year—his presence is deeply missed by all.  


Thank you to the numerous Red Book authors and editors, the hundreds of Child Welfare Law Specialists, and the thousands of NACC Members and conference faculty.   


The National Association of Counsel for Children is committed to serving this community and to exercising our collective voice: 


To ensure that every child and parent has the right to counsel and receives high quality representation at all stages of the proceedings   


To ensure that to every extent safely possible, children remain or are reunified with their families, or find permanency in a family setting 


To ensure child welfare law specialists and practitioners are recognized for their expertise, provided due compensation, and have reasonable caseloads 


To join with our allies in the racial justice, immigration, disability, and LGBTQ movements to ensure that prejudice and implicit bias do not drive decisions about children, youth, and families 


As Margaret Mead said: Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.  


Thank you for all of the impactful work you do every day to bring hope, healing and justice to children, youth, and families.  We are honored to support your advocacy. 


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