By RICK HAYES firstname.lastname@example.org
---- — MT. VERNON — Child advocacy associates, social workers, and attorneys from the southern portion of the state will converge to the King City later this month for the 21st annual Downstate Conference on Child Abuse.
The conference will be held on April 24 and 25 at the Holiday Inn in Mt. Vernon.
"We held the conference in Mt. Vernon for probably about 17 years," said Ladonna Richards of The Amy Center, one of several organizations on the Conference Planning Committee. "We have begun rotating the conference in the southern part of the state. Last year it was at John A. Logan College and next year it will be in Fairview Heights in the Metro-East area," Richards continued.
In addition to The Amy Center, Madison County CAC (Child Advocacy Center), Williamson County CAC, Perry-Jackson CAC, Healing Harbor CAC, St. Clair County CAC, Two Rivers CAC and The Guardian Center Inc. are members of the committee.
"There are 37 CAC's in the state of Illinois and we're in the downstate area. Hopefully, by rotating the conference it will make it easier for people to attend because of the mileage and hotel stays. Like this year, we won't have to pay for motels, but when we go to the Metro East area and further south we will probably have to stay," Richards said.
The sponsors of the conference include the Midwest Regional CAC, based in St. Paul, Minn., Illinois Department of Children & Family Services Children's Justice Fund, Poshard Foundation, and Taste of Southern Illinois Fund.
This will be the first year the conference will be going "green." Session handouts will not be provided at the conference. Attendees are encouraged to go online at www.downstateconference.com and print out the breakout session materials beforehand.
"The idea was brought up about three years ago, and we tried it two years ago," Richards said. "This year the only thing on paper is brochures. Several vendors will be set up outside the conference area selling and giving out information."
Richards said the downstate conference is one of the best ways for child advocacy representatives to receive advice and training that is useful.
"We need quality training in the local area that is inexpensive as we can make it. This conference is as good as any training that you would receive in another state, and participants can choose a track where they can come for just one day," Richards said, adding that credits are offered for social workers and attorneys to keep their credentials updated.
Several interesting topics and speakers have been selected for the conference.
"We try to bring in speakers that are on a track system — mental health, law enforcement and advocacy — where the speakers come to speak in their areas of discipline. We try to hit all the disciplines so everyone has something they are interested in for the duration of the day," Richards said. "We're definitely excited about it, and hope we have some networking going on that will benefit everyone."
For more information about the Downstate Conference you may call The Amy Center at (618) 244-2100.