Annual Partner Agency Conference

On February 23rd, we had the joy and privilege of hosting our annual Partner Agency Conference at the main offices of Sunshine Residential Homes.  This conference allows for the caregivers and other staff members of our partner agencies to gather and share best practices, agency updates, concerns, and inspirational stories with Free Arts and one another.  Some of the attendees included UMOM New Day Centers, Desiderata Alternative School, and A New Leaf.  We started the conference the Free Arts way, with a drum circle led by one of our Professional Teaching Artists we affectionately call, Mr. Frank.  With this infectious energy, we continued with a presentation and group discussion, led by our Program Director, Jessica Flowers, and our Program Coordinator, Erina Meneses.  Our Weekly Mentor Program Coordinator, Audrey Boyle, took the reins next to guide our participants through four art projects developed by our Curriculum Committee.  After a delicious lunch of tamale’s from Imelda’s Happy Tamales, the participants reconvened as our guest speaker, Dr. Ashley Curry, Assistant Clinical Professor from Chicago’s Erikson Institute, took to the stage.  Ashley presented on the relationship between youth and staff in child welfare agencies.  As she spoke, she engaged the audience by asking for their opinions on what they thought the youth stated were the most important elements of their relationships with their staff members.  She invited staff and caregivers to share their stories of times when they felt connected with a child.  One by one, participants grabbed the microphone and relayed heartfelt stories of how they made a difference in a child’s life.  By the end of the day, participants stated that they were happy they had the chance to connect and take a moment to celebrate the work that we all do, together.  With the help of our partner agencies, we can continue to serve children through artistic expression.