FCSN // Newsletter // 2013 // December 2013 // Second Annual RTSC Conference
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Second Annual RTSC Conference

Special Education Surrogate Parents Address Positive Life Outcomes at Second Annual RTSC Conference

By Emily Gaudette, Recruitment Training and Support Center (RTSC)

Youth Partner

Youth Partner

The second annual conference for Special Education Surrogate Parents (SESPs) welcomed 150 attendees and exhibitors on October 23rd 2013. Hosted by the Federation’s Recruitment, Training and Support Center (RTSC), “Getting Better All the Time: How SESPs Can Help Youth Attain Positive Life Outcomes” focused on older students in state custody who have experienced complex neurological trauma.

Keynote speaker Jodi Rosenbaum Tillinger advised that youth be directly involved in the shaping of their education. This echoed RTSC’s recent webinar series on transition services for youth who have experienced trauma, available on the Federation’s YouTube channel. Rosenbaum Tillinger highlighted More Than Words, a nonprofit bookstore and training program for youth who are homeless, court-involved, out of school or in state custody.

On the More Than Words panel, four teenagers outlined their current academic and career pursuits. As each student described their efforts to obtain a GED, reach Youth Partner status at More Than Words, or apply to college, the ballroom filled with applause. Among featured speakers were members of the Massachusetts chapter of Foster Care Alumni of America, including RD Rohnert. Rohnert described his emotions while growing up in the system. He noted a reunion with his adult siblings as one of his fondest memories.

Other notable speakers included Marty Mittnacht, State Director of the Special Education Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE) and Susan Stelk, Education Director at Department of Children and Families (DCF).

Breakout talks included Thomas Mela of Massachusetts Advocates for Children on Chapter 222, explored by Jane Crecco in this issue of Newsline. Michelle Banks, of DCF, and Jennifer Leonard, of The Skills Library, presented sessions on services for teenage youth and building career readiness. Finally, a session presented by the Federation’s Julie Sinclair, Director of the Parent Training and Information Center, included a workshop on social-emotional IEP goals for children who have experienced trauma.

In Massachusetts, the need for special educational decision-makers for students in state custody is so great that the tasks ahead can feel impossible. The hopeful atmosphere at the RTSC conference, as volunteers asked questions of their state leaders and shared triumphs, indicated a changing tide. Supported by the knowledge and expertise of SESPs and their partners, our youth in state custody are working toward success.