Monday, October 4, 2010

Just what child welfare needs: One more conference!

If there is one field that is over-conferenced, it’s child welfare.  Occasionally, someone comes up with a conference in which the information is genuinely new and useful.  But  I doubt you could throw a dart at a calendar without hitting a date that includes some kind of conference (or worse, a “webinar”) somewhere in the country where all the same people gather to say all the same things.

In an age of e-mail, websites, Google and amazingly fast access to information, the typical conference should be going the way of the dinosaur.  But then, so should residential treatment centers, and we know how long that’s taking.   I take great pride in the fact that, in 11 years, NCCPR has sponsored only one conference – and that was specifically for the people left out of all the other conferences.

                So guess what a top priority is for the Child Welfare League of America, the giant national trade association for public and private child welfare agencies: Yes, another conference!

                But this would be no ordinary conference.  This would be a White House conference, something that used to occur every decade or so.  And we all know that White House conferences are to conferences as, say, a Mayoral Interagency Task Force is to a plain old, ordinary Interagency Task Force.

                Of course, the real difference between a White House conference and a plain old conference is that you get to meet in, I assume, the East Room, and get your picture taken with the President after he makes some opening remarks.

                After that, it’s down to the usual keynote speeches, “breakout sessions” and plenary sessions where participants will learn that:

        Children are not a priority because they don’t vote.
        Prevention costs less in the long run.
        We can pay now, or we can pay later.
        It takes a village.
And, the real shocker:
               Children are our future.

                So, all in all, I think CWLA’s proposal is – a great idea! In fact, I wish them all the luck in the world in getting their White House conference.

                Here’s the way I figure it:

                CWLA already has expended a lot of time and effort trying to get this conference.  Imagine what happens if they succeed:  Just think of all the committees, subcommittees, steering committees and coordinating committees.  All that time planning an agenda, lining up speakers, thinking up ideas for panels.  Maybe there’ll even be focus groups to solicit “input” from “stakeholders.”  In other words, it will keep the folks at CWLA and like-minded groups very, very busy.

                And the more time they waste on the conference, the less time they’ll have to do actual harm – like undermine efforts at real reform of child welfare financing. 

                So by all means, let’s have a White House Conference on children’s issues.  In fact, let’s do it every year!