toddler sleeping on person
2019 Conference – The Future of Foster Care: New Science to Address Old Problems
Sep 23, 2019, Sep 24, 2019

Approximately 6% of youth in U.S. experience foster care in their lifetime. Decades of studies have detailed the poor outcomes these children face, in terms of health, education, behavior, and social functioning. Scholars and policy-makers have identified a litany of reform targets, from school instability to the use of congregate care and yet, many of the core concerns about the foster care system appear intractable – every week, news stories emerge about foster children who have died, been trafficked, been moved dozens of times, exited foster care to homelessness, or been returned to unsafe families. Research has largely found that foster care produces outcomes similar to simply leaving children with abusive or neglectful parents. Why, after dozens of policy changes and a myriad of research studies, has so little changed for the hundreds of thousands of children in foster care each year?

The Future of Foster Care conference will focus on identifying and addressing the barriers to meaningful change and innovative policy and practice solutions to the foster care system’s most pressing challenges. Leaders from government, academia, and the non-profit sector will meet for a two day event during which speakers will elucidate key challenges and detail solutions that are currently being tested in real-world settings.

Child on ipad
2018 Conference – Strengthening Child Safety and Wellbeing through Integrated Data Solutions
Sep 27, 2018, Sep 28, 2018

Child maltreatment is a significant public health problem resulting in substantial adverse consequences for children and families, and for society at large. Individual costs are reflected in the psychological and physical suffering of victims. Societal costs associated with child maltreatment stemming from in increased health care, criminal justice, educational, and economic burdens are estimated at $500 billion annually for the United States. Yet, federal, state, and local governments face substantial barriers in the identification and assessment of maltreatment and in providing intervention and treatment services. The scope and complexity of child maltreatment, coupled with the limited resources available to the child welfare system, underscore the need for programmatic and policy-level solutions that are demonstrably effective and financially efficient in promoting child safety, permanency, and wellbeing.

Over the past decade, the landscape for using data to inform child welfare system efforts has seen tremendous growth. Technological innovations have allowed for the accumulation and centralization of large datasets critical to identifying risks of child maltreatment and its negative consequences and to better target community and system response to these challenges. How can these data be leveraged to promote more effectives efforts to detect, prevent, and respond to child maltreatment? The purpose of this conference is to showcase emerging and innovative approaches in the acquisition and use of administrative data to inform the societal and governmental response to child maltreatment. This conference will highlight the use of multi-system data (or Integrative Data Systems) to conduct predictive analytics, risk monitoring, or policy and program-focused research and evaluation to inform child welfare system solutions.

Three sessions will cover the use of integrative datasets to predict the occurrence of child maltreatment, predict negative outcomes in maltreated youth, and target effective and efficient delivery of services. The conference will culminate with a panel discussion of collaborative data sharing, analytic approaches to predict maltreatment and outcomes, and how these approaches can inform policy and program delivery.

Conference Information

Cheri McConnell, Child Maltreatment Solutions Network 


Phone: 814-865-2193

Register Here


Military bag, boots, and American flag
2017 Conference – Scientific synergy and innovation from Military Family and Child Welfare Contexts
Sep 27, 2017, Sep 28, 2017

An often under-recognized aspect of the United State Military is its leadership efforts to enhance child and family well-being. Indeed, the military supports a large portfolio of programs and practices to enhance overall family health and resilience.  For instance, the military’s child development centers have been widely regarded as some of the highest quality centers in the world. In addition, the military has a large system of family advocacy efforts, including family support, new parent education, resiliency and readiness, and sexual assault prevention. Within this framework, the military has been leading efforts to establish evidence-based risk assessments for family violence and establishing clear guidelines for adjudicating the severity of family violence that will match family needs while including the appropriate intervention

While the Military has been an innovator and incubator for change in how to decrease and address family violence, research in the fields of child maltreatment and child welfare have made tremendous, yet somewhat distinct, strides in terms of child abuse detection and prevention, trauma treatments, family advocacy, and the long-term psychosocial and physiologic consequences for victims. Bringing together often-siloed efforts and focusing on similar challenges through discrete lenses, holds promise for the rapid growth of scientific knowledge through integrated dynamic solutions.

Building on research and practice from the areas of child welfare and Military families, this conference will bring together researchers, policy analysts, and practice professionals from these fields in order to identify successful methods, programs, practices, and systems of care that can be generalized to promote family well-being broadly. The overarching purpose of the conference is to identify knowledge gaps, promote commonalities, and identify opportunities for collaboration and synergy that will fortify both sciences.

To foster collaboration and synergy, each session will include an integrative "translation" and "future-directions" component with particular focus on: (1) how this research can be understood in the context of serving and treating stress-exposed individuals; and (2) applicable strategies for prevention, mitigating injurious outcomes, and reversibility. With eclectic audience representation, this conference is a unique opportunity to encourage a dialogue between researchers, trainees and front-line practitioners—an essential process in illuminating the “next steps” in scientific inquiry and the evolution of scientific knowledge into real-world application and practice.

Conference Information

Cheri McConnell, Child Maltreatment Solutions Network 


Phone: 814-865-2193

Register Here

student at desk holding paper and smiling
2016 Conference – Trauma Informed Schools: How child maltreatment prevention, detection, and intervention can be integrated into the school-setting
Oct 10, 2016, Oct 11, 2016

More than ever before, schools and teachers are called upon to identify and respond to the unique challenges of childhood trauma. The National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) estimates that one out of every four students in U.S. schools has been exposed to a traumatic event that can affect learning and/or behavior. In particular, children who experience the trauma of maltreatment often have difficulties inside and outside of the classroom. These challenges can negatively affect educational well-being and often persist over the long-term, creating unnecessary barriers to learning and independence. In addition, new legislation in many states across the U.S. has identified teachers as mandated reporters of suspected child maltreatment. Finally, there is momentum to integrate prevention programs in the school-setting as unique opportunities for universal primary prevention of maltreatment. Hence there are isolated efforts currently underway to weave trauma-informed approaches into the fabric of schools, including strategic planning by administrators, staff training, prevention programming, liaising with local youth service agencies, and trauma-sensitive intervention with affected students.

The purpose of this conference is to bring together key members of the research, educational, and child welfare communities in order to create an interagency and transdisciplinary dialog about how schools can more effectively move toward a coordinated, multifaceted trauma-informed framework. The first session will be devoted to child welfare legislations changes and school-based maltreatment prevention efforts. The second session will focus on the developmental impact of trauma and the socioemotional, behavioral, and cognitive issues that educators might face in the classroom. The third session will explore the multiple contexts and policies needed in order to improve educational efforts. The fourth session will cover mandated reporter trainings, as well as highlight how community providers, child advocates, and schools can work in coordination to support teachers and improve the educational experience for children who have been maltreated. The conference will culminate in a panel discussion focused on defining a framework for trauma-informed schools. The panel will be charged with identifying the next essential steps in research, training, and policy that will move the field forward in establishing formal recommendations for mechanisms that can be put in place to support administrators and teachers in promoting child well-being and creating enriched educational environments for students who have experienced trauma.

Conference Information

Cheri McConnell, Child Maltreatment Solutions Network 


Phone: 814-865-2193

Register Here

stack of puzzle pieces
2015 Conference – New Frontiers in the Biology of Stress Maltreatment and Trauma
Sep 30, 2015, Oct 1, 2015

Novel research in the science of stress biology has opened exciting new avenues for understanding how stress ‘gets under the skin’ providing real opportunities for translation. The fields of endocrinology/immunology, neuroscience and genomics are, independently and together, advancing knowledge that will change the way we think about how early-life stressors such as how child maltreatment and other forms of traumatic experiences become biologically embedded and can impact subsequent health, development and well-being.

This collective interdisciplinary science is grappling with the notion that there might be biologic explanations that characterize why some effected individuals are more susceptible than others to the deleterious impact of stress. More importantly, the fact that environmental buffers can explain some of these individual differences, sheds light on the real possibility that early adversity can be interrupted, intervened upon and even reversed. Understanding how nurture intersects with nature will spark critical innovation in how to curtail the acute impact of stress, maltreatment and trauma and ways to prevent further deterioration.

The purpose of this conference is to showcase recent biological advancements related to child maltreatment and other forms of trauma and chronic stress. Three distinct sessions will cover processes of biological embedding emphasizing the role of the endocrine system/immunology, brain development and genomics. A fourth session will focus on resilience from a multi-level, multidisciplinary perspective. The conference will culminate in a panel discussion of the data and ideas presented in these four sessions where discourse among panel and audience members will be encouraged.

Translation is a fundamental, yet often illusive, principle of science. Each session will therefore include an integrative "translation" and "future-directions" component with particular focus on (1) how this research can be understood in the context of serving and treating stress-exposed individuals, and (2) applicable strategies for prevention, mitigating injurious outcomes, and reversibility. With eclectic audience representation, this conference is a unique opportunity to encourage a dialogue between expert researchers, trainees and front-line practitioners—an essential process in illuminating the “next steps” in scientific inquiry and the evolution of scientific knowledge into real-world application and practice.

Want to learn more about the conference? Please stay tuned with Taylor Clayton's blog - Looking into Child Maltreatment and Stress.

Conference Information

Cheri McConnell, Child Maltreatment Solutions Network 


Phone: 814-865-2193

Register Here

family fishing together around sunset
2014 Conference – Families at Risk: The Role of Parenting and Family Processes in Child Maltreatment and Intervention
May 5, 2014, May 6, 2014

This year’s conference featured presentations by experts from around the country, including Sherry Hamby, Laura Ann McCloskey, Judith Cohen, and John Lutzker and a host of internationally known discussants. Focusing on family dynamics, speakers addressed four topics: family processes underlying child maltreatment, intergenerational transmission of maltreatment, evidence-based interventions with maltreated children and their families, and future directions in child maltreatment prevention.

Penn State’s Child Maltreatment Solutions Network is a network of researchers and practitioners dedicated to combating child maltreatment through research, education, and engagement. This conference is made possible with the support of many Penn State units, as well as external partners.

2013 Conference on Child Protection and Well-Being
2013 Conference – Second Annual Conference on Child Protection and Well-Being
Sep 25, 2013, May 18, 2019

About 260 child advocates from around Pennsylvania gathered at The Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel on the University Park campus on September 25 to promote the expansion of multidisciplinary investigative teams and child advocacy centers. Penn State's Second Annual Conference on Child Protection and Well-Being aimed to provide information and share expertise in developing these teams and centers specifically in counties that do not have these resources. Read the full story on the conference on the Penn State News website.

Opening Remarks

Nicholas Jones Executive Vice President and Provost Penn State Honorable David Heckler District Attorney, Bucks County Chairman, Task Force on Child Protection Honorable Beverly D. Mackereth Secretary, PA Department of Public Welfare Mark R. Zimmer Chairman, PA Commission on Crime and Delinquency

Keynote Speech

Teresa Huizar Director, National Children's Alliance "Protecting Children - Building Multidisciplinary Investigative Teams and Child Advocacy Center Teams"

MDIT Development Overview

Penn State's Child Maltreatment Solutions Network

CAC Development

Model Set of Standards

Hands coming together around a growing plant
2012 Conference – Child Sexual Abuse Conference: Traumatic Impact, Prevention, and Intervention
Oct 29, 2012, Oct 30, 2012

Special appreciation for their efforts in developing the content for this conference goes to Doris MacKenzie and Kate Staley of the Justice Center for Research.

Archived Videos and Handouts from the 2012 Protect Children Conference

Panel discussion

Ernie Allen, JD

President and CEO, International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children; Founding Chairman, National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

Chris Anderson and Margaret Hoelzer

Lucy Berliner, MSW Director, Harborview Center for Sexual Assault and Traumatic Stress; Clinical Associate Professor at the University of Washington School of Social Work and Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

Sharon Cooper, MDAdjunct Professor of Pediatrics, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Chapel Hill, North Carolina 

Cancelled due to travel delay; lecture handout available below

Rodney Erickson, PhDPresident of Penn State

David Finkelhor, PhDDirector of the Crimes against Children Research Center, University of New Hampshire

Keith Kaufman, PhD Professor of Clinical Psychology, Portland State University

Sugar Ray LeonardProfessional boxer, Olympic gold medalist; survivor of child sexual abuse

Julie Larrieu, PhD Professor of Clinical Psychiatry, Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana

Doris MacKenzie, PhDDirector, Justice Center for Research, Penn State

John E.B. Myers, JDProfessor of Law, McGeorge Law School, University of the Pacific, Sacramento, California

Penelope Trickett, PhDProfessor of Social Work and Psychology, University of Southern California School of Social Work

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