BANGOR- Professionals gathered in Bangor Thursday to discuss the welfare of Maine’s children the Cross Insurance Center hosted the 25th annual Maine Child Welfare Conference
Just this week Shawna Gatto was sentenced to 50 years in prison for the beating death of 4-year-old Kendall Chick.
Nearly 300 professionals with an interest in child welfare — including former Bangor Police Chief Ron Gastia and Chris Greeley, a conference committee member — attended the conference looking for solutions to the problem of child abuse.
“We have keynote speakers and presenters today all talking about who speaks for the child when a child is in danger when the child is going through the court system because there’s parental issues, who has the voice for them, ” Gastia said.
“How do we work with communities at risk or vulnerable families to decrease their risk of abuse and neglect and perhaps increase the likelihood of success in both medical success and health as well as education and employment?” Greeley said.
A variety of workshops gave attendees chances to brainstorm over topics including recognizing signs of child abuse and neglect, promoting resilience among child sex trafficking survivors and understanding the complexities of child protective interventions.
“We all want to help children, we all want to make sure that the children grow up healthy and safe. The problem that we see is that people aren’t communicating enough, that they need to come together in situations like this where we all learn the same things, when we’re all in it for the same purpose, ” Gastia said.
Those attending the conference included everyone from public health nurses, foster parents, clinical and social workers to doctors, law enforcement officers and psychologists.
“These types of conferences bring those people together so they can network, so they can hear the same messages, so they can take tools away to try and go out in the field and help children, both here locally, in the state, across the country, ” Gastia said.