Conference to focus on children, youth

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 19, 2006

NATCHEZ &8212; The annual conference &8220;Lookin&8217; to the Future&8221; opens today at the Natchez Convention Center, with approximately 400 scheduled to attend from throughout the state.

The three-day event, sponsored by the Southern Christian Services for Children and Youth, provides workshops, seminars and programs for professionals and volunteers who work with children and youth.

Social workers, therapists and counselors who work for state, nonprofit and private agencies will attend, as will volunteers who work with churches and youth agencies, for example.

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Natchez-area residents are invited to attend any of the programs, said Susannah Cherney, executive director of Southern Christian Services.

Hurricane Katrina had an influence on the conference theme, &8220;After the Storm,&8221; Cherney said. &8220;But that is not the only meaning. Children and youth face trauma after any catastrophic event in their lives.&8221;

Mississippi agencies have identified thousands of children in the state as abused, neglected or diagnosed with behavioral problems. This training conference seeks to encourage as well as further educate workers in dealing with those children, Cherney said.

&8220;There will be 48 different workshops on a variety of issues,&8221; she said. &8220;The keynote speaker is Tonette LaGrone of Ocean Springs. She&8217;s a Katrina survivor who lost everything. She also is an art therapist and has been a teacher.&8221;

Dr. Neha Mehta of Sunrise Children&8217;s Hospital in Las Vegas, is &8220;one of the foremost experts in child maltreatment. She will talk about child abuse,&8221; Cherney said.

Scott Miller, who spoke at the conference in Natchez two years ago, is returning to hold several sessions, including a round-table luncheon discussion.

Miller is a therapist, lecturer and trainer and founder of the Institute of the Study of Therapeutic Change.

Natchez speakers include Adams County Youth Court Judge John Hudson and the Rev. Steve Pearson.

Hudson will speak on &8220;Youth Court, the View from the Bench.&8221; Pearson, pastor at Community Chapel Church of God, will present &8220;How to Maintain a Healthy Attitude in the Workplace.&8221;

&8220;Something new this year will be that we&8217;ll have about 35 children coming,&8221; Cherney said. Most are children of foster or adoptive parents. &8220;They will have activities and will go to places in Natchez such as the Boys and Girls Club.&8221;