This summer, The Chronicle of Social Change plans to offer a series of deep-dive webinars on the approved services under the Family First Prevention Services Act in three separate categories: parenting, substance abuse and mental health services.

But first, on June 6, we are teaming up with experts to examine the intersection of the two largest federal child welfare policy changes in decades. These webinars will be moderated by Editor-in-Chief John Kelly.

WEBINAR DATE: June 6, 2019

TIME: 10 a.m. PST/ 1 p.m. EST

Last year saw two monumental changes in the way that the federal government pays for child welfare services.

The Family First Prevention Services Act, passed by Congress in February 2018, opens up an unlimited amount of matching support for efforts to help families in crisis without resorting to foster care. And in December, the Department of Health and Human Services announced that, for the first time, states could tap into federal funds to help pay for legal representation to children and families.

Policymakers, practitioners and advocates should understand the potential effect that both will have, and the way in which the two interact. Join us for a discussion with a current state child welfare agency director, a former judge, and a leader in parent representation, where we will explore the potential impact of these reforms and how systems can best prepare to make them work together.

Meet Our Guests

Tom Rawlings was previously the director of the Office of the Child Advocate before assuming the role of interim and then permanent director for Georgia’s Division of Family and Children Services. He was the first full-time juvenile court judge in the Middle Judicial Circuit and oversaw juvenile justice and child protection cases in five counties. Rawlings was the country director for International Justice Mission in Guatemala, where he directed a child sexual abuse prosecution and treatment team. He is certified as a child welfare law specialist by the National Association of Counsel for Children and a former Fulbright Senior Specialist in law. Rawlings is the author of “Georgia Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice: Policy, Practice and Procedure.” 


Melissa Michaelis Thompson, Esq., is the executive director of the Office of Respondent Parents’ Counsel (ORPC), an independent judicial agency tasked with providing lawyers to indigent parents in child welfare proceedings. Prior to the ORPC, she served as a lead attorney at the Colorado State Public Defender’s Pueblo Regional Office, where she defended the constitutional rights of indigent defendants for seven years and was part of the office management team. Melissa Michaelis Thompson earned a juris doctorate from Wayne State University Law School, where she was an assistant editor of the Wayne Law Review, and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan.



Judge Leonard Edwards is a retired judge now working as a consultant, educator and trainer. He served as a Superior Court Judge in Santa Clara County for 26 years and then for six years as Judge-in-Residence at the Center for Families, Children and the Courts, a division of the Judicial Council of California. As a judge, he worked in the juvenile court for more than 20 years. As Judge-in-Residence he served California’s courts as a consultant specializing in juvenile and family law, domestic violence, drug courts, mediation, judicial ethics and other issues relating to children and families within the court system.




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