Join Child and Family Connections at

The Creative and Comprehensive Advocacy for Parents with Mental Health Challenges Conference

Presented by The Mental Health Legal Advisors Committee

Friday, June 12, 2015 8:50 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

MCLE, 10 Winter Place, Boston

The MENTAL HEALTH LEGAL ADVISORS COMMITTEE presents a full-day seminar focused on advocacy for parents with mental health challenges seeking custody and/or parenting time with their children. Social workers, attorneys, parents, peers, and advocates are all invited to attend.

A range of practitioners will cover topics such as research demonstrating the success of supports and interventions for parents, specific resources available for families, as well as the application of the Americans with Disabilities Act for court- and DCF-involved parents.

Participants will learn practical information for how to support families, and strategies for how to apply and advocate for accommodations in the context of court proceedings.

The morning sessions include the clinical research showing positive outcomes for parents and families with appropriate supports; a parent-advocate perspective on honest communication with children; and parenting supports and intervention models utilized by providers.

The afternoon will feature two panel discussions – one where attorneys will discuss the national trend in the application of the ADA to these cases, and the second providing strategies for litigating cases in Massachusetts in light of the “Sara Gordon” case/DOJ letter which addresses the Department of Children and Families’ treatment of parents with disabilities. A view from the bench regarding parenting, mental health, and disability rights will wrap up the day.

  • 8:00 Registration Opens and Continental Breakfast
  • 8:50 Welcome, Introductions & Program Begins
  • 9:00 Promoting Resilience and Recovery in the Face of Family Mental Health Issues
    • An expert will survey recent clinical developments in recovery and family wellness mental health treatment and supports
      • William R. Beardslee, M.D., Director, Preventive Intervention Project, Judge Baker Children’s Center
  • 10:15 The Role of Experience and Communication in Strengthening Family Bonds
    • Discussion of parenting with a mental illness and the importance of honest communication with children to facilitate improved outcomes.
      • Evan Kaplan, Executive Director, Child Family Connections
  • 11:00 Networking Break
  • 11:10 Supporting Families: Models for Engaging Parents and Their Children
    • Panelists will discuss some unique approaches to working with parents with mental illness, and their children, ranging from economic and legal to therapeutic support systems for the family.
      • Jonathan Haywood Jenkins, Psy.D., Assistant in Psychiatry, Massachusetts General Hospital
      • Evan Kaplan, Executive Director, Child Family Connections
      • Cindy Liu, Ph.D., Program Leader, Mass. Mental Health Center at Beth Israel Deaconess
      • Miriam Ruttenberg, Esq., Senior Attorney, Mental Health Legal Advisors Committee (Moderator)
      • Toni Wolf, Executive Director, Employment Options, Inc.
  • 12:30 Lunch – on your own
  • 1:30 Parents with Disabilities: A National Perspective on the ADA
    • Attorneys Powell and Mathis will explore the past, present, and future impact of the Americans with Disabilities Act on the legal rights of parents with psychiatric and intellectual disabilities.
      • Jennifer Mathis, Deputy Legal Director & Director of Programs, Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law
      • Robyn Powell, Esq., Attorney Advisor, National Council on Disability
  • 2:30 Applying the ADA in Care and Protection and Family Law Cases in MA
    • Panelists will consider the relevance and role of the ADA in advocacy and litigation in Massachusetts.
      • Andrew Don, Esq., Attorney in Private Practice, CAFL Regional Coordinator for Norfolk County
      • Michael Dsida, Esq., Deputy Chief Counsel, CPCS Children and Family Law Division
      • Kate Nemens, Esq., Supervising Attorney, Clubhouse Family Legal Support Project at MHLAC
  • 3:50 Networking Break
  • 4:00 A View from the Bench
    • Judges will examine a number of hypothetical scenarios reflecting the themes of the day.
      • The Honorable Helen Brown-Bryant, Associate Justice, Suffolk County Juvenile Court
      • The Honorable Brian J. Dunn, Associate Justice, Middlesex County Probate and Family Court