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Chief justice, governor kick off unprecedented conference

Madison, Wisconsin - September 24, 2008

Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Shirley S. Abrahamson, Gov. Jim Doyle and a former tribal chief judge today helped kick off an unprecedented statewide conference aimed at improving outcomes for abused and neglected children in Wisconsin’s foster care system.

More than 430 tribal and circuit court judges, attorneys, social workers and advocates are gathered for The “Wisconsin Summit on Children and Families: Changing Lives by Improving Court and Child Welfare Practice," held at Kalahari Resort in Wisconsin Dells today through Friday, Sept. 26.

The key concept underlying the Summit is collaboration between courts, tribes and social service agencies. The conference will serve as the springboard for reform in the way abused and neglected children’s cases are handled, with the goal of reducing delays in securing safe, permanent homes for children in foster care.

The summit was inspired by a national conference on child abuse and neglect attended by Abrahamson in 2005 and is made possible by the Children’s Court Improvement Program, a federal grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children’s Bureau, and the newly created Department of Children and Families.

“There is no more important legacy we can leave than to ensure that a child grows up in a safe and permanent home,” Abrahamson said. “Despite professional differences, we must find a way to truly collaborate to produce the best outcomes for children and families. My hope is that this summit creates a dialogue, where we confront barriers to change and work together across governments and cultures to start looking at our systems though the eyes of children.”

Former Stockbridge-Munsee Tribal Chief Judge David Raasch joined Abrahamson and Doyle in offering opening remarks.

Providing the closing presentation at the Summit is Geoffrey Canada, author of “Fist, Stick, Knife, Gun: A Personal History of Violence in America” and “Reaching Up for Manhood: Transforming the Lives of Boys in America.” Canada has become nationally recognized for his pioneering work helping children and families in Harlem, New York.

Topics addressed at the summit include Indian child welfare legal and cultural issues, evidence-based practice relating to brain development research, disproportionality of children of color in Wisconsin’s child welfare system, and effective permanency planning strategies. A panel of five former foster youth will also share their personal experience in the child welfare system.

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