Friday, May 31, 2019 from 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM EDT
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Doubletree by Hilton Hotel 
5400 Computer Drive
Westborough, MA 01581

Driving Directions 


PPAL Conference 
Parent/Professional Advocacy League 


This year promises to be an outstanding event, gathering more than 400 attendees with a comprehensive agenda including morning and afternoon workshops, speakers and a large and diverse Exhibition Hall filled with organizations and companies serving the children’s mental health community.

We are also proud to present our 8th Youth/Young Adult Conference Track, giving young people aged 13-25 the opportunity to develop their skills as leaders and advocates.

Register Now! 

Scholarships are available on a sliding scale fee (email conference@ppal.net). 
To download registration, exhibit, sponsor levels and pledge forms, please visit here.
Please email conference@ppal.net for a list of youth workshops.  

Title Sponsor

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Barbara Huff’s struggle to get appropriate services, support and treatment for her daughter with co-occurring mental health and substance use challenges led her to advocating on a larger scale. She started a statewide family-run organization, Keys for Networking, in Kansas.  She then joined the emerging national movement as the founder and first president of the National Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health, specifically to involve families in changing mental health systems, services and supports for children and youth. She relocated to the Washington DC area, serving 12 years as the Federation’s Executive Director, nurturing the development of the grassroots family-run organizations across the county and harnessing their strength to improve the social, emotional, mental health and well-being of thousands of children and their families. As a presidential appointee on the Federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Advisory Council from 2003-2008 Barbara took the family voice to a new level of influencing policy and system’s change. From 2005-2018 Barbara worked part time as a Technical Assistance Specialist for the Caring for Every Child’s Mental Health Campaign.

Barbara has received more than 30 awards from local, statewide, national family and professional organizations. Her passion, compassion, leadership, vision and determination to find viable, strength-based solutions have inspired families and organization leaders in every state to work for systems change and will continue for generations to come.

(for Parents/Caregivers and Professionals) 

Workshop 1
Understanding the Impact of Trauma on Our Children and Ourselves

Presenter: Tara Sagor, CAGS, LMHC

Description: This training is intended to provide individuals with an understanding of how trauma impacts both our children and us as caregivers and providers.  Participants will be provided with an overview of psychological trauma, the human stress response continuum, common physical and emotional reactions to stress and resources for individualized self-care planning across 4 known domains of impact. 

Workshop 2
Engaging Fathers of Diverse Communities 
Presenter: Xavier Cardona, parent of young children with extensive lived experience and trainer at Father's Nurturing Program 

Description: This workshop will provide understanding of what fathers go through when trying to be involved in their children's lives. The presenter will discuss biases, stereotypes and challenges that occur.  The lived experience of the presenter will ignite you to involve fathers in creative ways.  

Workshop 3
Knowing Your Child as a Soul and the Healing of Mental Health Distress 
Presenter: Diana Bella

Description: Psychology was considered the "care of the soul" but we have lost that connection in our current treatment approaches,  What if mental health problems are really about the soul? And the disturbances are due to the soul trying to align with the body and needing more help and assistance in that process? Wouldn't we have different approaches?  The sould is the domain of eternal life and holds the power of the creative and healing force of Light. Learn how to connect with the redemptive qualities of the soul in overcoming emotional and mental health distress and coming into greater alignment with truth, love, peace, joy and a balanced sacred life. 

Workshop 4
Child Requiring Assistance (CRA) - A User's Guide  
Presenter: Rebecca Pries, Co-Chair of the Massachusetts Alliance of Juvenile Court Clinics 

Description: What happens when a child is brought into Juvenile Court on a CRA for truancy, running away, or repeatedly failing to obey a parent's lawful and reasonable commands or a school's regulartions?  Rebecca Pries, LMHC, CJCCI, co-author with Carol Rosenweig, Esq., of their new book Kids and the Law: A User's Guide to the Juvenile Court/Los Menores y la Ley will discuss and present materials about the CRA process.  Rebecca currently servies as co-chair of the Massachusetts Alliance of Juvenile Court Clinics.  


(for Parents/Caregivers and Professionals)  

Workshop 5

"Parent Intel":  What It Is and How to Use It - in Parenting and in Collaboration with Your Child's Clinicians 
Presenter: Deborah Vlock, PhD, Mental Health Mom and Author of Parenting Children with Mental Health Challenges: A Guide to Life with Emotionally Complex Kids. 

Description: As parents, we are, in many way, our kids' top mental health specialists. We're present at the best and worst of times. We've seen their lives play out in the most public and intimate spaces, day by day.  We know what their emotional dysregulation looks like at 3 a.m. on Christmas Day and in the pre-snowstorm madness at Market Basket.  We cradled them and looked into their eyes when they were tiny; now, we try one day at a tine to keep them safe and moving forward. Much of what we know about mental-health parenting we've learned by doing - or via the wisdom of other mental-health parents. That 24/7 lived expereince if our "parent intel."

In this workshop we'll discuss how to tap into that hard earned parent intel on the fly (at home in moments of crisis, or out and about) and some ways we can share intel with our kids' practitioners, with the goal of improving clinical outcomes. 

 Workshop 6

Parent Checklist for School Resource Officers (SRO) in Your Child's School 

Presenter: Lisa Thurau, Esq., Chief Executive Officer/Executive Director, Strategies for Youth 

Description: The Parent Checklist was created in response to an incident in South Carolina where a deputy sheriff threw a girl across a classroom for failing to relinquish her cell phone.  Before the incident, parents for youth in that school district had been workin g to better understand and delimit the role of SROs, including their use of force, when this happened. The resistance of law enforcement agencies and school districts to make transparent the rules of SROs’ engagement also led Strategies for Youth to create the Checklist. The checklist provides a set of questions key to:

  1. Obtaining data on the role and use of SROs
  2. The power of SROs, including the use of force and restraint
  3. Legal protections for their children in interactions with SROs and school personnel
  4. Treatment of children with unique needs

Workshop 7

Keys to success: How to Improve the Hospital Experience for Patients on the Autism Spectrum

Presenters: Katy Schweers, Eds, Patient and Family Educator for the Autism Spectrum Center at Boston Children’s Hospital and Kristin Coffey, MS, CCLS, Certified Child Life Specialist for the Autism Spectrum Center at Boston Children’s HospitalMichael Lewis, Director, Consortium’s Recover Project program

Description: This talk will focus on how family members and providers can work together to improve the hospital experience for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).  Presenters will discuss what makes the hospital setting especially challenging for these patients, addressing both inpatient and outpatient visits. 

Presenters will also review strategies for caregivers and providers to consider, including methods of communication and “thinking outside the box.”  The presentation focuses on how to prevent negative experiences in the medical setting, as well as what to do if challenging behaviors occur.  We will include input from Boston Children’s Hospital (BCH) staff and family members of BCH patients.


Workshop 8
When Friends Don't Come Easy ... Supporting Children Who Struggle Socially  

 Presenter: Alison Ratner Mayer, LICSW

Description: While making friends comes naturally to many children, for others it is a skill that must be learned and practiced. Child therapist Alison Ratner Mayer, LICSW will lead parents in activities to increase understanding of the social challenges children face daily, and will discuss how parents can support their child’s social development.