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Annual child protection conference returns May 10-11 in Fargo

Red River CAC Team Members

Covering an area of 20,000 square miles across eastern North Dakota, northeastern South Dakota, and northwestern Minnesota, the Red River Child Advocacy Center sits nestled within all of this large, beautiful, coverage area. At the Fargo-based center, located just minutes from the Minnesota border, Program Manager Deb Nagle is preparing for the 12th-annual spring training, frequently dubbed “The Fargo Conference” among child advocacy and child protection professionals. The two-day event starts Wednesday, May 10 at the FargoDome.

“We try every year to discuss a variety of topics and make it a broad-ranging conference that will meet the needs of child protection workers, nurses, and law enforcement,” says Nagle. The event is open to everyone, and even offers material for teachers and school personnel, as well as Continuing Legal Education credits for interested attorneys.

This year’s conference is expected to draw over 200 professionals from across North Dakota, South Dakota, and Minnesota. At $60 a ticket, the event may be the most value-focused of any event in the region all year. “This year we have two ‘themes’ for the conference, one for each day. The first day is the ‘Medical Day’, and is going to be useful for primary care providers, nurses, ER staff, and clinicians in child protective work,” says Nagle.

“The first day of the conference includes Doctor Michael McGee, our medical examiner, discussing the investigation of infant and childhood deaths. Dr. Nancy Sanders-Harper is discussing child abuse recognition and evaluation. Both of those sessions, plus Dr. Arne Graff’s afternoon session and others mean attendees are going to learn about what they can contribute to a child neglect or abuse investigation,” she says.

“The second day is about sex offenders. Corey Jewell Jensen is going to break down the anatomy of a sex offense. She will talk about what investigators should know about how sex offenders select and groom their victims, and what factors they exploit to inhibit reporting,” says Nagle. In the afternoon, Jewell Jensen will be talking about studies she’s done to help law enforcement illicit a legal and safe confession. The second day will close with a discussion of pornography and its effect on children, offenders, and society.

Now the 12th year for the conference, Nagle is still in her first at Red River CAC. “I started in June 2016, after working for child protection in Minnesota for 19 years. I was trained as a forensic interviewer and had even conducted interviews here at Red River CAC. Coming here was an easy move for me to make,” she said.

“Our Center has been growing. We cover a wide area, including four Native American reservations,” says Nagle. A satellite office an hour north in Grand Forks helps reduce travel time for families coming from that direction.

Red River CAC served around 500 children last year, up slightly from 2015. In the spirit of the National Children’s Alliance accreditation standards, Red River is showing that centers and multidisciplinary team members of all sizes have a duty to protect every child, regardless of population density or coverage area.

“Over the years, people have consistently said they really liked the presenters,” says Nagle. The event concludes at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 11 with a silent auction for various gift baskets. “These are really good baskets,” says Nagle, adding, “it’s a little bit of a fundraiser for us.” Partner agencies and area supporters contribute everything from weekend getaways at lodges and hotels, golf packages, Fargo Red Hawks baseball tickets, to Fargo Force hockey tickets and autographed items.

To learn more about Red River CAC, see the full agenda, and download a registration form to attend the conference, visit www.rrcac.org.