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Hosted by the West Virginia Foster, Adoptive, & Kinship Parents Network

May 4, 6, 11, 13 | 7-9pm


May 15 | 4-6pm

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We’re excited to welcome you to our first annual conference, Caring for Kids in Care!

Over the course of these few days, you will have the opportunity to connect with other foster, adoptive, and kinship parents from across the state, hear from key leaders in the field, and gain valuable skills and resources to support you in providing care. Those who are considering becoming foster parents or kinship caregivers are also welcome.


Each evening will begin with introductions and a keynote address, followed by workshops in three different tracks: Advocacy, Parenting & Resources, and Foster Care System & Process. 


We hope this time together will help empower and support current as well as prospective foster, adoptive, and kinship parents statewide—West Virginia kids need you!

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Sessions:

May 4 | 7-9pm

Keynote: Importance of Family Voice - “Safety Is Temporary Without Healing”

Kevin Campbell, American Child Protection and Children's Mental Health Innovator

Internationally known child protection and children's mental health innovator Kevin Campbell will open our conference discussing the importance of family voice and partnerships in healing families and transforming our child welfare system.


Advocacy Track: Roles & Responsibilities Within West Virginia’s Foster Care System

Marissa Sanders & Pamela Woodman-Kaehler

CPS, CPA, GAL, CASA, SNS, FCO, CSM, RD, BCF, DHHR. . .

Confused by this alphabet soup? Join us to sort out who's who and who's responsible for what in our child welfare system.


Parenting & Resources Track: Resources for Foster & Adoptive Families

Carla Harper

This workshop will explore some of the resources that are available to foster and kinship parents, and those available after you adopt.


Foster Care System & Process Track: The Science of Biological Connection

Elizabeth Wendel

Have you ever wondered why the system keeps pushing for reunification or why a judge gave a birth parent multiple “chances”? Come to this workshop to learn the “why” behind reunification as a goal, including what the research says about outcomes for kids who come into foster care, and the importance of kids having a connection to their birth family whenever possible.

May 6 | 7-9pm

Keynote: Q&A About West Virginia’s Child Welfare System

Linda Watts, Commissioner, Bureau for Behavioral Health, West Virginia DHHR

Join us for a conversation with Linda Watts, Commissioner of the Bureau for Children and Families in DHHR. Learn more about where we've been, current happenings, and what's next for foster care in WV.


Advocacy Track: How to Advocate for the Child(ren) in My Home

Pamela Woodman-Kaehler

Do you want to learn better strategies for supporting and advocating for the children in your home? In this workshop, West Virginia’s first Foster Care Ombudsman will share her insights as a foster parent, former CPS worker, and advocate. 


Parenting & Resources Track: Understanding Attachment Issues

Sky Kershner

The trauma experienced by children in foster care can often cause them to face challenges in forming secure attachments and bonding with caregivers. In this workshop, therapist Sky Kershner will discuss attachment issues and ideas to help caregivers support children in learning to trust.


Foster Care System & Process Track: Birth Parent & Foster Parent Relationships

WV Foster and Birth Parent Teams 

For children in foster care, navigating relationships with their first family and new caregivers can be challenging and confusing. When foster parents and birth parents are able to build a relationship, it can reduce the trauma experienced by the child, nurture the child’s relationship with their first family, and provide birth parents support in working toward reunification. It can also help foster parents learn about the child and maintain contact with the family after reunification. In this workshop you’ll learn tips and ideas from a West Virginia foster parent and birth parent team that has built and maintained a relationship over time. 

May 11 | 7-9pm

Keynote: Legislative Perspectives on Foster Care

Danielle Walker, Delegate from District 51

Join Delegate Walker who championed House Bill 4092 in 2020 and has worked extensively to strengthen the child welfare system in West Virginia.


Advocacy Track: Advocacy Lessons from the Wizard of Oz

Jim McKay

Come and learn from Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Lion how to advocate for kids at the Legislature. Gain tips for connecting with lawmakers, sharing your message, and changing laws to help kids.


Parenting & Resources Track: Parenting Techniques for Children Who Have Experienced Trauma

Jim Harris

Do you want to better understand how to parent a child who has experienced trauma? Do you need strategies to help you manage behaviors and address challenges? In this workshop, you’ll hear from a trauma expert who will share brain science as well as strategies and techniques to help you meet the needs of the children in your home.


Foster Care System & Process Track: Understanding the Role of a Guardian Ad Litem

Cindy Largent-Hill & Kristen Antolini

Are you wondering about the role of a guardian ad litem (GAL)? In this workshop, a GAL and a representative from the Court Improvement Program will explain what you should expect from the GAL assigned to the children in your home, when and how to contact them, and what to do if you have concerns.

May 13 | 7-9pm

Keynote: Child Welfare: Perspectives from the Bench

Judge William Thompson, West Virginia 23rd Circuit

The Honorable Judge William S. Thompson will provide a keynote presentation about his perspectives as a judge and the role of foster parents in the court process.


Advocacy Track: Foster Parents’ Voice in the Courtroom

Stacy Jacques & Aimee Goddard

Stacy Jacques, Esq., a child and family attorney and a foster adoptive mom, will explain the process of having your voice heard in the courtroom during hearings about the children in your home. Bring your questions about intervening, filing a letter with the court, and how to approach this process.


Parenting & Resources Track: Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome – What You Need to Know

Cindy Chamberlin

Many children in our foster care system were born exposed to drugs of some form. In this workshop you will learn from a physical therapist about NAS, challenges children may face as they develop, strategies for addressing those challenges, and importance of tummy time and core strength.


Foster Care System & Process Track: Managing Grief when Kids Leave

Jenifer Richmond

When a child leaves your home, whether to reunify, change homes, or go to a residential facility, grief and feelings of loss are natural. Also known as “ambiguous loss” because there is no death involved, this can be one of the hardest forms of grief to navigate. In this workshop, foster parent and grief counselor Jenifer Richmond will share strategies for processing and managing this grief.

May 15 | 4-6pm

Virtual Pizza Party


Concurrent Support Groups


Grief Support: Meets First & Third Sundays at 9:00pm

Being a foster or kinship parent can be difficult, and all parents grieve when children leave their home, even if it’s a positive change for the child. In this group we hold space for those who are grieving a child who has left their home. It is a time to connect, to share, and to learn about resources that can help. 


Foster Care Book Club: Meets Second & Fourth Sundays at 9:00pm

In this group we will read and discuss books related to foster care, adoption, trauma, and other topics relevant to being a foster, adoptive, and/or kinship parent. Everything is better with friends, so let's learn more about this journey together!


Parenting Teens: Meets Second & Fourth Mondays at 8:30pm

Parenting is hard. Parenting teens can be even harder, especially when they have experienced trauma. In this group you can talk with other parents of teens to learn what strategies have worked for them, learn about resources and programs that can help, and gain parenting skills.


New to Foster Parenting: Meets Tuesdays at 9:00pm

This group is designed for those parents who have just begun the fostering journey, whether they are in the home study process, awaiting that first placement, dealing with an initial placement, or simply have questions about the court process, the multitude of workers, how to deal with the GAL, or any other similar issues.


Adoptive Parents: Meets Wednesdays at 9:00pm

This group is for those parents who have completed the journey to adoption, and need support in raising a child or children who still have issues related to their adoption, earlier abuse, neglect, or drug addiction. We can help identify resources available to adoptive parents and offer a safe space to vent about the joys and challenges of raising these amazing children.


Check-In and System Updates: Meets Thursdays at 9:00pm

In this group we talk about changes that are happening or will happen in West Virginia’s child welfare system, including legislative proposals, updates on programs, and information from DHHR. We often have speakers sharing about various programs, topics, and issues of interest. We also take time to check in with each other and provide peer support.

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Speakers:

Kristen D. Antolini, Esq.

Kristin is a 2008 graduate of the West Virginia University College of Law and practices with the firm of Lyons Phillips Legal Group, PLLC in Morgantown, West Virginia. Her primary practice is service as a Guardian ad Litem and counsel to Adult Respondents in Preston, Taylor, and Monongalia Counties. Ms. Antolini can be seen in the courtroom in the Netflix documentary “Recovery Boys,” which follows the recovery journey of her client, Jeff.

Kevin Campbell

Child Protection and Children’s Mental Health Innovator

Kevin Campbell is an internationally known Child Protection and Children’s Mental Health Innovator and the founder of Center for Family Finding and Youth Connectedness. Kevin developed Family Finding, a set of strategies now utilized throughout North America, Australia and Western Europe to engage networks of family members and other important adults to promote the safety, healthy development and healing of children and youth involved with government systems. Kevin has been an administrator, director, and vice president of private social service agencies for over 30 years.


Kevin is the Senior Child Welfare Consultant for CVS Aetna America’s largest health care partner where he is assisting Aetna to implement a new approach to health and mental health care for all children involved in the Child Protection system in response the special health care population they represent and the opportunity to promote their health development and lifelong health. Kevin’s work has twice been featured on CBS 60 MINUTES with Leslie Stahl, as well as in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Time Magazine and dozens of other national and international publications. He continues to speak on the issues of youth and families throughout the world and has published a number of articles on the need for radical reform of America’s Child Protection, Children’s Mental Health and Juvenile Justice Systems.

Cindy Chamberlin

Executive Director, To the Moon and Back

Cindy Chamberlin is a physical therapist with over 28 years of experience working with children. She has worked in the Birth to Three program for more than 17 years and worked in Clay County schools for 11 years. Prior to that she implemented the developmental care program in Raleigh General Hospital’s NICU. She has been working with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) babies since her NICU days and has seen the steady increase in numbers as well as observed these children as they transition into school and the impacts that it has had on our educational system. She is the WV Chapter President of To The Moon and Back, a nonprofit dedicated to providing support for the families and professionals working with these children.

Dr. Jim Harris

Associate Director of Training, West Virginia Autism Training Center at Marshall University

Dr. Jim Harris’ focus at the WV ATC is the improvement and expansion of services ranging from in-home programs to national partnerships. Jim has presented at a variety of conferences from the local to the international levels on such topics as behavioral intervention, parenting, positive behavior support, trauma-informed care, organizational change, and many more. He has worked with children and families throughout his career as an early interventionist, parent educator, educational consultant, and behavioral health therapist. He has worked with a variety of public and private entities including the Fred Rogers Company, United States Department of Education, the United States Department of Justice, and many more.

Aimee Goddard, Esq.

Aetna Legal Program Attorney, Legal Aid of West Virginia

Amy has over 17 years of legal experience handling a wide variety of legal matters. For the past six (6) years her practice has focused entirely on family law matters, such as custody, divorce, adoption, guardianship and advocating on behalf of foster, kinship and adoptive families. Aimee joined Legal Aid of West Virginia one year ago as the Aetna Legal Program Attorney. She now exclusively represents Aetna Better Health members and their caregivers. Aimee’s shift from traditional family law to helping foster children and their families began after she and her husband, David, adopted their son Deacon in 2018. She became more aware of the foster care crisis in West Virginia and the desperate need for more foster families. In November 2018, Aimee started a foster care ministry at Simpson Creek Baptist Church in Bridgeport. The ministry, Hands of Hope, is based on the belief that the Church has a duty to support foster children. Not everyone can foster a child, but EVERYONE can do something. Just as the ministry was taking off, Aimee and David unexpectedly became kinship foster parents of a then 15 year-old boy. In January 2020, the Hands of Hope Foster Closet opened, serving foster families throughout the North Central West Virginia. Aimee, David and their five children reside in Bridgeport. 

Carla Harper

Deputy Commissioner, Bureau for Children and Families

Carla Harper is currently the Director of Children and Adult Services for DHHR, having been with the Department for over 35 years. She spent 18 years working in the field including as a counselor at the Industrial Home, Youth Services Worker, CPS worker, and supervisor in Marion County. There aren’t many Social Services programs within DHHR that she hasn’t touched.


Carla also fostered five children and adopted three as a single parent. Her son is 21 and came to live with her (his third home) just after his 3rd birthday. She also has two daughters that are biological siblings ages 15 and 16 who have been with her since they were born. She lives with her three children, her son’s girlfriend, three dogs and four cats in Kanawha County.

Stacy Jacques, Esq.

Child and Foster Parent Attorney, Foster Adoptive Parent

Stacy Jacques resides in Hurricane, West Virginia with her four adopted children and one biological child, ages 4-24. She has been a foster parent/kinship parent for 15 years and has had the joy of helping to raise 27 children, ages birth through 18. Ms. Jacques has been an attorney and an advocate for children and foster parents for 20 years. Ms. Jacques has served as a CASA volunteer, Guardian ad Litem, and an attorney for biological parents. She is currently employed by both the State of West Virginia and the West Virginia Foster Adoptive Kinship Parents Network. She continues to advocate for all voices to be heard within the court system.

Sky Kershner

Executive Director, Kanawha Pastoral Counseling Center

Sky Kershner is the Executive Director of the KPCC Counseling in Charleston, WV, and is an Assistant Professor in Psychiatry at WVU School of Medicine, Charleston. His biggest “15 minutes of fame” moment is that he once appeared as a guest therapist on the Discovery Studios show “Hoarders.” 

Cindy Largent-Hill

Director, Division of Children and Juvenile Justice at the WV Supreme Court

Cindy Largent-Hill, of Berkeley Springs, has an extensive history working with West Virginia’s children, adolescents and families. Her professional experience includes foster care, counseling, mental/behavioral health, community reintegration, juvenile justice, psychiatric hospitalization and residential care. She is currently working at the WV Supreme Court as the Director of the Division of Children and Juvenile Services. Prior to returning to the Eastern Panhandle, Cindy was the Director of the West Virginia Division of Juvenile Services in Charleston.


Cindy sits on a number of committees like the WV Commission to Study Residential Placement of Children, the Education of Children in Out-of-Home Care Advisory Committee, the Court Improvement Plan Board, and many of its Committees. Cindy has a Bachelor of Science degree from Shenandoah University in Psychology and earned her Master of Arts degree from West Virginia University in Counseling. She is a former member of the Higher Education Policy Commission and the West Virginia Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers. She is a Licensed Certified Social Worker. Cindy and her husband, Tom, live—and work—on the family farm in Morgan County.

Jim McKay

Director, Prevent Child Abuse West Virginia

Jim has been the State Director of Prevent Child Abuse WV, a project of TEAM for WV Children, since 2007, after joining the organization as Public Policy Director in 2005. Jim also serves as Public Policy Director for the National Alliance of Children’s Trust and Prevention Funds. He has also provided services in leadership development, policy advocacy, strategic planning and messaging in numerous states and nationally. Jim is Chairman of the WV Legislative Action Team for Children & Families, which includes over 25 organizations working on behalf of children in WV. 

Delegate Jeff Pack (invited)

District 28, Chair, House Committee on Health and Human Resources

Jeffrey Pack is a delegate representing District 28 (Raleigh, Summers, Monroe counties). He is a husband, father, U.S. Air Force veteran, and a former coal miner. He graduated from Concord University in 2006.


In the Air Force he was taught to live by three core values: Integrity first, Service before self and Excellence in all we do. He brings these core values, along with his Christian faith to his service in the House. He was appointed by Governor Justice to a vacant seat in January, 2018. He ran for election later that year, winning a two year term. He successfully ran again in the 2020 election. He has served as the Chair of the Majority Caucus and as Vice Chair of the Committee on Government Organization and the Committee on Health and Human Resources. He is currently the Chair of the Committee on Health and Human Resources. 

Jenifer Richmond

Jenifer Richmond is a family nurse practitioner, grief counselor, and foster mother. She is the founder and president of a non-profit called the NOAH Foundation, which helps families who have lost a child. 

Marissa Sanders

Director, WV Foster Adoptive & Kinship Parents Network

Marissa Sanders is the Executive Director of the WV Foster Adoptive & Kinship Parents Network, an organization she founded in 2018. Ms. Sanders is a foster adoptive parent and knows first-hand the joys and challenges of being involved in our child welfare system. After hearing from many other foster parents about their frustrations and realizing that they had ideas for solutions, but no platform to share them, she saw the need for a statewide network of families to come together to provide peer support and advocate for changes that would strengthen the system. In two short years the Network has grown to an organization with one full-time and one part-time staff member and many accomplishments. Prior to starting the Network, Ms. Sanders worked in disability rights for twenty years in roles involving advocacy, policy analysis, youth development, and training. She holds a bachelors degree in Deaf Education Studies from the University of Minnesota.

Judge William Thompson

West Virginia’s 25th Judicial Circuit

The Honorable Judge Thompson has a 1992 degree in civil engineering from West Virginia University and graduated from West Virginia University College of Law in 1995. He was an attorney for Cook and Cook in Madison from 1995 to 2007 and a Mental Hygiene Commissioner for Boone County from 2003 to 2007. Then-Governor Joe Manchin III appointed him to the bench in the Twenty-Fifth Judicial Circuit (Boone and Lincoln Counties) in 2007. Judge Thompson was elected in 2008 and re-elected in 2016.

Delegate Danielle Walker

District 51, Minority Vice Chair, House Committee on Health and Human Resources 

Danielle Walker is a delegate representing District 51 (Monongalia County) in the West Virginia House of Delegates. She has devoted her life to service, family, community and advocacy. Danielle and her family settled in Morgantown after a move from Louisiana to Monongalia County in 2011 for her (now deceased) husband’s work. Danielle soon helped her mother also resettle in Morgantown. Danielle’s first (and successful) campaign for House of Delegates in 2018 was marked by her incredible energy for making connections with our neighbors. If there was an event, Danielle was probably there. If there was a cause, Danielle was probably contributing. If there was a need, Danielle was probably trying to meet it. Her service as a Delegate is marked by that same commitment to bring people together, same gift for inspiring others, and same passion for solving problems and serving the vulnerable.

Linda Watts

Commissioner, Bureau for Children and Families WV DHHR

Linda Watts began her career with DHHR in 1988 working with aged, blind, and disabled adults. She later became a Children and Adult Services Supervisor in Wayne County. She has also served as Social Services Staff Development Coordinator, Project Director of the Mountain State Family Alliance Children’s Mental Health Initiative, Director of the West Virginia System of Care, and Deputy Commissioner of Programs and Research Development at the Bureau for Children and Families. She was appointed Interim Commissioner of the Bureau for Children and Families in April 2017, and permanently appointed as Commissioner in May 2018. In this role she is responsible for the day-to-day operations for Family Assistance, Early Care and Education, Children and Adults service programs and licensing units which includes, budget, federal and state compliance and regulatory compliance, policy, training, and delivery of services for children, adult, family assistance, and early care programs. She holds a Regents Bachelor of Arts degree from Bluefield State College and a Master of Social Work from West Virginia University.

Elizabeth Wendell

Independent Child Welfare Consultant

Elizabeth Wendel, MSW, LSW, is a Family Finding and Systems transformation subject matter expert. Ms. Wendel holds a Master's degree from Temple University and completed her dissertation on the effects of social isolation amongst young people in care. Ms. Wendel has served as a grief counselor in a hospice program and worked to build capacity for a teen parenting program and brings her extensive knowledge of human relationships, social environment, complex health determinants, public systems management and effective family led capacity building to her work.

Pamela Woodman-Kaelher

Office Director, WV Foster Care Ombudsman 

Pamela M. Woodman-Kaehler is the Foster Care Ombudsman for West Virginia. Prior to this role, Ms. Kaehler was a Child Protective Services Worker in Harrison County, where she was responsible for both investigative and on-going casework services to children and families. Ms. Kaehler received a master’s degree in business administration from Cardinal Stritch University in Milwaukee and a master’s degree in Social Work from West Virginia University. Ms. Kaehler is a licensed graduate social worker in West Virginia. Ms. Kaehler is an active advocate for children and families. In addition to her past service as the state coordinator for the federally mandated Citizen Review Panel for West Virginia’s Bureau of Children and Families, she is a West Virginia DHHR certified foster/adoptive parent and was an active PRIDE co-trainer for foster/adoptive parents.  

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About the West Virginia Foster, Adoptive, & Kinship Parents Network

The purpose of the West Virginia Foster, Adoptive, & Kinship Parents Network is to support the building of a statewide network of foster, adoptive, and kinship families from all agencies for advocacy and support.


Learn More at wvfosterparents.org.

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