Wednesday, September 27, 2023

8:00am - 4:00pm

Byron L. Warnken Moot Courtroom

The University of Baltimore School of Law

John and Frances Angelos Law Center

Please join us on Wednesday, September 27, 2023, for this important day-long symposium focused on The Harm of Removal to Children, Parents, and Communities, presented by the Sayra and Neil Meyerhoff Center for Families, Children and the Courts (CFCC) at the University of Baltimore School of Law.

When children are separated from their parents by legal systems, they suffer permanent trauma. The anguish is no less for parents who find themselves without their children due to state intervention. Both parents and children experience detrimental effects on their mental, emotional, and physical health. Further, the larger community suffers when there is a systemic pattern of continually breaking up families. Join us to discuss the impact of family separation and to collectively brainstorm about how we keep families intact and support their health and well-being.

This event is FREE but registration is required for the 9/27 Symposium and 9/26 Book Talk.

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Sixto Cancel is the founder and CEO of Think of Us, Think of You (TOU), a research and design lab driving systematic change in child welfare policy and practice. Sixto has been named to Forbes list of Top 30 Under 30 Social Entrepreneurs and recognized as a White House Champion of Change. Sixto has served as a Young Fellow at the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative since 2010, where he has played a key role in the initiative’s work of extending foster care permanency for older youth. Sixto’s tireless advocacy is informed by his own experience in the foster care system, which he discussed in his recent TED talk, "A foster care system where every child has a loving home.”

This Year’s Symposium Schedule

  • 8:00 - 9:00 – Registration 
  • 9:00 - 9:45 – Welcomes by Dean Ronald Weich and Aubrey Edwards-Luce, CFCC Executive Director
  • 9:45 - 10:30 – Keynote by Sixto Cancel
  • 10:30 - 10:45 - Break
  • 10:45 - 12:15 – Morning Panel: The History of Family Separation/Removal
  • 12:15 - 1:30 – Lunch Provided - Sponsored by Grantmakers for Girls of Color
  • 1:30 - 2:30 – Red Table Talk: Removal Through Our Eyes
  • 2:30 - 2:45 - Break
  • 2:45 - 3:30 – Afternoon Panel: Removal Today
  • 3:30 - 4:00 – Closing by Shanta Trivedi, CFCC Faculty Director
  • 4:00 - 4:30 - Book Signing

Thank you to our Sponsor!

Hotel Accommodations

Attendees may receive a discounted guest room rate by booking with the Hotel Indigo.

Don’t Miss the Pre-Symposium Book Talk with Panelists

September 26, 2023 | 6:00 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.

The University of Baltimore School of Law

John and Frances Angelos Law Center

Plan to join us for an exciting and important pre-event on the evening of September 26. Three of our symposium panelists will discuss critical issues and perspectives informing this year’s symposium through the lens of their books:

Confronting the Racist Legacy of the American Child Welfare System: The Case for Abolition (Oxford University Press 2023) by Alan J. Dettlaff, professor and former dean of the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work 

The End of Family Court: How Abolishing the Court Brings Justice to Children and Families (NYU Press 2023) by Jane Spinak, the Edward Ross Aranow Clinical Professor of Law Emerita at Columbia Law School

A Child of the Indian Race: A Story of Return (Minnesota Historical Society Press 2022) by Sandy White Hawk, director of healing programs at the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition

Morning Panel: The History of Family Separation and Removal

Moderated by attorney and advocate Angela Burton, this panel will deepen our understanding by providing a historical grounding for the family separation practices and policies that we see today. Topics will include:

  • Native American “boarding schools”, the Indian Adoption Project and the inter-generational effects of these practices;
  • family separation through the Transatlantic slave trade and its impact on American descendants of slavery;
  • the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), as well as mandated reporting and the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) of 1997;
  • historic trends in family separation at the southern border; and
  • the long standing role that homophobia and transphobia have played in facilitating the separation of LGBTQ youth from their families.


Meet the Panelists


Angela Burton - Moderator, Attorney, and Child and Family Advocate


Corey Best, Founder of Mining for Gold


Currey Cook, Senior Counsel and Youth In Out-Of-Home Care Project Director


Alan J. Dettlaff, Author, Professor and former Dean of the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work


Sandy White Hawk, Author, and Founder and Director of Healing Programs at the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition

Angela Burton Moderator

Currey Cook

Sandy White Hawk

Corey Best

Alan J. Dettlaff

Red Table Talk: Removal through Our Eyes

Experts with lived experience will have an authentic discussion about the harm of removal as experienced by children and families today via placement in foster care and juvenile detention. This session will allow the audience an opportunity to reflect on the role system actors play in perpetuating harm and the ways they can align themselves and their organizations with the solutions proposed by the panelists and other directly impacted people and communities. Panelists will share their experiences and perspectives on:


  • the intergenerational harms of family separation, 
  • parents of color is pathologized and penalized, 
  • the role biases play in detention and removal decisions,
  • the need for community capacity and wisdom to be respected, and 
  • the solutions that they are most interested in exploring.


Meet the Panelists


Michael D. Davis-Thomas, MDDT Speaks; Founder and Resilient Voices and Beyond podcast, Host


Shemia Dillard, Justice and Joy National Collaborative (formerly National Crittenton), Senior Associate


Tony Lodge, Venture Capital University Venture Fellow


Christina Simmons, Office of State Public Defender (Mississippi), Parent Partner and Peer Support Specialist


Robyn Wind Tiger, Generations United, GRAND Voices Support Coordinator

Michael Davis-Thomas

Tony Lodge

Robyn Wind Tiger

Shemia Dillard

Christina Simmons

Afternoon Panel: Removal Today

Moderated by Prudence Beidler Carr, Director of the American Bar Association's Center on Children and the Law, this panel will provide a clear view of the statistics and practices of family removal today, including insights into the disproportionate impact of investigations, removals, and terminations of parental rights by race; an update on mandating reporting and ASFA; and family separation as policy and practice at the southern border.

Meet the Panelists


Prudence Beidler Carr, ABA Center on Children and the Law, Director


Dr. Tania Caballero, Johns Hopkins Medicine, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics


Rafael Lopez, Maryland Department of Human Services, Secretary


Iesha Randolph, Baltimore native, singer, model and mother of four children


Nena Villamar, Maryland Office of the Public Defender, Chief of Parental Defense Division


Vicki Schultz, Maryland Legal Aid, Executive Director


Jane Spinak, Author and Columbia Law School, Clinical Professor Emerita

Prudence Beidler Carr Moderator

Rafael Lopez

Nena Villamar

Dr. Tania Caballero

Iesha Randolph

Vicki Schultz

Jane Spinak

University of Baltimore Speakers

Ronald Weich

Shanta Trivedi

Aubrey Edwards-Luce

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About Us

We envision communities where children and families thrive without unnecessary involvement in the legal system. Our mission is to promote child and family well-being while inspiring the next generation of attorneys to prioritize the power, voice, and needs of families. We engage communities in all that we do and work tirelessly to transform systems that create barriers to family well-being.

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