2019 Youth Services Conference

Tools for Resilience and  Connection

May 6-8, 2019



This biennial Youth Services Conference, sponsored by the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families, is an epic event for all who are passionate about supporting youth to thrive! Whether you’re interested in learning about what’s new in Youth Justice, how to engage in culturally responsible practice, or what it takes to improve youth outcomes in the areas of housing, employment and education, we’ve got you covered. The conference offers participants a chance to hear from the experts, including youth and adults with lived experience. It also provides an opportunity for attendees to fill their toolbox with meaningful connections, tools for life and practice, and networks of shared innovation.


Participants will:

  • Become familiar with the research related to Youth Justice, brain development and resiliency
  • Take away concrete tools for use in daily life/practice
  • Be connected to resources from a variety of systems and disciplines
  • Meet the best and brightest connected to the work
  • Experience youth advocacy at its finest
  • Recharge, refresh and renew the passion for serving!
  • 17 CEH’s given for the two-day conference
  • 4 CEH’s given for the Pre-Conference Summit
  • There is no cost for the registration.

Whova App. Click Here!

We are pleased to announce that this year’s Youth Services Conference will be utilizing a conference app. From the conference app you will be able to view the agenda, access documents and slides, complete session evaluations, and connect with your peers. Directions on how to download the app can be found on the conference website at the link above.

Brochure       Agenda       Map       Session Details       Exhibitor Table Map

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Hotel Information & Reservations

Kalahari Resort

We have reserved a room block for participants at the Kalahari Resort. To ensure all participants receive the state rate, please make your reservations by Saturday, April 6th. Please select the link below to make a reservation.

Room Block Reservations

1305 Kalahari Dr
Wisconsin Dells, WI 53965
(877) 253-5466

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WCWPDS Contact Info

Contact Kim Eithun at
keithun@wisc.edu or
(608) 265-1417

2019 Keynotes:

Christian Moore

The Resilience Breakthrough: 3 Keys to Unleashing Resilience in Children and Adult

Grit. Fortitude. Determination. Resilience. No matter what you call it, teachers and administrators nationwide agree that there has never been a greater need to teach our students how to thrive in school and in life. Studies have shown that students who score higher on resilience measures have improved social skills, higher grades, a greater love of learning, and better decision-making skills. The breakthrough idea of this presentation is that resilience can be taught. In fact, it’s something we are all born with – from the homeless person on the street to the brightest Harvard professor. Most of us ― including many of our schools’ most struggling students ― just haven’t learned how to access what’s already inside. In this presentation, participants will learn about the vital skills of resilience found in WhyTry Founder Christian Moore’s book, “The Resilience Breakthrough: 27 Tools for Turning Adversity into Action.” This engaging presentation will empower participants to deliver these skills to students of any background and learning style.


  • Participants will know how to build a belief in students that they can change their circumstances, no matter how hopeless
  • Participants will gain strategies to transform pain and adversity into fuel
  • Participants will recognize and know how to utilize the resources for resilience that exist around them

Presenter Bio:

Christian Moore is an internationally renowned author, speaker, licensed clinical social worker, and advocate for at-risk youth. Coming from a blended family of 12 children, Christian spent most of his childhood years on the streets. In a neighborhood just outside of Washington, D.C., he was exposed to a wide array of social problems, which opened his eyes to the many injustices that exist in our world today. The WhyTry program poses the question, “Why try?” then provides the tools for students to learn the answer for themselves: opportunity, freedom, and self-respect. WhyTry’s multi-sensory approach caters to every learning type. Over 3 million students have been taught with WhyTry in over 25,000 schools and organizations worldwide.


Courtney Smith

Going the Extra Mile

Ms. Smith will share how seemingly small service hacks can make a huge impact in a young person’s life. As the executive director of the Detroit Phoenix Center, she leads the team that provides a continuum of services for youth at-risk of or currently experiencing homelessness. Learn how they provide resources and supports to build community connections and increase the self-esteem of youth.


  • Participants will know how to create a sense of community for the youth they serve
  • Participants will be able to strategize how to benefit from the power of connections

Presenter Bio:

There are people who see shortcomings in our society and feel overwhelmed or apathetic. Then there are people like Courtney E. Smith who roll up their sleeves and fill in the gap. Courtney has dedicated her career to advocating for the underserved and underprivileged. Through her efforts to implement solutions to break the cycle of poverty in Detroit, she has distinguished herself as an industry leader and a champion for youth. Born and raised in Detroit, Courtney knows the struggle of housing insecurity all too well. It is her experience as an overcomer that led her to create the Detroit Phoenix Center (DPC) in 2016 which provides critical resources and a nurturing environment for youth ages 13 – 24 experiencing homelessness. Under her visionary leadership as founder and executive director, DPC opened Detroit’s first drop-in facility meeting the emergent needs of youth in crisis, launched a scholarship fund, and tripled its operating budget to expand its programs and services. “We would like to become a model that different cities can use to solve youth homelessness,” Courtney says. Courtney has garnered recognition in publications including USA Today and Katie Couric’s talk show as well as being named to Crain’s Detroit prestigious “Twenty in Their 20s” list, received the Detroit City Council’s Spirit of Detroit Award twice, won the Comcast NBC Universal Social Impact Award and was awarded the 2018 Community Champion of the Year courtesy of the Michigan Coalition Against Homelessness. Outside of being a dynamic civil servant, Courtney enjoys reading, writing, singing and theatre.

Gyasi Ross

Trauma: Moving Past Describing the Water

History has profound effect on us all. The trauma the youth of our nation have experienced is systemic. What can we do to embolden and empower youth to reflect the power that history has on us today? How can youth use that history to make a better tomorrow? We have all the tools, capabilities and potential within our own communities to move beyond merely surviving to thriving.


  • Gain an understanding of the unique historical circumstances faced by Native and black people in the past and present
  • Gain an understanding of the Native American historical context and the effect it has on today’s youth, families, and communities
  • Discover and examine ways to transform our community environments into places that nurture the spirit and foster high-level engagement and achievement for American Indian youth

Presenter Bio:

Gyasi Ross is a member of the Blackfeet Nation of the Port Madison Indian Reservation where he resides. He is a father, an author, a speaker, a lawyer and a filmmaker. TV, radio and print media regularly seek his input on politics, sports, pop culture and their intersections with Native life. Ross, who has written for Huffington Post, Indian Country Today, Deadspin and Gawker, as well as appeared on various talk shows and news programs, confesses that although he wasn’t always the best student when he was younger, he was still a smart kid. “I was seen as very intelligent, but underachieving,” Ross recalls. “My family just didn’t have a history or legacy of educational attainment, so I wasn’t really concerned with trying to get good grades or what I was going to do after high school.” Yet, despite his early educational struggles (he attended six colleges, including two tribal colleges, before graduating from Columbia Law School), Gyasi continued in the family business of working within the community and telling his people’s stories. Gyasi released his second book, How to Say I Love You in Indian, in early 2014. “I come from a family of storytellers. My family tells long stories, drinking coffee and blowing smoke in your face. It just fit for me to tell stories, and then I started writing them. My standard for writing stories is, if I can’t explain it to my niece or nephew, or my grandpa who dropped out of school then I need to understand this topic better. People have a love affair with over-academicizing things.”

Amelia Franck Meyer

Transformative Healing

In youth services, we come face-to-face with the need for healing on a daily basis. Children and youth often interact with adults who don’t have an understanding of, or tolerance for, pain-based behaviors. Adults think youth should listen because we say so, and that their behavior is willful and intentional. We need to change our mindset. Adults should start each interaction with curiosity and ensure safety for everyone. Youth need to belong and experience community to thrive. We need to figure out how to do things differently.


  • Participants will know how to build a belief in students that they can change their circumstances, no matter how hopeless
  • Participants will gain strategies to transform pain and adversity into fuel
  • Participants will recognize and know how to utilize the resources for resilience that exist around them

Presenter Bio:

Amelia Franck Meyer is CEO of Alia a national nonprofit focused on transforming how child welfare is done in this country. As the former CEO of Anu Family Services she transformed the organization through a cultural and practice transformation which is producing nationally-recognized child permanence and placement stability outcomes for children in out-of-home care and is on the leading-edge of promoting and measuring wellbeing. Amelia has presented nationally and internationally on topics including understanding grief, loss and trauma for children living in out-of-home care, child well-being, child permanence and placement stability, change management, social work leadership, management, supervision, and many other topics. Amelia has consulted through Casey Family Programs to provide training and consultation on child welfare practices in counties and states throughout the country.

Hernan Carvente

A Call for Community Over Incarceration

Youth prisons have not been shown to be effective, while mentors, counselors, or someone who can listen have. Job training, healthcare, and housing are things that allow communities to thrive. Invest in youth, not in prisons. What the youth are saying is the most valuable information we can get. We need to make youth empowered and create partnerships in order to create agents of change.


  • Elevating awareness about the negative impacts of incarcerating youth
  • Creating a dialogue about the need to invest in alternatives, not incarceration for youth
  • Working with youth and families to build a critical mass of Americans calling for change

Presenter Bio:

Hernan Carvente is the National Youth Partnership Strategist for the Youth First Initiative. He manages the Youth First Youth Voices Network, which provides young emerging leaders with the training and tools to lead the fight against youth incarceration. Previously, he served as a Program Analyst for the Center on Youth Justice at the Vera Institute of Justice, where he worked on policy analysis, program development, and elevated the voices and needs of youth and families in statewide policy reform. Mr. Carvente has served on state-appointed boards including the New York State Juvenile Justice Advisory Group and the Citizens Policy and Complaint Review Council. Through these appointments, he participated in the development and implementation of New York’s federal juvenile justice plan and helped ensure that local correctional facilities were treating individuals fairly and humanely. He has also served as National Youth Chair for the National Youth Committee of the Coalition for Juvenile Justice as well as an advisor to the National Academies of Science and the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Utilizing his experiences, Mr. Carvente trains policymakers, researchers, students, and professionals in probation, child welfare, juvenile justice and corrections on ending youth incarceration and moving toward more holistic, community-based, trauma-informed programs for young people. He was awarded the “Spirit of Youth Award” by Coalition for Juvenile Justice and the “Next Generation Champion for Change” award by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. He is a first-generation Mexican-American and the first male in his family to graduate from college, earning a degree in Criminal Justice from John Jay College.

Youth Panel

Young people from the DCF Youth Leadership Teams and Youth Advisory Councils from across the state will share their personal experiences with and perspectives on the youth justice and child welfare systems. They will share their ideas about what works and what does not, and the type of youth justice and child welfare systems that they want to help create. These inspiring young people will share specific guidance for individuals working in the social services field and partner agencies about how to best engage and work most effectively with youth.


  • Introduce and Identify the YAC’s and YLT’s priorities and objectives
  • Have professional staff see examples of meaningful youth engagement and feel more confident engaging youth in their own practices
  • Have professional staff hear directly from those most impacted by the Child Welfare and Youth Justice systems; connect their professional practice to young people’s experiences