The Parents as Teachers 2021 International Conference held Oct. 11 – 14 at the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront Hotel was recognized as the largest indoor in-person gathering the City of Baltimore, MD., had seen since the beginning of the pandemic.
Just a few weeks after being recognized by the Library of Congress with its “$50,000 American Prize” for promoting literacy among children, PAT convened more than 1,800 parent educators both in-person and online for the conference that featured a multitude of professional development opportunities.
PAT officials took every cautionary measure imaginable to minimize the spread of the COVID-19 virus. All in-person attendees were required to either show proof of vaccination before entering the venues. Although not mandated, all participants were asked to wear masks and maintain social distancing when appropriate.
Touchless hand sanitizer stations were available. The seating was spaced. Food and beverage services were revised to minimize exposure or risk, and anyone showing any potential symptoms of COVID-19 had tested positive or had been in close contact with anyone that had tested positive within 14 days of coming to the conference, were asked to quarantine and request a refund.
Parents as Teachers President and CEO Constance Gully said the organization worked to address all possible scenarios that might have contributed to the spread of the virus and has not received any reports from attendees of transmission thus far.
“Thanks to the generosity of our sponsors and the belief and support of our Parents as Teachers family and friends, we were able to present a safe, informative conference that is tantamount to the continued professional development of all of the early childhood home visiting advocates who had faith in us to attend,” said Gully.
“We are also grateful to the City of Baltimore and its Mayor Brandon M. Scott for proclaiming Oct. 11 as Parents as Teachers Day in Charm City and we thank all of the speakers, presenters, and exhibitors for their service.”
In dedicating a proclamation to PAT’s conference, Mayor Scott said: “We are happy that Parents as Teachers brought its conference to Charm City. Strong families are the cornerstone of vibrant communities. This organization has a history of radically transforming and improving the lives of families, particularly those facing hardship.”
The conference was highlighted by several awards ceremonies. There were 68 Milestone recipients. Former PAT Board Chair Patricia Kempthorne received the coveted Jack Tweedie Award. Jack Tweedie was the long-time director of the Children and Families Program at the National Conference of State Legislatures and a renowned expert and leader on state policies affecting children and families. He also served as chair of the Policy and Advocacy Committee of the Parents as Teachers board until he lost his battle with cancer in early 2014.
Receiving Losos Prizes for Innovation was the Northwest ISD Family Involvement program of North Texas, and the Scottdale Early Learning program of Scottdale, Georgia.
Parent Educator of the Year awards were presented to Blanca Menendez, Kansas City Kansas Public School System; Katy Ellis, Northwest ISD Family Involvement program; Lindsey Hackney, Joliet, IL-based Easter seals Jump Start Parental Training Program; and Bonnie Forsyth, Indianola, Iowa-based Short Years Partnership program. One hundred fifty-seven Blue Ribbon Affiliates were recognized for delivering the highest quality of services to children and families. Four deserving Baltimore-based nonprofit organizations accepted funding under PAT’s Gives Back initiative.
Known for delivering world-class speakers, this year’s conference featured Dr. Joia Adele Crear-Perry, president of the National Birth Equity Collaborative; Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson, president, and CEO of the Children’s Defense Fund; Dana Suskind, M.D. professor of surgery at the University of Chicago, and director of the Pediatric Cochlear Implant Program, and Dr. Laura Jana, a U.S.-based pediatrician, health communicator, early educator, social entrepreneur, and award-winning parenting and children’s book author.
The dynamic keynote speakers were supported with a generous grant from the Enterprise Holdings Foundation’s ROAD Forward Initiative. Themed “Together Towards Tomorrow,” the conference offered 60 workshops that addressed some of home visiting’s most critical issues, including Community Engagement, Collaborations and Partnerships, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Health and Wellness, and Parenting and Child Development.
The conference’s success is directly linked to the sponsors and supporters committed to expanding the impact of home visiting on families and communities. For four consecutive years, Centene Corp. has been the presenting sponsor. Other major supporters included: Emerson, Enterprise Holdings Foundation, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Edward Jones, Quik Trip, Athena, Dave & Cheryl Morley, Mutual of America, Moneta Group, Jean & Mary Roy Family Foundation, Social Solutions, and the Twiga Foundation.