The National Family Resiliency Center (NFRC), founded and operating in Howard County since 1991 held a multi-disciplinary conference titled: Families in Transition: Issues, Solutions and Policies Conference on Friday October 23, 2015 at the University of Baltimore School of Law in collaboration with the Sayra and Neil Meyerhoff Center for Families, Children and the Courts.

Keynote Speaker, Robert Emery, Ph.D. Professor of Psychology, Author and Director of the Center for Children, Families and the Law at the University of Virginia. More than 200 people participated in the full-day event, including professionals from the legal/judicial, mental health, education, faith, government, and medical communities to discuss challenges each discipline is experiencing with families in transition.

Funded in part by the Horizon Foundation, the Howard County Mental Health Authority, and the Mead Family Foundation, it was the first conference to bring together different disciplines within and around Howard County to discuss critical issues facing families in the community, including access to mental health services.

The morning key note speaker was, Robert Emery, Ph.D.,(pictured above, left) Professor of Clinical Psychology and Director of the Center for Children, Families, and the Law, University of Virginia. Among other topics, Dr. Emery shared insights from his newest book, titled Two Homes: One Childhood, which is scheduled to be released soon.

panelsetupThe afternoon keynote speaker was Delegate Kathleen Dumais, Esq., Vice Chair, Judiciary Committee, Maryland House of Delegates. Delegate Dumais discussed efforts taking place in Annapolis including recommendations of the Commission on Child Custody Decision-Making.

risa-bilchiksBringing it home, Risa Garon, Executive Director, LCSW-C, BCD, CFLE, led a panel of parents and children (and former clients of NFRC) who were willing to share their stories and how important it is for families to get support and seek guidance – preferably before a transition even begins. “Divorce changes everything,” said one peer counselor, “but it isn’t necessarily all bad. Having other kids to talk to and NFRC to turn to made me change my perception of everything.”

In closing, Risa Garon stressed the importance of keeping the conversation open and fluid. “It really takes a true partnership, meaning all of the different disciplines in the room today, especially mental health and the legal community to support families and children who are confronted with these issues.”

The result of doing nothing, is continued unmet mental health needs, etc. more? This conference, I hope, said, Ms. Garon, is only the beginning of the multi disciplinary efforts that can be formed to better assist families.”

We are grateful to our partners who presented and planned for this conference over many months. From government officials such as Maryland State Delegates Kathleen Dumais and Vanessa Atterbeary – to NFRC youth and adult peer counselors who have demonstrated today how we can move forward to create a needed model of working together, supporting healthy families and mental wellness in our community. As another peer counselor who went through a family transition said,”We want to be healthy, we can be healthy, we are healthy families, too.” This is just the beginning….

Third photo – left to right [1] Shay Bilchik, Esq. Director of the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform at Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy [2] Susan Bilchik, Clinical Director of NFRC, Rockville Center [3] Rabbi Susan Shankman, Washington Hebrew Congregation [4] Risa Garon, Executive Director and Co-Founder, National Family Resiliency Center, Inc. (NFRC) [5] Jimmy Venza, Ph.D. Associate Executive Director, Reginald S Lourie Center for Infants and Young Children

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