CHARLESTON – The National Alliance of Children’s Trust and Prevention Funds, of which Children’s Trust is an active member, held its annual membership meeting Nov. 13-15 at the Francis Marion Hotel with a theme of “Turning Hope into Reality.”

Thirty-two states were represented by staff and board members to learn about resources and strategies for building strong relationships, the latest research findings, how federal budget and policy issues impact their work, and what peer successes they can share that will help shape their future directions.

Jerry Milner - National Alliance meeting

David Kelly (l) and Jerry Milner of the Children’s Bureau address the National Alliance meeting.

“We find considerable value in our membership with the Alliance, especially how it helps state organizations stay connected to each other and to what is happening in Washington, D.C.,” said Children’s Trust CEO Sue Williams, who also serves as a board member to the Alliance.

The conference keynote address was delivered by Jerry Milner, associate commissioner of the Children’s Bureau, an Office of the Administration for Children and Families in the nation’s capital. Community-based child abuse prevention funding, which Children’s Trust administers in South Carolina, is under his purview. 

Milner pointed to the need for a clear vision for children that federal and state organizations must have and how child welfare should be larger than just the agencies. He emphasized that families and children must have a voice as well in order to do more than tweak a dysfunctional system. The focus has to be on overall well-being in order to stop intergenerational abuse and neglect.

“The way to strengthening families is through primary prevention and breaking the harmful cycles,” Milner said.

David Kelly, a special assistant and attorney in the Children’s Bureau, joined Milner at the conference. He called the gathering an important one for the state organizations.

“There are more commonalities than differences,” Kelley said. “In child welfare, there’s always this belief that in this state things are so much different from the state next door that we can’t learn anything from each other. I think we’re finding that there are some universal truths, or universal ways of working with families no matter where you are.”

Williams sees great value in collaborating with fellow organizations across the country in a setting where ideas are openly exchanged.

“We learn from our peers in other states so that we can replicate their success and avoid their pitfalls, and likewise we share our lessons learned and best practices,” Williams added. “I am very proud that Children’s Trust is on the leading edge of prevention innovation and was able to share with our peers at this meeting.”

Dr. Melissa Strompolis, director of research and evaluation for Children’s Trust, and Amy Moseley, community coalitions manager for Children’s Trust, gave a presentation on a recently-developed innovative model to strengthen families in South Carolina.

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