The Power of Relationships in Advancing Child and Family Well-Being: Lessons from Rural Communities

June 20 and June 22, 2023
1:00 pm – 4:30 pm ET

CWLA invites urban and rural providers to join us for a special virtual summit that will share strategies for community collaboration. Many rural child- and family-serving agencies have innovative approaches to partnering with community-based organizations to bring holistic services to families. This summit will provide an opportunity for urban providers to hear directly from national rural leaders about methods for working with local organizations, outside of child welfare, and how these lessons can be applied to their own communities. Each day will end with a dialogue session for shared learning with peers.

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Tuesday, June 20, 2023
(Eastern Time)

Opening: 1:00 pm – 1:45 pm

Practice Panel: 1:45 pm – 3:25 pm

Break: 3:25 pm – 3:45 pm

Discussion Session: 3:45 pm – 4:30 pm

Thursday, June 22, 2023
(Eastern Time)

Opening: 1:00 pm – 1:15 pm

Community Collaboration Panel: 1:15 pm – 2:15 pm

Policy Panel: 2:15 pm – 3:15 pm

Break: 3:15 pm – 3:30 pm

Discussion & Closing: 3:30 pm – 4:30 pm


This summit will be hosted in partnership with CWLA’s Rural Child Welfare Services Committee
and Committee Co-Chairs:  Carl Ayers and Kathleen Belanger.

Carl Ayers is the Deputy Commissioner of Human Services for the Virginia Department of Social Services. He rejoined the Department after 2 ½ years with Casey Family Programs (CFP) as a Sr. Director of Strategic Consulting. In his current role, he oversees the Division of Family Services, the Division of Benefit Program, Local Engagement and Support, Training and Continuous Quality Improvement. Prior to joining the Virginia Department of Social Services, Carl held a number of positions with local departments of social services. The majority of Carl’s direct practice was focused in the rural Southwest part of Virginia and he has carried that rural focus in his statewide leadership positions. He currently serves as a board member for the Child Welfare League of America (CWLA). Carl holds a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) and a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree from Radford University and is a graduate of the Virginia Executive Institute as well as the Commonwealth Management Institute.

Kathleen Belanger, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus of Social Work at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, TX. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Houston and her MSW from UT Austin with a concentration in Community Organizing and Social Administration, and has been working with communities ever since. She has been teaching community practice for 30 years, with a focus and strength- and asset-based approaches. As a consultant with the National Resource Center for Diligent Recruitment, she spent 6 years providing intensive and ongoing help to states, tribes, and jurisdictions on collaborative foster and adoptive parent recruitment, retention, and development (particularly identifying and supporting rural families who are underrepresented). She served on the National Advisory Committee for Rural Health and Human Services for 4 years, authored or co-edited 3 books, and is a recipient of the Distinguished Professor award from SFASU and the Champion for Children award from CWLA.