2018 AFCC-O 10th Anniversary Conference

Our conference events were held on October 18-19, 2018

Thanks to the approximately 250 professionals who attended our Tenth AGM and Annual Conference,

The Future of Youth: Moving Beyond Risk to Resilience. 

October 19, 2018

We had an amazing turnout for the educational events on Thursday and Friday. We appreciate your ongoing participation and sponsorship.


We had a sold out crowd attend our Celebration of Excellence Evening Reception at the National Club by presenting “10 in 10” with our Award of Excellence in Family Justice. 

Unfortunately, we are not able to send out a survey seeking your feedback for our two-day conference activities. However, your thoughts and comments are important and assist us to make plans for future conferences.  Please send us your comments via email to: info@old.afccontario.ca.  

To kick off our 10th Anniversary celebrations, AFCC-O honoured TEN outstanding Judges, psychologists, lawyers, social workers, financial professionals, academics and other professionals with our

Award of Excellence in Family Justice. 


The award was given to TEN (10) individuals or institutions to acknowledge their exemplary contributions to the field of family law and justice in Ontario.  The recipients all made significant contributions demonstrated by one or more of the following principles:

  • contributions to the ability of families to access family justice;
  • research that has contributed to an understanding of the needs of families;
  • mentorship and leadership to newer professionals;
  • development and sharing of novel and innovative best practices;
  • promotion of collaborative and interdisciplinary practices;
  • creation and development of tools that assist practitioners (ie. software, screening tools, assessment tools);
  • development and promotion of information and resources that help families navigate the family justice system;
  • preparation of important educational resources, precedents and educational materials and/or commitment to continuing professional development activities;
  • community advocacy on behalf of families and children and or issues related to families;
  • advocacy, in and out of the court setting, particularly on behalf of vulnerable or underserviced populations; and/or
  • contributions specifically related to the understanding of the needs of children and advocacy for them.

Please join us in congratulating our ten award recipients:

Dr. Rachel Birnbaum
patti cross
Justice George Czutrin and Justice Emile Kruzick
DivorceMate Software Inc.
Mr. Philip Epstein
Dr. Barbara Fidler
Dr. Peter Jaffe
Mr. Alfred Mamo
Justice Joyce Pelletier
Professor Carol Rogerson and Professor Rollie Thompson

Thursday, October 18, 2018

LOCATION: The National Club, 303 Bay Street, Toronto, ON

Pre-conference Institute

Supporting Adopted Youth to Maintain Openness Connections with Birth Family and Communities

1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Elizabeth McCarty, Counsel, Office of the Children’s Lawyer;
Jennifer Gallagher, Counsel, Office of the Children’s Lawyer;
Pat Convery, Executive Director, Adoption Council of Ontario;
Maryanne King, Adoption Practitioner, Accredited Family Mediator (OAFM); and
Tara Noble, Registered Social Worker & Grief Counsellor.

Adopted children and youth benefit when they are able to maintain positive connections with their birth family members and maintain cultural connections. These relationships can be complex and difficult to navigate for youth and their adoptive and birth families. Everyone involved needs education, guidance and support along the way. The best defence is a good offence. This conference will review the benefits and challenges of openness arrangements and the legal framework of openness in Ontario. You will learn how to help families build supportive plans that can address conflict resolution, grief and loss, social media and potential legal issues through an adoption lens. You will also hear directly from adopted youth as they discuss:
• the importance of children’s voices in openness planning; and
• the significance of continued connections to family and community for youth as they transition to adoptive homes.
Learn how you can transfer your clinical and legal skills gleaned from working with high conflict families to now assist in planning and providing guidance to families and youth trying to navigate these increasingly complex but important relationships.

This session contains 30 minutes of Professionalism content as certified by the Law Society of Ontario.

New Professionals Event

Parenting Issues in Family Law: Working with Assessors, Mediators and Other Family Professionals

4:30 p.m. to 5:45 p.m.

Christine Kim, RSW, Accredited Family Mediator (OAFM);
Dr. Shely Polak, RSW, Accredited Family Mediator (OAFM);
Julie Hannaford, Lawyer; and
Justice Wendy Malcolm, Senior Advisory Family Judge of the Ontario Court of Justice.

Parenting issues in family law are often best resolved through an interdisciplinary approach. This year, we invite our new professionals (and seasoned veterans) to join us for a special panel discussion on an issue that affects everyone. This unique session will provide attendees with multiple valuable perspectives, designed to provide those working in family law matters with guidance on how to work together to achieve outcomes that reduce conflict and promote the well-being of children.

This session contains 20 minutes of Professionalism content as certified by the Law Society of Ontario.

Evening of Excellence – 10 in 10 Awards

Cocktails: 4:45 p.m. to 6:15 p.m.

Dinner: 6:15 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Join AFCC Ontario Chapter as we celebrate our 10 year anniversary at an elegant dinner at Toronto’s historic National Club. Ten Awards of Excellence will be given to the leading Judges, Mediators, Psychologists, Social Workers, Lawyers and Academics who have influenced the sphere of family justice over the past ten years.

Dinner will begin with a cocktail hour. Dress is business attire.

Please direct registration inquiries  to our conference planner Natalie Savage at:


or call


AFCC Ontario Chapter members are eligible for discounts to attend our chapter events

Memberships are offered via our AFCC International website at:  www.afccnet.org/become-a-member 

If you require assistance with joining or renewing your membership you may contact AFCC at:

afcc@afccnet.org or by calling 1-608-664-3750 for assistance.

Please refer to specific program credits as shown in our conference brochure.

Pre-Conference Institute on Thursday, October 18: .5 (30 minutes) Professionalism Content

10th Annual Conference (full day attendance) on Friday, October 19: 1  Professionalism Hour Content, and 1.5  EDI Professionalism Hours Content.

Our conference is also recognized by both the American Psychological Association, and the Ontario Association of Social Workers for continuing education.



(top right corner of webpage)

Friday, October 19, 2018

Location: Toronto Reference Library, Bram & Bluma Appel Salon, 789 Yonge St., 2nd Floor, Toronto, ON

10th AGM and Annual Conference,

The Future of Youth: Moving Beyond Risk to Resiliency 

8 a.m. Registration opens, AGM 8:30 a.m., Conference begins at 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Keynote Plenary Session: Dr. Michael Ungar

9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.

Dr. Michael Ungar is among the best known writers and researchers on the topic of resilience in the world. His work has changed the way resilience is understood, shifting the focus from individual traits to the interactions between people and their families, schools, workplaces, and communities. As the Canada Research Chair in Child, Family and Community Resilience and Professor of Social Work at Dalhousie University, as well as a family therapist, he has helped to determine the most important factors that influence the resilience of children and adults during periods of transition and stress.


Morning Breakout Sessions

10:50 a.m. to 12 noon (participant to choose session A or B)

Session A: Reducing Risk and Fostering Resilience in Children and Youth Exposed to Intimate Partner Violence

Dr. Ramona Alaggia, Associate Professor, Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto; Justice Ronald P. Kaufman, Superior Court of Justice (Family Court Branch). Facilitation by Dr. Michael Ungar.

Divorce is well understood to be a life event that children might experience as an adversity. This is further exacerbated when separation and divorce occurs due to intimate partner violence (IPV). Large scale studies in Canada have found that 10%-13% of children have been exposed to IPV which is the most frequently investigated and substantiated form of maltreatment in Ontario. Children from these unions are often exposed to seeing, hearing, and feeling emotional, physical, psychological abuse and/or coercive control of a care-giver. This puts them at potential risk for a host of psychological difficulties, internalizing and externalizing problems, trauma effects, relational issues, and academic difficulties. However, there are significant opportunities for fostering resilience after such adversity.
Dr. Alaggia’s research on resilience processes with IPV exposed children and youth has identified important opportunities for resilience promotion. Case examples illustrating the complex
interactions involving the dynamics of divorce and IPV exposure will be provided and discussed as these apply to practice.

This session contains 15 minutes of Professionalism content as certified by the Law Society of Ontario.


Session B: Understanding Risk and Practical Solutions: Youth and Drugs

Loree Hodgson-Harris, Manager of Legal Services, Chatham-Kent Children’s Services; Jodee Anderson, Director of Service, Children’s Mental Health, Chatham-Kent Children’s Services;
Dr. Tim Baker, Clinical & Developmental Psychologist; Dr. Balaji Gopidasan, Psychiatrist; and Justice Brian Scully, Ontario Court of Justice.

This session will focus on the need to work from an interdisciplinary perspective when dealing with the youth drug crisis. This workshop will explore the impact of the misuse of drugs on youth from a medical, psychological, legal and clinical perspective including the challenges faced by service providers and families both from a perspective of youth misuse and youth exposure to drug addiction. It will provide an enhanced knowledge base regarding various drugs and the impact on youth brain functioning both short term and long term; recognizing the signs and symptoms of intoxication; and recognizing the signs of and symptoms of withdrawal. There will be a focus on the interplay and challenges faced in child welfare, youth justice, psychiatry, and children’s mental health including a solution-based approach to address said challenges through panel discussion and collaboration with the group at large. The structure of the workshop will include a presentation by interdisciplinary team and small group discussions.


12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Luncheon Presentation

Path to Strengthening Families: Supporting At-Risk Youth from Conflict Zones

Sahar Atalla, MBBCh, MSc, MPH

Sahar Atalla has over 20 years of experience working with multicultural communities, coordinating community-based projects and promoting integration strategies among newcomer communities. Her current role as the Strengthening Families Program coordinator at the Muslim Resource Centre For Social Support and Integration , London, Ontario, allows her to use her expertise in attaining cultural competency when supporting at-risk youth coming to Canada from conflict zones. The presentation highlights the role of the Strengthening Families Program as a family-based intervention in  acknowledging how youth are entangled in a web of multiple challenges that include the unique struggles of becoming a teenager while also dealing with PTSD, adapting to a new and primarily individualist culture, and living with family that may also be struggling with similar challenges. This program emphasizes the importance of family as a cohesive unit when trying to untangle this web of challenges. A family-focused, as opposed to a youth-only focused, prevention and intervention program allows this unique project to enhance resiliency in these at-risk youths, while at the same time maintains their collectivist ideologies. Further, this unique program attempts to fulfill the best interest of the youth by collaborating with different service providers, such as schools, as an attempt to attain a culturally integrative response.

   This session contains 15 minutes of Professionalism content as certified by the Law Society of Ontario.

Afternoon Breakout Sessions

1 p.m. to 2:15 p.m. (participant to choose session A or B)

Session A: Trauma and Resilience: Focus on Gender and Diversity

Dr. Christine Wekerle, Associate Professor in Pediatrics, McMaster University, and Savanah Smith.

Adolescence is a pivotal developmental period of risk, especially in the area of sexual violence (SV). Longitudinal study from the US points to the roles of prior exposure to parental partner violence and current exposure to violent pornography to be predictive of the emergence of a range of sexual violence perpetration (sexual harassment, sexual assault, coercive sex). Gender differences include current aggression (girls) and psychological dating abuse victimization (boys) in predicting odds of first sexual assault (Ybarra & Thompson, 2018). LGBT youth are three times more likely to be diagnosed with PTSD than their non-LGBT counterparts, and have higher rates of SV experiences. Current toxic stress frameworks – adverse childhood experiences, trauma-informed care – have pointed to the resilience potential of addressing trauma impacts directly. This workshop will discuss issues of trauma and resilience in the context of gender and diversity. Key findings from an Ontario-based child welfare study – the Maltreatment and Adolescent Pathways (MAP) Study – will be integrated with evidence-based practical strategies for galvanizing youth resilience. Based on MAP Study findings, as well as findings from a Canadian team investigating gender and sexual violence victimization (CIHRTeamSV; www.incar. ca), this workshop will address the “What about the boys?” question in how to support early entry into health and wellness behaviours, particularly in terms of recognizing the under-identified and significant contribution of SV in males to their aggressive and self-destructive behaviours.


Session B: Building Resilience in Indigenous Youth: Cultural and Contextual Understandings

Elaine Toombs and Kristy Kowatch, Lakehead University, with support from Dr. Aislin Mushquash, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, Lakehead University and Dr. Christopher Mushquash, Associate Professor, Lakehead University & Northern School of Medicine, and Justice Gerri Wong, Ontario Court of Justice

Fostering resilience can build strength and support pathways to perseverance with Indigenous youth, such as supporting mechanisms that reduce the likelihood of youth experiences with the criminal justice system. Indigenous models within applied resilience-based research can differ from non-indigenous models of care. This workshop will explore existing Indigenous models of resilience and relate such models to present day youth mental health outcomes. Strategies to increase resilience with Indigenous youth will be explored. Unique factors pertaining to Indigenous youth have been related to community-based resilience including autonomy and access, as well as support and connectedness. Incorporating Indigenous models of resilience-based research within the criminal justice system should include relational approaches of measurement and collaborative methods that engage Indigenous youth and their communities. Current examples of preliminary strategies to foster resilience within Indigenous youth outcomes identified within communities will be explored and future directions of research to promote Indigenous youth outcomes identified within Indigenous communities will be provided. The session will conclude with a discussion about how a cultural gulf between a non-indigenous lawyer and this client group can comprise the quality of legal service provided, and explore the practical steps that we can – and must – take in our own communities and workplaces to enhance the diversity of our local bar.

   This session contains 1 hour and 15 minutes of EDI Professionalism content as certified by the Law Society of Ontario.

Community Pop-Ups Responses: Your Community Initiatives

2:40 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

After brief presentations of unique community-based initiatives, Dr. Ungar will facilitate a discussion on best practices for resiliency.

1. Vulnerability and Resiliency in Court Involved Youth

Dr. Joyce Radford, C.Psych., Director of Clinical Intervention Services, London Family Court Clinic and Dr. Debbie Chiodo, Ph.D., Evaluator, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health; Assistant Professor, Western University, will engage participants in a better understanding of risk factors associated with the lives of justice involved youth. For the past three years, the London Family Court Clinic has implemented an innovative intervention in its community known as the Service Coordination Project to help mitigate some of the risk factors in the lives of youth, and improve their trajectory in regards to poverty. This intervention has been developed with the intention to help youth move beyond risk to resilience, and provide them with the skills and opportunities to flourish. Participants will learn about the benefits of service coordination to help youth and their families be resilient as well as how to work collaboratively with the various systems and sectors involved with court involved youth.

2. Resilience In Youth: Presenting an App for Youth Experiencing Challenge

Dr. Christine Wekerle will present on adolescence as a critical developmental period of both risk and resilience. For youth victims of violence, there may be a struggle between disclosing and reaching out for help. Resilience includes successful stress coping ability that reflects functionality across domains for youth, including school, managing their involvement in formal systems, interpersonal relationships, and navigating prevailing gender norms. A CIHR team grant on sexual violence victimization among males has identified several issues in emotion regulation among adolescents and young adults and issues in resilience. An App, JoyPop, has been developed that focuses on enhancing positive affect and engaging in positive activities to promote day-to-day resilience.

3. Crossover Youth: Understanding Mental Health Difficulties

Hailey Kolpin, B.A., M.A. Candidate, Counselling Psychology, at Western University, London, Ontario will introduce the concept of crossover youth and discuss the presence of mental health problems. Focus will be given to the role mental health difficulties play in the trajectory to the youth justice system. This presentation will finish with a few recommendations for working with crossover youth, particularly those with mental health challenges.

4. Bridging Diverse Worldviews: Hearing the Voice of Indigenous Youth through Collaboration

Dr. Kimberly Harris, C.Psych. and Sue Doxtator, M.S.W., Director of FNMI & Diversity Service Coordination, London Family Court Clinic, will note that there is an over-representation of Indigenous youth in the correctional system. In an effort to address the underlying disproportionality, LFCC and Indigenous partners have endeavored to design a culturally responsive framework to assess Indigenous youth who struggle with challenges of mental health, substance abuse, and trauma. This initiative was undertaken as a bridge to mainstream practitioners to appropriately assist in supporting an understanding of Indigenous youth according to their cultural standards, values and customs and is a particularly necessary first step in culturally appropriate preventative approaches that address risk factors, social development, and suicide risk. This collaboration encourages our partners to focus on youth’s holistic well-being, strengths; understanding youth at risk, and building the youth’s resilience.

    This session contains 30 minutes of Professionalism content as certified by the Law Society of Ontario. This session also contains 15 minutes of EDI Professionalism content as certified by the Law Society of Ontario.


Final Plenary

Win-Win is an Attitude, Not an Outcome: Family Mediation in Ontario

Presentation on AFCC Ontario Research

4 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Dr. Denise Whitehead, Assistant Professor in Sexuality, Marriage and Family Studies at St. Jerome’s University in the University of Waterloo, JD, Ph.D. in Family Relations and Human Development and Dr. Rachel Birnbaum, Ph.D., LL.M, Professor, King’s School of Social Work at Western University will share findings from the research taking place on family mediation.

Special Thanks to our 2018 Sponsors!!