You Gotta Be There!

There are some events you need to attend in person to grasp the full gravity of their value. Coachella, the Kentucky Derby, a Broadway show, or a professional sporting event. These are all events that come to life when you are there. The fanfare, the tradition and experience are all better when enjoyed in person. The Alumni Powerhouse Networking Conference is such an event.

The brainchild of Foster Focus Columnist and CEO of the Fostering Change Network, Shalita O’Neale, the event is a gathering of former foster youth from across the nation. Coming off an impressive inaugural showing in 2015, the must attend event is back next month in Baltimore, Maryland.

Full disclosure; I’m the emcee of this event and may have a bias when it comes to writing about it. Am I overselling it? Not if you’re an ally or alumni of care, I’m not.

Life after care, no matter how far removed, can be difficult. The APNC is an opportunity for those who have spent time in the system to gather and discuss different avenues to a successful life. The convening is a chance for those of us who share similar backgrounds, but more importantly, share a passion for improving the foster care system, to compare notes. We discuss what works and doesn’t work in the world of foster care advocacy.

When you include the allies, you have a recipe for real change to take place. Classes on branding, policy, best practices when it comes to moving an issue forward and fundraising skills for those involved in nonprofits are all filled during the multi-day conference.

At last year’s event, the crowd was treated to a keynote speech from noted speaker Kevin y. Brown, a talk from a fundraising expert and a rousing presentation from Daniel McDaniels, a founding member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees Run DMC. McDaniels, an alum and adoptee has been friends with Shalita for quite some time and is always happy to be a part of any event she creates. His presence ignited the crowd, sending attendees to their classes with a skip in their step.

All of this comradery goes a long way in strengthening the bonds we as alumni have formed in our likeminded efforts. New friendships and professional partnerships that were formed during last year’s event have begun to bear fruit as we all prepare to reconvene. It’s inspiring to see the follow through shown by these former foster youth turned foster care professionals. For far too long, alumni of care have had to fight just a little harder to be on the same level as other advocacy groups. Events like the Alumni Powerhouse Networking Conference, allows these advocates the chance to build on, strengthen and grow the credibility that has been gained in the last 20 years.

I invite you to attend this year’s conference in Baltimore on May 20-22. Whether you are an alumni of care, an ally or someone who wants to learn more, it’s worth your time and energy to attend. People from as far away as California, as close as Baltimore and all points in between are waiting to meet you and help grow a voice that can help children in care.

Register today at you’ll be glad you did.

And then there’s the emcee…