As the Kentucky CASA Network gears up for their annual conference in Owensboro, more than 300 have registered and the event is nearing max capacity.
“We are really excited because right now they have 300 registered and they expect to have 50 more maybe. We may have to cap it just due to capacity for the meeting space,” shared Rosemary Conder, Executive Director at CASA of Ohio Valley. “Most of our conferences are in Louisville or Lexington, and the board wanted to do something more regional.”
Although the board might not have been sure of the turnout moving the event outside of Kentucky’s two larger cities, so far Owensboro has proven to be welcomed by all.
“I think they are incredibly impressed with the response so far with it being held here in Owensboro,” Conder said. “We want to make them feel welcomed and show them the hospitality our city has to offer.”
Conder was very complimentary of all parties coming together to host such an event including the conference site of the Convention Center, Owensboro Health in sponsoring the awards luncheon, the Hampton Inn in the extensive planning of those requiring overnight accommodations and the CVB in their offering to do some welcoming events and really showcase Owensboro across the state.
“We have the advantage because most CASA programs can drive the day of since a lot are local to this region, but some of the further counties are coming in the Friday night, and we have a block of rooms to accommodate,” shared Conder. “We had to work around available dates of the Convention Center due to them being nearly completely booked. Yes, it was an obstacle but a good one for the community.”
With Kentucky having one of the highest percentages of abuse and neglect across the country, CASA programs across the state are working to move that needle in a more positive direction.
“I think the conference attendance shows that there are people across the state that really care about children of abuse and neglect and want to make a difference,” commented Conder. “We are so proud of all of our volunteers and their efforts in what they do across the state and much appreciation for what they do.”
As the non-profit works with many service organizations across the community, they have hopes this educational opportunity will expand efforts and promote unity for the mission.
“We want to build communication to break down different gaps within organizations such as how the law works and how we can all work together to help the children,” Conder said. “We, as well as other programs across the state, have a lot of collaboration with other services organizations such as DCBS, therapist, the school systems, substance abuse programs, and homeless centers as many our children are exposed to that as well. We work closely with the attorneys, social services, and the judge with the goal of helping the children.”
This year’s conference will include team members of CASA programs across the state, board members, volunteer advocates with breakout sessions for all but has now expanded with the addition of an additional free track available free to the community.
The track “Advocating for Kentucky’s Children – The Power of One Caring Adult” hopes to start the conversation of understanding implicit bias. They have brought in Pastor Edward Palmer for this track with his expertise and involvement in the National Coalition for Juvenile Justice, and Chair of the State Interagency Council’s Standing Committee on Racial and Ethnic Disparity.
“Many service organizations are encouraged to have that kind of training for their staff and volunteers, so they know what that means and how unintended biases affect attitudes,” Conder said. “Even if someone can’t come to the entire conference, they can come to that particular session. It really is a great opportunity.”