Summer has always been my favorite time of year; the warmth of the sun, longer days and the beach! I did not think it was possible to love summer any more than I already did and then (about 10 years ago), I attended my very first NACAC conference. As an adopted person being surrounded (for the first time) by dedicated adoption community members and professionals that came together to share knowledge, ideas and experiences all to help bring about reform for foster care and adoption was a breakthrough moment.

NACAC never disappoints and again, attendees were offered vital information coupled the gift of camaraderie and connectivity with colleagues and friends. This year’s theme was Permanency Matters: A Family for Growing Up and Growing Old and the workshops and general sessions offered meaningful content as well as opportunities for reflection and inspiration.

What I love about presenting and attending workshops at NACAC is the spirit in which we all engage. It always feels like such a safe environment in which we are all encouraged to share experiences and ask the tough questions. In the 10 years I have been attending it is rare to attend a workshop that does not include a rich dialogue. This does not mean everyone always agrees but there is a general essence of respect even as we explore more challenging elements of our work. Here are just a few highlights.

It is always challenging to decide which workshops to attend but I made a point to get to Joe Kroll (NACAC Executive Director) and Dr. Ruth McRoy’s (DAI Board Member and Senior Fellow) workshop entitled: Data Informed Child Advocacy. Together Joe and Ruth have decades of experience, knowledge and insight. While delivering critical data and methods for calculating de-link savings by state they also reinforced that data alone is not the answer. Driving advocacy requires a delicate balance of data coupled with personal narratives and a willingness to be steadfast in the pursuit of change on behalf of children and families.

In March, after nearly 40 years of involvement with NACAC, Joe Kroll will step down as Executive Director of NACAC. I know we will see Joe at many more NACAC conferences and the legacy of his leadership, commitment and all-around good energy will continue!

DAI’s very own Ruth McRoy was honored as one of NACAC’s Child Advocates of the year. Ruth (along with Ada White and Youth Advocate of the Year, Claudia Felder) received her award and recognition at the closing luncheon. Ruth’s dedication and commitment to the study of foster care and adoption is truly awesome and her contributions to the field and community are immense.

Last but certainly not least, the youth panel moderated by Nathan Ross, head of NACAC’s Community Champions Network was a poignant highlight. The youth panel is always one of my personal favorites and is generally the most meaningful and emotional. Nathan along with the panelists made hundreds of us feel as if we were all sitting in a living room together as opposed to a huge auditorium. Hearing their extremely personal experiences was a gift for us all to cherish and use as inspiration to do better and ensure that every child has a family for growing and growing old!

This recap only scratches the surface and I am already looking forward to next year in Long Beach, CA!