Speakers & Presentations


2018 conference information is currently being updated. We appreciate your patience.

We have a amazing line up speakers this year. Scroll below for the list of presenters. Previous year's conference information can be found on the About Us/History page.

Schylar Baber, MPA:

Schylar Baber is the Executive Director of Voice for Adoption (VFA) in Washington, DC. He has a Bachelor’s in Professional and Technical Communication from Montana Tech and a Master’s in Public Administration from the University of Montana. Schylar has dedicated his professional and volunteer life to the belief that children and youth in the child welfare system need respect, support, and family. He has served as president of the board of Montana Court Appointed Special Advocates and is currently on the board of the ChildWise Institute, FosterClub, and the Protect Montana’s Kids Commission.

Schylar’s commitment to improving the futures of children and youth in care is due, in large part, to his own life experiences. He spent 11 years in foster care before aging out without a family. When he was 25, his mentor and sixth-grade teacher adopted him. Schylar explained, “I always longed for a place to call my own and, at one point, was told that I was too old to be adopted. I knew when I grew up I wanted to dedicate myself to creating change for youth in foster care.” Schylar believes that serving, as the executive director of Voice for Adoption will allow him to continue his life’s goal of serving vulnerable—but resilient—young people. “I am excited to be part of ensuring that my foster brothers and sisters currently in the system find their own paths to permanence. I believe every child needs the benefit of a permanent and loving place to call home.”

Kendra Morris Jacobson, MA:

Kendra oversees the Oregon Post Adoption Resource Center (ORPARC) and the Oregon Adoption Resource Exchange (OARE). Honored as Senator Wyden's 2016 Angel in Adoption, she sits on the Board of Directors for Voice for Adoption, and has spent decades in the field, including work with Boys & Girls Aid, the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, and recently authored a chapter for international life story work expert, Richard Rose. In previous clinical work at OHSU, Kendra counseled children & families, led groups for adolescent depression, and contributed to research. Kendra has a unique connection to adoption, cherishes family time with her husband & sons, and runs, gardens and bakes in her spare moments.


Dr. Donna Beegle:

Donna Beegle grew up in generational migrant-labor poverty and left school at 15 to get married and start a family. At 25, she found herself with two children, no husband, little education, and few marketable job skills. Within 10 short years, she gained the confidence to get her GED and advance through to a doctoral degree in educational leadership. All these experiences provide Dr. Beegle with an authentic voice with which to speak, write, and train across the nation to break the iron cage of poverty.

As president of Communication Across Barriers, a consulting firm dedicated to building poverty-informed communities that are armed with tools to break barriers, she works directly with children and adults currently in poverty, educators, justice professionals, health care providers, social service agencies, faith-based communities, business leaders, elected officials, and others who want to make a difference for those living in the crisis of poverty. For over 27 years, Dr. Beegle’s work has spread by word of mouth to all 50 states and six countries. Dr. Beegle is also the founder of the Opportunity Community movement, which provides the foundation for a contemporary war on poverty.

Leah Brookner, MA, MSW, PhD:

Leah Brookner, MA, MSW, PhD is a professor in the School of Social Work at Portland State University - her classes focus on youth development, family systems, adoption, trauma, attachment and effective therapeutic techniques for complex families. Prior to her work at PSU, Leah was a child and family therapist, specializing in the counseling of children in foster care. Her role working directly with foster youth prompted her to expand her practice to working with adoptive children and families. Leah then spent over five years training, assessing and supporting adoptive families using a trauma-informed and attachment-centered focus. Leah's passion continues to be centered on adoption of children with trauma histories by strengthening supports for parents and caregivers. As a professor/trainer, her style elicits participation, and critical thinking with a bit of laughter along the way.

Astrid Castro:

Carol L. Chervenak, M.D.:

Carol L. Chervenak, M.D. completed her medical education and family practice residency at University of Arizona, following an undergraduate degree in Pharmacy from the University of Washington. Following clinical education in child abuse assessments in 1997, she became the medical director of ABC House, the child victim assessment center for Linn and Benton counties.
Dr. Chervenak has helped establish a medical protocol for assessing Drug Endangered Children (DEC); lectures locally and nationally on various issues related to child abuse; and continues to evaluate children for concerns of maltreatment at ABC House.

Her special interests include the impact on children of substance abuse by parents -- in their environment, while breast feeding, and from prenatal exposure.

She is on the Advisory Council for Child Abuse and Neglect; has been a member of the Oregon Governor's Methamphetamine Task Force; and is a lecturer for the Oregon and National Alliances for Drug Endangered Children.

Peter Christensen:

Peter Christensen is founder and president of Columbia River Pet Partners, a therapy animal organization of over 200 members serving the greater Portland/Vancouver area. As a licensed Pet Partners instructor, Peter has guided hundreds of volunteers and professionals in becoming registered therapy animal teams to serve in schools, libraries, businesses, assisted living homes, hospitals, hospices, and private practices. Peter enjoys speaking to community organizations, sharing his knowledge of animal-assisted interventions and how they help clients. He also has a passion for helping to eliminate the confusion over the differences in service, emotional support, and therapy animals.

Don Darland:

Don Darland and his wife Vicki have been fostering in Linn County since 1991. Don helped form the Oregon Foster Parent Association in 1996, and has served on the board in several capacities since its inception. Don spends most of his time advocating for families & children.

Michael Clearly:

Michael Clearly is a former Child Welfare case worker and now supervisor of a Teen unit in D16 (Washington county). He has been a local liaison for the ILP service array as he is deeply passionate about the transitional service for youth. He has sat on several committees and initiated a few projects how to better serve youth and has a great deal of out-of-the-box approaches to assure youth independence needs are met. I believe he meets the requested mandate of a worker with good practice and prospective to the topic of independence and homelessness.

Dr. Mandy Davis:

Dr. Davis is an Associate Professor of Practice at Portland State University’s School of Social Work and a licensed clinical social worker.  She is Director of Trauma Informed Oregon, a program primarily funded by the Oregon Health Authority, to advance trauma informed care throughout organizations and systems through training, consultation, and implementation resources. Dr. Davis teaches and lectures on implementing trauma informed care and trauma specific services. Her current interests include measuring change when organizations and systems implement the principles of trauma informed care, the impact of toxic stress on the workforce, intersectionality between equity work, and the impact of systemic oppression.

Kelli Doolittle, MA:

Kelli holds Masters degrees in both Child and Family Counseling and Art Therapy from Marylhurst University, with an emphasis in the treatment of sexual trauma in children and adolescents. She has worked in children’s mental health in the Portland area for the last 10 years, focusing on children with acute psychiatric illness and developmental trauma. Kelli has worked with CSEC youth in the Portland area almost exclusively for the last 6 years, in both community crisis intervention work and residential settings. Kelli is currently the Program Director of the SAGE program, a long term residential program for girls who have experienced chronic commercial sexual exploitation.

Jess Guerriero:

Jess is a social worker with a second graduate degree in Gender and Cultural Studies from Simmons College.  While at Simmons, Jess focused their work on a thesis that argued for the expansion of transgender health coverage and the movement toward therapists as partners, rather than gatekeepers, in the transition process.  Jess interned/ worked at Fenway Health, a community health center geared towards LGBTQI-identified individuals.  Here, Jess carried a caseload of children, adolescents, and adults who were, in some cases, navigating medical transitions.  Jess also ran a support group for parents of trans youth and established an independent consulting business to help schools, businesses, and providers implement policies that were more trans-inclusive.  Jess previously worked in Quality Management at LifeWorksNW, and served as an internal trainer at LifeWorks NW on LGBTQI-related topics and was the chair of the Transgender Care Workgroup.  Jess is currently working as an Intake and Referral Specialist at OHSU’s Transgender Health Program, helping to improve experiences for community members.  Jess uses they/them pronouns.

Jillene Joseph:

Jillene is an enrolled member of the Gros Ventre or Aaniiih people from Fort Belknap, Montana. She lives in Oregon with her life partner and children. She is the executive director of Native Wellness Institute and helped to found the national non-profit organization in 2000. She has a Bachelors of Science degree in Community Health Education and has served Indian Country for 30 years providing training and technical assistance in a variety of areas. Jillene has traveled to hundreds of Native communities and interacted with and learned from thousands of people. Whether she is providing youth leadership training, assisting women heal from childhood trauma or helping to bring wellness to the workplace, Jillene shares her passion for being positive, productive and proactive. She enjoys beading, reading, pow wowing and spending time with family and friends.

Marie McMahon, Psy.D:

Dr. Marie McMahon, Psy.D, licensed psychologist with the Providence Children’s Development Institute. Prior to working for Providence she had a private practice for more than a decade specializing in social skills development and behavioral health for children with autism, nonverbal learning disabilities, anxiety, and ADHD.

Isha-Charlie McNeely:

Isha-Charlie McNeely is a Portland Native that has lived experience in the Oregon's foster care system. She was able to overcome an adverse childhood in which she faced many barriers, to graduate both from high school and the first in her family to attend college. Charlie is determined to impact disadvantaged and marginalized youth directly by being a positive and active volunteer in her community, in addition to the work that she does full time within the child welfare system. During her time of completing dual bachelor degrees at Portland State University which includes a Bachelor’s in School Health Education and another in Community Health, she began working as a case manager/coach for Better Futures and The My Life Projects which are programs that assist youth in successfully transitioning from foster care into post-secondary education and/or the workforce. She was the Project Manager for My Life at New Avenues for Youth for two years and currently is the Outreach and Community Engagement Coordinator for Trauma Informed Oregon. Charlie is an active member in her community and is the founder and director of a non-profit called Back-2-School-FRESH which includes an annual fair that provides low-income and minority households with free backpacks, school supplies, haircuts, and hairstyles, as well as connecting them with community resources right before the school year starts. Charlie is currently working towards her master's degree in human services to further her career in policy work.

Dr. Keva Miller:

Dr. Keva M. Miller is an Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Associate Professor at Portland State University School of Social Work. Her research and publications are in the areas of criminal justice and child welfare with a particular emphasis on racial disproportionality and disparity, children and families with multi-system involvement, risk and protection, and resilience among high-stressed populations. Dr. Miller works collaboratively with criminal justice and child welfare systems to evaluate program effectiveness and enhance service delivery.

Tina Payne Bryson, PhD, LCSW:

Dr. Tina Payne Bryson is the co-author (with Dan Siegel) of The Yes Brain, as well as two New York Times Best Sellers:  The Whole-Brain Child and No-Drama Discipline, each of which has been translated into over twenty languages.  She is the Founder and Executive Director of The Center for Connection in Pasadena, CA, where she and her interdisciplinary team of professionals work together to help kids and families thrive.  She keynotes conferences and conducts workshops for parents, educators, and clinicians all over the world.  The most important part of her bio, she says, is that she is a mom to her three boys. You can learn more about Dr. Bryson at TinaBryson.com, where you can subscribe to her blog and read her articles about children and parenting. 

Robbyn Peters Bennett:

Robbyn Peters Bennett is a psychotherapist, educator, and child activist who specializes in the treatment of mental health problems due to early abuse and neglect. She has served as Clinical Director in both inpatient and outpatient mental health treatment facilities, as well as with the child protective services, foster care system and adoption support.  She has studied with the North Pacific Institute for Analytical Psychology and is Phase II certified in the Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics (NMT), a neurologically informed assessment for traumatized children with the ChildTrauma Academy. Robbyn lectures nationally on the topic of trauma and the effects of harsh punishment.  In her TED talk, she addresses the long-term effects of spanking and other forms of domestic violence on long-term health. Her life’s work is aimed at ending all forms of violence against children. She is the founder of StopSpanking.org, a non-profit dedicated to educating the public on the dangers of spanking and on positive parenting alternatives. She is board member of The U.S. Alliance to End the Hitting of Children, an organization dedicated to supporting the movement to end spanking in the US.

Matt Rasmussen:

Matt Rasmussen has been the assigned coordinator to the homeless runaway grant from legislators and embedded in the Child Welfare continuum of care team working largely working in tandem to the ILP units and foster care team. He has a great deal of knowledge and understanding of the needs and opportunity of the homeless youth and worked with all our homeless and runaway partners.

Jennifer Scholes, MA:

Jennifer has been a trainer with Portland State University’s Child Welfare Partnership for 10 years, focusing on training caregivers throughout the state of Oregon. Jennifer has also enjoyed training child welfare staff and is lead trainer of SSAs (Social Services Assistants).In addition to working as a child welfare worker in the states of Washington and Montana, Jennifer has been principal/owner of All Family Transition Services, a Continuing Legal Education Specialist with the Washington State Bar Association, a Judicial Educator with the Washington State Administrative Office of the Courts, and an Assistant Program Manager of the King County, Washington CASA Program.

Margaret Scott:

Margaret Scott holds a Masters degree in counseling psychology and has extensive experience as a parent educator, parenting consultant, and behavior analyst working with autistic children. Margaret is not only to creator of the SAGE Youth Residential program, but also oversees all of Morrison’s outpatient clinics and the community-based programs, in addition to the SAGE Program. She has extensive experience in clinical care of CSEC youth within a variety of positions over the last 10 years, and has been an active and dedicated advocate for vulnerable youth throughout her career.

Amy Stroeber, PhD:

Dr. Stoeber is a licensed psychologist in Portland, OR. She owns a private practice and works with children and families of all ages. She is endorsed in early childhood mental health and pediatric health. Dr. Stoeber serves as a member of the Healthcare Reform Taskforce for the Oregon Psychological Association. As well, Dr. Stoeber was a statewide trainer for The Department of Human Services and now works with Children’s Health Alliance to promote wellness for children of all ages in pediatric settings. Her current work is promoting resilience within pediatric medical homes.

Tiffany Sudela-Junker:

Jay Wursher:

Jay Wurscher currently serves as the Alcohol and Drug Services Coordinator for Oregon’s Department of Human Services (DHS) -- Office of Child Welfare Programs.  He’s a Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor and has been in the field of addiction treatment and prevention since 1981.  His experience includes jobs as an addiction counselor, clinical supervisor, program manager for a community based prevention program, and trainer.
He’s trained at numerous national conferences regarding substance-abuse issues in child welfare and community collaborations. He taught summer courses at the University of Oregon’s Substance Abuse Prevention Program for 26 years.  He is a member of the Oregon Health Authority’s Addictions and Mental Health Policy Advisory Council and previously served on the Governor’s Methamphetamine Task Force.
Jay grew up in Minnesota and North Dakota.  He moved to Oregon in 1983 after serving his country by floating around underwater on a submarine for the U.S. Navy.  Since then he’s gained a bunch of weight, wears tri-focals, and is losing his hair.  Happily, he’s not on any medication, eats whatever he wants as he really likes food, and refuses to contribute to the $60 billion a year diet industry -- though he’s thinking that may need to change!  He’s married and has two children, two grandsons and one Sheltie.