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Great Beginnings, Great Families conference kicks off in Helena August 23, 2016


August 23, 2016

Contact:  Jon Ebelt, Public Information Officer, DPHHS, (406) 444-0936

               Chuck Council, Communications Specialist, DPHHS, (406) 444-4391

Great Beginnings, Great Families conference kicks off in Helena August 23, 2016

The 4th annual Great Beginnings, Great Families conference: Connecting Families and Communities for a Child’s Best Beginning


Lt. Governor Mike Cooney will kick off the 4th annual Great Beginnings, Great Families Conference Tuesday, Aug. 23 at 9 a.m. at the Radisson Colonial Hotel in Helena by welcoming over 170 professionals from across Montana dedicated to supporting children and families.

“Our young people are the future, and we must do everything we can to help provide the best possible beginning for our children,” Cooney said. “This conference brings together people who are vital in supporting our kids, and giving them the tools they need to succeed.”

Conference attendees include Montana parent educators, public health nurses, Head Start staff, social workers, early childhood educators, and family support specialists. The purpose of the conference is to increase the knowledge of early childhood systems and infrastructure and enhance family support best practices.

The event is from August 23-25, 2016. A full agenda is posted on the Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) website at http://dphhs.mt.gov/gbgfconference#437935056-conference-location-and-schedule

DPHHS Director Richard Opper said the conference has been integral in improving the coordination among many of the key early childhood professionals in the state. “A coordinated system of support for young children and families mean that communities are better able to prepare their children for a lifetime of learning,” Opper said.

DPHHS officials add this conference will provide valuable, timely information to help attendees add to their skills and knowledge of the various topics to be covered. Leslie Lee, of DPHHS Early Childhood Services, said the first years of a child’s life are critical to lifelong health and learning.

Lee said the conference features three keynote speakers and attendees will also participate in several breakout sessions that focus on various topics such as the importance of peer supports for families, the importance of parent involvement in children’s lives, early identification and evaluation of autism, the stages of emotional development for children, and the effects of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) on children.

The first keynote speaker is Bette Hyde, Ph.D. at 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 23. The title of Hyde’s talk is “Early Childhood Development and Learning: The Science and the System.”  She is the former director of the Department of Early Learning in Washington State and has over 30 years of experience working to achieve improvements in children’s learning.

Neal Horen, Ph.D. will speak on Wednesday at 8:45 a.m. Horen is the Director of the Early Childhood Division at the Center for Child and Human Development and the Director of the HOYA clinic in the Department of Psychiatry at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.  Dr. Horen has been a leader in the field of early childhood mental health for the last two decades. His presentation is titled, “Building an Early Childhood System of Care: Do We Have to Call It Mental Health?”

J. Bart Klika, MSW, Ph.D, will provide the closing keynote address on August 25 at 8:45 a.m. entitled, “Creating the Context for Child and Family Well-Being Through Social Norms.”  Klika is currently an Assistant Professor of Social Work at the University of Montana in Missoula. His research examines the causes and consequences associated with child abuse and neglect in an effort to prevent its occurrence.

Registration is available on-site at the conference location; Radisson Colonial Hotel in Helena.  Registration opens at 7:30 am on August 23, 2016.

The event is a collaborative effort sponsored by DPHHS, Healthy Montana Families, Healthy Montana Teen Parent Program, and Montana Project LAUNCH.