With the theme, “Rebuilding and Sustaining Communities: Lessons from Katrina,” the Montclair State University College of Education and Human Services’ Department of Family and Child Studies held its first annual conference on November 5, 2009 in Memorial Auditorium on the University’s campus. Co-sponsored by The Beloved Community Mission Project, an organization based in Montclair that works with children affected by Hurricane Katrina, the conference was attended by more than 250 faculty, students, human services professionals, educators, and members of the community.
Keynote speaker Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president of the Children’s Defense Fund and a lifelong advocate for disadvantaged Americans, was introduced by Dr. Katia Paz Goldfarb, chair of the Family and Child Studies Department. A multiple honorary degree and award recipient, Edelman’s honors have included the Albert Schweitzer Humanitarian Prize, the Heinz Award, a MacArthur Foundation Prize Fellowship, and in 2000, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian award, and the Robert F. Kennedy Lifetime Achievement Award for her writings.
Edelman discussed her work and described the devastating health, emotional, nutritional, and educational conditions which one out of five children in America endure. Furthermore, she addressed in detail the current condition of children’s poverty and its intersection with race, as well as the particular situation of “Katrina’s Children.” She ended her presentation by exhorting the University community to actively engage in improving the life of all children.
College of Education and Human Services Dean Ada Beth Cutler opened the conference welcoming the audience and presenters, and emphasizing the college’s commitment to social justice. Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Willard Gingerich added his agreement saying in his welcome remarks that “The Department of Family and Child Studies is a prime example of that commitment, educating over 1,300 students a year to graduate with the knowledge and skills to make a difference in the lives of children.”
The keynote address was followed by a panel presentation featuring Dr. Gwen Parker-Ames from The Beloved Community Mission Project; Dr. David Abramson, Director of Research, National Center for Disaster Preparedness, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University; Dr. Michelle M. Thompson from the University of New Orleans Department of Planning and Urban Studies; Victoria Goff, National Coordinator of Volunteer Ministries in conjunction with Habitat for Humanity; and Zakenya Perry from Brad Pitt’s Make it Right Foundation.