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Conference on Foster Care Affirms GSSW Partnership


By Sean Smith | Chronicle Editor

Published: Oct. 4, 2012

A collaboration between the Graduate School of Social Work and the Home for Little Wanderers (HLW) — a renowned Boston-based non-profit child and family service agency — achieved a milestone last month with its first co-sponsored event, a conference titled “Finding Common Ground: Foster Care, Adoption, and Permanency for Children.”

The event, which took place Sept. 21 in the Yawkey Athletic Center’s Murray Room, also was organized by the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute and the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF). An audience of human services and social work scholars, professionals and students heard speakers discuss challenges, opportunities, research, best practices and other relevant matters in adoption and foster care.

“It was a great day,” said GSSW Donahue and DiFelice Professor Ruth McRoy, who has led GSSW’s collaboration with the Home for Little Wanderers, in an interview last week. “Planning the conference together was an important experience — bringing together a group of scholars and practitioners to share viewpoints, observations and expertise. We were very pleased with the number of attendees, and the diversity of affiliations.”

McRoy noted that this diversity was reflected in the roster of speakers, which included HLW Senior Director of Program Operations Lesli Suggs and President and CEO Joan Wallace Benjamin, GSSW Associate Dean Thomas Walsh, DCF Deputy Commissioner for Field Operations Olga Roche and keynoter Thomas Mallon, Lathrop Professor of Child Welfare at Hunter College Silberman School of Social Work and executive director of the National Resource Center for Permanency and Family Connections.

The conference dealt with the need to find permanent living situations for the estimated 400,540 children now in foster care, and the potential of collaborations between child and family experts from public, private and academic settings in addressing the situation.

Suggs and Benjamin, in their remarks, affirmed their enthusiasm for the approximately two-year-old GSSW-HLW partnership, which they said would benefit the agency by providing access to theory, research, best practices and other resources related to child and family care.

“We hope this event is the beginning of further opportunities for us to share and learn together,” said Suggs.

Walsh reciprocated the sentiment: “This collaboration, and this event, is a coup for GSSW. To have a gathering of a scholars, clinicians and administrators like this is a pleasure.”

Speaking last week, McRoy said the next step in the collaboration will be a follow-up and review of the conference, and discussion of the potential for holding similar events in different areas of the state, as well as other initiatives, such as roles for GSSW students.

“This has been a very promising start,” she said.