Twenty one years ago…what were you doing? Finishing up college? Having your first child? Not yet born? Twenty one years ago, I attended my very first Joint Council Conference (now called the “Symposium“). I walked in to a room at the 4-H Club in Chevy Chase, MD (what ever happened to Barb Holton?), with about 35 people in attendance. I heard people speak that were as passionate as I about children who needed families. I was hooked (!) and I have only missed one conference since then. The following year, I heard Dana Johnson speak for the first time and the way I looked at children and how institutionalization affects them would never be the same.
In the beginning, I was a “lurker” and just tried to absorb the massive amounts of knowledge that was available at each conference, but soon I had to get involved! It didn’t take long before the people I looked up to, became my friends. I would call on them with problems or concerns. They would reach out to me. Together we were involved in committees, caucuses, and the medical day. I remember bloopers from the podium, meeting new friends (Rebecca Harris, now Director of Programs & Services at Joint Council, I remember meeting you for the first time in San Antonio), and reconnecting with old ones.
Some things have changes a LOT in two decades. Now, instead of lines at the pay phones in-between sessions, people are doing emails and talking on their smart phones! But, the most important things have never changed. Adoption still requires passionate, knowledgeable people who are willing to give their all, to each other and to the children, to create families. We need each other. We need to learn. We need honest advice. We need new ideas. We need accountability. We need to find families for vulnerable children. We need to support one another in the hardest times we, as agencies, have seen.
Twenty years from now, where will you be? Some of us will be gone, some of us will be retired, some of us will still be carrying the torch. We need the Joint Council Symposium now more than ever. Agencies, send your young employees, your experienced ones, your passionate, your willing to work long hours.
I, for one, could not continue to do my job without the relationships and knowledge that have come from Joint Council. I hope to see you in the Big Apple…..I will be the one with bells on!
Avid Joint Council Symposium Go’er
Outreach & Education Coordinator at Children’s Home Society and Family Services