Monday, May 20, 2024

Welcome - Opening Remarks


Rebecca Jones Gaston, MSW Commissioner, Administration on Children, Youth and Families (ACYF)
US Department of Health and Human Services

Rebecca Jones Gaston is the commissioner of the Administration on Children, Youth, and Families, at the Administration for Children and Families within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Administration on Children, Youth, and Families manages the Children’s Bureau and the Family and Youth Services Bureau.

Before joining the Biden Administration via confirmation by the U.S. Senate in December 2022, Jones Gaston was the child welfare director for the state of Oregon’s Department of Human Services that oversees child protection, foster care, and adoption services, a position she held since 2019. During her time as director, Oregon launched a major transformation built on trauma-informed, family and community-centered, and culturally responsive programs and services.

Prior to joining the Oregon senior management team, Jones Gaston served as the executive director of the Maryland Department of Human Services’ Social Services Administration with oversight of child welfare and adult services. She has worked in the field of human services and child welfare for over 25 years as a social worker, advocate, therapist, consultant, and administrator. Previously, she was a director with Casey Family Programs providing technical assistance to child welfare agencies throughout the United States. She served as the national campaign director for AdoptUsKids, a collaboration with the Children’s Bureau and the National Ad Council. This major campaign, which she now oversees as commissioner of the Administration on Children, Youth, and Families, continues to help increase the numbers of foster and adoptive families across the country.

A proud mother of two young adults, Jones Gaston holds a B.A. degree in psychology from Georgetown University and a master’s degree in social work from the University of Pennsylvania.

California Department of Social Services—Crystal Singleton
Kimberly Giardina, DSW, MSW, Director, Child and Family Well-Being Department
County of San Diego, Health and Human Services Agency

Dr. Kimberly Giardina is the director for the Child and Family Well-Being department with the Health and  Giardina, Human Services Agency. She has been in the field of child welfare for over 23 years and has a Doctor of Social Work from the University of Southern California and a Master of Social Work from San Diego State University. Dr. Giardina has consulted on child welfare issues at the national, state, and local levels. She led the implementation of multiple innovative initiatives in child welfare services including the Title IV-E Waiver and San Diego’s practice framework, Safety Enhanced Together. During her four years as the Child Welfare Director, Dr. Giardina has lead major systems change efforts with the completion of the 88 Working Group recommendations that were adopted by the Board of Supervisors. Dr. Giardina is leading the transformation of the child welfare system in San Diego into a child and family well-being system with the vision of improving coordination, communication and partnership between family serving organizations in San Diego to help strengthen families and communities so that fewer children experience abuse and neglect. She is a strong advocate for including justice, equity, and antiracist strategies into child and family serving systems. Her passion is to improve policy and practice issues within the child welfare system so that it works best for the children and families it serves.

Dr. Robert Sege, Tufts Clinical and Translational Science Institute
Tufts University School of Medicine Director and Professor

Robert Sege, MD, PhD is a Professor of Pediatrics and Medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine, where he directs the new Center for Community-engaged Medicine. Dr. Sege is a Senior Fellow at the Center for the Study of Social Policy in Washington, is part of the Leadership Action Team for Massachusetts Essentials for Childhood Team, and serves on the boards of the Massachusetts Children’s Trust and Prevent Child Abuse America. He received the 2019 Ray E. Helfer award from the Alliance of Children’s Trusts and the American Academy of Pediatrics. He has served on national committees for the American Academy of Pediatrics and has been lead author on several important AAP policies. His extensive speaking and publication list include contributions to the prevention and treatment of child maltreatment and youth violence. He is a graduate of Yale College, and received his PhD in Biology from MIT and his MD from Harvard Medical School. Bob lives in the Boston area, where he and his wife Karen have raised three young adult children.

Phil Decter, Evident Change
Phil Decter, MSW, is a social worker and family therapist who has worked with children and families in inpatient, outpatient, home-based, foster care, and emergency room settings for 20 years. He has written and taught extensively on children and families experiencing some kind of crisis and their intersection with institutional and informal helping communities during these times. At Evident Change Phil works with child welfare organizations nationally on the implementation of strength and safety-organized practice skills and their integration with the Structured Decision Making® system.

Tuesday, May 21, 2024
Don Wells, Executive Director
Just in Time for Foster Youth

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

From Mandated Reporting to Community Supporting—California Task Force

Dr. Charity Chandler-Cole is a multifaceted individual with a profound commitment to effecting positive change in our society. As an accomplished Author, Scholar Activist, and National Child Welfare Advocate, she has dedicated her life to advocating for those impacted by systemic injustices.

Born and raised in the heart of Los Angeles, Dr. Charity experienced firsthand the challenges of these systems, driving her to devote over a decade to reshaping social structures, policies, and systems that have disproportionately oppressed foster youth and vulnerable communities. Dr. Charity is resolute in her mission to redefine the narrative and outcomes for those impacted by the system. She leverages her various platforms to engage, educate, develop, and empower people from all walks of life, fostering change agents, visionaries, and successful contributors to society, irrespective of their upbringing or past.

Dr. Charity's life story is an embodiment of resilience, hope, and the unwavering belief that positive change is attainable for all. Her unwavering dedication and diverse roles in advocacy and academia continue to make a profound impact on the lives of countless individuals and communities.


Roger De Leon Jr.
Minister, Birth Father with Lived Experience, Co-Chair MRCS Task Force,
Father/ Family Advocate-Trainer/ Parent Partner, Consultant Child Welfare – Riverside County
Roger De Leon is a father of one beautiful adult daughter, Grandfather of three beautiful grandchildren & married 21 wonderful years to his beautiful wife & Best Friend! He is minister and passionate advocate for children and families! De Leon is an independent contracting instructor for the UC Davis, the CWDS/CRA Academies in San Diego State University, and UC Fresno, developing and delivering state-mandated trainings throughout California. Topics include Child Welfare, enhancing the skills of Parent Partners and Fatherhood Engagement.

De Leon was a Parent Partner with Riverside County’s Children Services Division for the past 8 years before he recently resigned. He was one of the first PP’s hired and helped develop their program, helping families with support, encouragement and navigating these systems, often leading to reunification. He is a birth father representative on the California Child Welfare Council/ PEI and co-chair to the newly Task force for “Mandated supporting” and serves as a member of the Parent Partner Advisory Committee. De Leon uses his personal experience of successfully navigating the child welfare and court systems to inform his work.

De Leon is a member of the Children’s Trust Fund Alliance’s Birth Parent National Network. He has also worked in collaboration with Casey Family Programs on strengthening families through the American Rescue Plan Act and the Parent Partner Learning Collaborative and provides consultation to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

De Leon is heavily involved in his community through his faith-based organization/ church helping to serve his community as an Assistant/ Youth Minister.

Luciana Svidler- Director of Policy and Training  
Protection & Advocacy, Inc.

Luciana Svidler has been advocating on behalf of children since 2004. She began her legal career at Protection & Advocacy, Inc., where she represented underserved families in special education cases.  In 2006, she joined Children’s Law Center as a staff attorney representing children in Los Angeles County Dependency Court.  During her 11 years in court, Luciana saw firsthand the systemic barriers children in foster care face in accessing reproductive health information and services.  She joined the policy team in August of 2017. 

As Director of Policy and Training, Luciana works on legislative reform to improve outcomes for youth under the jurisdiction of Dependency Court.  She also engages in state and local advocacy by participating in workgroups, taskforces and committees that deal directly with issues affecting CLC’s clients.  Luciana provides direct supervision of the Policy and Training program staff, and works with each program to set goals and priorities.  Luciana holds a BA in Legal Studies from University of California at Berkeley and a JD from University of California College of the Law, San Francisco. 

Yvette Baptiste, Ph.D.
Yvette is a clinical psychologist and mother to 3 adopted children who have special healthcare, behavioral and developmental needs.  She is Executive Director of the Eastern Los Angeles Family Resource Center, Yvette helps local families navigate the maze of services for their children with special health care and developmental needs. As an immigrant, clinician and mother of children using the system of services, she is particularly sensitive to understanding issues of individual and systemic bias.  She has spent the last 35 years working tirelessly for families, especially those with restricted opportunities or abilities, to access the services and supports most important to help their children reach their highest potential.



Call to Action
Linda Thai
Linda Thai LMSW (she, her) is a trauma therapist who specializes in cutting edge brain- and body-based modalities for the healing of complex developmental trauma.

As an educator and consultant, she is gifted with the capacity to contextualize, synthesize and communicate complex and nuanced issues pertaining to trauma, attachment and the nervous system, including the impact of oppressive systems uponidentity, mental health and wellbeing. Linda is passionate about breaking the cycle of historical and intergenerational trauma at the individual and community levels, and deeply believes in the healing power of coming together in community to grieve.

Born in Vietnam, raised in Australia, and now living in Alaska, Linda is a former child refugee who is redefining what it means to be Vietnamese, to be Australian, and to be a United States-ian.


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