We are pleased to announce our preliminary confirmed speakers line-up. While the daily conference programme is being currently finalized, additional speakers will be announced shortly.



Dr. Geoffrey Shannon 

Special Rapporteur on Child Protection, Law Society Ireland; Chairman of the Adoption Authority of Ireland

Considering the future potential of foster care as a child care option

"The adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child by the General Assembly of the United Nations on November 20, 1989 signposted a new era for foster care internationally. Moreover, the last decade has seen an upsurge of interest in foster care at a domestic level. The speech will consider the future potential of foster care as a child care option, having regard to international and domestic developments."



Prof. Robbie Gilligan 

Professor of Social Work and Social Policy, Associate Director of the Children's Research Centre, Trinity College Dublin 

Young Adult Care Leavers in the World of Work - How Foster Carers can support entry to work

"Work is crucial to social inclusion - it offers income, but also structure, meaning, identity and social connections. What can we learn from young adult care leavers who have entered the world of work? What and who helped them? What did foster carers do? What may be lessons for supporting other young people in care and young adult care leavers? The plenary will present findings from an international study of a sample of care leavers in both Ireland and Catalonia (Spain)". Co-presented with Dr. Laura Arnau Sabates, UAB- Autonomous University of Barcelona. 



Dr. Valerie O'Brien 

Lecturer, School of Applied Social Science, University College Dublin

Formal & Informal Kinship care: Its Location within the Alternative Care & Family Support Systems?

"Formal kinship care is now used by statutory agencies to meet the needs of children. Informal kinship care, on the other hand, is an age-old tradition and used by families in times of need and crisis.  However, informal care and the pathways between it and formal care have remained under-analysed largely in family & child policy. There is, however, evidence to suggest that both sets of  kin carers are under-resourced and under-supported, albeit in different ways. Yet, it is known that extended family members are often willing to extend themselves to an enormous degree to protect and to provide for vulnerable children in their network. The research surrounding family group conferencing helps to throw light on how this practice is occurring. It is contended that the trends, practices, gaps and  paradoxes surrounding the intersection between formal and informal kinship care need to be understood more if kinship care is to continue to meet the needs of children. Based on research, my presentation will explore the interplay between formal and informal kinship care against a backdrop of what is occurring in the foster care system".


Mrs. Pia Lahtinen

Project Manager, Lähemmäs Project, Pesäpuu ry, Nationwide Child Welfare Association, Finland

”Nearest and dearest in children’s lives in child protection”. Insights and experience of family relationships in child protection in Finland 

"Pesäpuu ry is a nationwide child welfare association bringing expertise for the public good. The main goals in Pesäpuu is to hear children’s voices and make children visible in child welfare. 

In 2013, we started a new project called Lähemmäs (Closer). The main idea is the recognition that a child has a right to express who are the nearest and dearest people around him/her. The aim is to get involved the close people in the child’s life in all steps of child welfare procedures. Also, our aim is to challenge the authorities to see the people around the child as a positive resource when they prove to be such.

The Survivors team in Pesäpuu is a national focus group of young people of ages 18-28 with personal experience of alternative care. Now they develop child welfare as experts of experience. Lähemmäs and Survivors team have worked together to explore the relationships in children’s life. The Survivors team has focused on working with young people, and Lähemmäs with professionals, parents, relatives and people close to a child.

During the workshop, you will hear and see multiple messages of children and young people, parents, relatives and professionals talking, desciping and writing about family relationships. We will also see and test some professional tools for exploring and strengthening of the relationships of children and people close to them. Come to work with us and consider changing relationships and the nearest and dearest people around children in child protection!"



Dr. Stela Grigoras

President of Partnership for Every Child, Moldova 

De-institutionalisation and transition from institutional to community-based care

"Conference participants will have the opportunity to learn from Moldovan experts about their experiences with the deinstitutionalisation of the care systems for children, or the shift from institutional care to family-based care.  Deinstitutionalisation is a complex process involving much more than closing down large-scale institutions and moving children to family settings.  It involves the development of a range of systems and services aimed at preventing child-family separation, caring for children in family-based alternative care setting, transforming the residential care for children, strengthening mainstream educational system to provide individualized support to deinstitutionalised children and children with special educational needs in order to prevent child-family separation due to educational reasons. This reform occurs within a framework of new policies, laws and regulations, shifts in social norms, reorganization of financial and human resources and the establishment of new regulatory systems.

Presenters will provide information on the deinstitutionalization process in Moldova, identify challenges and highlight specific approaches taken to support national and local authorities to ensure quality support for children and their families in this process."



Dr. Judith Rycus 

Child Welfare Trainer and Consultant, Institute for Human Services, Columbus, Ohio, USA 

Improving Training through a Competency-Based Training Model

"Training is essential to promote best practice in the child welfare field. Yet, not all training is equally valuable.  Sometimes it’s too basic, or it’s not relevant to our work.  Sometimes it just isn’t available when we need it. Sometimes we think staying on the job is a better use of time than attending training.  Yet, we all feel, at times, if we had better skills, we could be more effective in our work.

The workshop will describe a training model designed to address these and other challenges.  Launched in 1985 in Ohio, the system was designed to “get the right people to the right training at the right time.” The model is transferable to any organization that wants to make training more relevant, focused, and timely. 

Topics include: 

  • Identifying the essential knowledge and skills (competencies) to do the work;
  • Using competencies to assess and prioritize individual, group, and system-wide training needs, to drive development of curricula, and to select trainers;
  • Using needs assessment data to promote effective use of training resources;
  • Training strategies that promote skill development;
  • Using training to stimulate organizational change. 

Links to concept papers, competencies, curricula, and other resources will be provided to help participants apply competency-based training strategies in their own work".