Reflections on a Virtual Learning Event for State Agency Staff: The 2021 SRAD Conference
The Center for Coordinated Assistance to States (CCAS) at AIR held its annual State Relations and Assistance Division (SRAD), National Training Conference on November 8–10, 2021. The conference supports SRAD, which is a part of OJJDP. SRAD helps states and territories prevent and treat delinquency and improve their juvenile justice systems. The conference is a free training event for designated state agency staff (Juvenile Justice Specialists, Compliance Monitors, and Racial and Ethnic Disparity Coordinators) and state advisory group members. The SRAD conference usually occurs in person. For the second year in a row, it took place through virtual platforms (Aventri and Zoom) because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The CCAS team spent 7 months planning the conference. They worked with a field advisory team and SRAD staff to plan the conference. The CCAS team used feedback from past training sessions to create an agenda to meet the needs of the participants. The conference was an example of the growing partnership among CCAS, OJJDP SRAD staff, and the field. Teams from CCAS and SRAD supported every session. They developed four training sessions as part of their racial and ethnic disparity and compliance workgroups. Each workgroup created and delivered two sessions. SRAD staff gave presentations or acted as panel facilitators in eight sessions. This partnership increased the field’s access to SRAD staff. It also increased the visibility of these staff.
The agenda covered 3 days. It included five sessions that everyone attended; 10 breakout, or small-group sessions; and one session where OJJDP conversed with young adults. The conference opened with a welcome from Assistant Attorney General Amy Solomon and updates from OJJDP. In addition, a panel of people working in the juvenile justice system shared their work on current topics. Young adults shared their lived experiences. A panel of representatives from OJJDP-funded training and technical assistance centers discussed the resources and supports they developed to support improvements in the juvenile justice system. Breakout sessions covered topics such as compliance with the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act, Title II management, state advisory group activation, ways to better serve different juvenile justice populations, and racial and ethnic inequalities. Breakout sessions also highlighted the work of federal agencies, training and technical assistance centers, and states and partner agencies in different parts of the United States.
- A total of 448 people signed up for the SRAD National Training Conference. A total of 395 participants logged in to the conference platform using Zoom and viewed content.
- A total of 264 participants attended the 15 SRAD conference sessions over 3 days.
CCAS shared more than 21 documents with the field. Some resources were updates of existing materials. CCAS created other resources just for this conference and video recordings of all conference sessions. The recordings are posted with related materials on the password-protected CCAS Information Hub, on the 2021 OJJDP SRAD National Training Conference discussion page. If you would like access to these resources, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Speakers complimented the CCAS team on the work they did to communicate the conference details and prepare for the conference presentations. One speaker shared this note: “Thank you for helping me to practice and for asking the questions. You laid the foundation and created an environment where I felt open and safe to share. Without that, the level of vulnerability during the conference and honest conversation would not have been possible. Thank you for the great work and service you provide to youth and thank you even more so for being real and authentic.”
Participants said the 2022 SRAD National Training Conference gave them practical information and resources. Feedback polls showed the sessions increased participants’ knowledge in a meaningful way. They showed participants planned to use the new strategies and resources they learned in the sessions.
“This is great information! It is not always easy for us to have these conversations and maintain a balance of seemingly educated and curious!” — Conference Participant
“This was a great presentation. We would love to get more training and technical assistance on this topic.” — Conference Participant
The sessions highlighted the lived experiences of youth to build awareness of their needs. The sessions also highlighted ways to build juvenile justice systems that focus on the needs of youth. Three sessions featured presentations from experts with experience in the juvenile justice system. These experts described gaps in the system and recommended changes to policies and practices to improve services for youth and to better meet their needs. In addition, five youths participated in a youth listening session held by CCAS interns.
Discussions in these sessions focused on the following themes, or topics:
CCAS will consider these themes in their training and technical assistance activities in 2022. They hope to expand the focus on lived experience and young people in the conference and other training events. We are already excited for the 2022 SRAD National Training Conference.