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Attendance Rates Increase, Connections Maintained through Virtual Events

By Erin Reilly, Regional Technical Assistant

It’s been nearly one year since the COVID-19 pandemic brought in-person gatherings to an abrupt halt causing the network to shift standard events and meetings to a virtual format. While there are drawbacks and we miss the richness of face-to-face interactions, a silver lining has been the ability for more members to participate in network events and for connections among the network to be maintained.

Prior to the pandemic, the cost and time of travel and day-to-day obligations prevented many agency staff from regularly attending network events. “Normally, to attend a training, I would have to set aside a large portion of my day,” explained Laura Oursler, family resource specialist with The Salvation Army, Inc. “With my busy schedule, distance and travel time became just as important as the training topic when determining which trainings to attend. I often found myself missing out on a helpful training simply for lack of time.” With the burden of travel time removed, Laura and other network members were able to free up more time in their day to participate in training and technical assistance events.

Although the 2020 Pennsylvania Permanency Conference regretfully was cancelled, the prime contract’s standard events were delivered with little disruption and experienced higher attendance rates.

2020 Events

2020 Virtual Attendance

2019 In-Person Attendance

Summer Statewide Meeting

843

399

Fall Quarterly Meeting

1,015

946

US Meetings

845

710

Trainings

5,593 (110 trainings, virtual since April)

3,127 (142 trainings, in-person)

 

Trainings and meetings are a critical strategy for guiding the network in best practices around SWAN units of service specifically and understanding of permanency practice overall. They are also a critical strategy for fostering connections, which strengthen the network enhancing outcomes for children. As Laura from The Salvation Army reports, “With the convenience of the virtual format, I didn’t have to pick and choose which trainings to attend. It was easy to say yes to multiple opportunities, which has really allowed me to develop a deeper understanding of the various units of service and how they work together to support our children and families.”

Despite pandemic limitations, events and meetings continue to be a successful vehicle for meeting the network’s learning needs and bolstering relationships among partners and providers. Laura is representative of the network as she concludes, “I definitely feel more prepared and confident in my role, which I hope will lead to better outcomes for my clients.” While we can’t predict when pandemic restrictions will loosen, we know that virtual events are engaging more network members in professional development, which is a win for children and families.

Erin Reilly is a SWAN regional technical assistant in the northeast. Previously, Erin worked as a SWAN LSI paralegal in Bucks County and as a case manager for two SWAN affiliate agencies. After eight years of working in child welfare, Erin continues to learn something new every day. She is inspired by everyone’s creativity during COVID times to find new ways to achieve permanency for Pennsylvania’s children and youth.

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Published: Feb. 9, 2021

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assistance Conference permanency Statewide SWAN technical technical assistance training youth

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