Mission: The parental defense alliance of utah is a non- profit organization created to provide training and assistance to attorneys who represent parents in utah's child welfare proceedings. Since 2005, the pda has successfully provided training, organizational and other resources to parental defenders across the state. From removal to reunification, or even at termination of parental rights, parental defense attorneys are committed, dedicated advocates, well-versed in the laws and practice of child welfare law in the juvenile courts. The pda is proud to support its members, and is ever seeking to provide them with resources in substantive, new, and creative ways.
Programs: Year in review fy 2017 was a year of dynamic growth for the pda. Our training opportunities reached more attorneys than ever before, and our board of directors expanded in membership and skill specialty beyond what it has provided in the past. These incredible growth opportunities did not come without challenges, and as organization, the pda was required to be more creative than ever in determining how to stretch its resources in order to best serve these growing demands. In addition to continuing to fulfill our mission to provide the best possible training and assistance to utah's parental defense attorneys, we also pursued new methods and opportunities for providing outreach and support to our members, which included the following: "adding two new board members (totaling 7 in fy2017), which expanded the board's geographical representation, as well as adding specialized expertise in particularly challenging areas of parental defense work, including appeals; "providing a number of in-person trainings, including a successful annual conference and renewal of several online training opportunities; "updating our website and using our blog and emails to provide relevant information related to child welfare to our members and contacts; "participating in trainings both locally and nationally, along with other statewide committees related to child welfare; "continuing to reimburse funds to attorneys who represent indigent parents for the purposes of appeal and expert testimony; and "reaching out as an organization to be included in a robust and ongoing national dialogue about the status of the practice of parental defense, in our jurisdiction and others. Trainings, seminars and conferences one of the main charges of the pda is to provide training opportunities for continuing legal education credit (cle) to parental defense attorneys in the state of utah. This past year we provided four different in-person training opportunities. October 14, 2016 event: multi-hour cle event location:utah court of appeals topic:appellate practice workshop presenters:judge michele christiansen, associate presiding judge of the utah court of appeals mary westby: staff attorney for the utah court of appeals kristin gerdy: director of the rex e. Lee advocacy program at the j. Reuben clark law school at byu number of registrations:approximately 40 our fall, multi-hour cle event was an appellate practice workshop. In the course of reviewing applications for reimbursement for paralegal assistance, as well as assembling case description for the case law database that we have been working on for the past two years, the board of directors identified a need for training in the area of appellate writing. Utah's unique statutory scheme requires that parental defenders file the appeal in child welfare cases. The style and format of this writing is drastically different from that which the vast majority of our members are familiar. Accordingly, we focused this training on improving this skill set. Mary westby, the staff attorney responsible for writing all of the child welfare memorandum decisions for the court of appeals, presented on tips and tricks from a clerk's point of view, focusing on points that would make petitions on appeal more likely to be selected for full briefing, as well as what makes for an excellent brief. Next, kristin gerdy, director of the rex e. Lee advocacy program at the byu law school, led a workshop on organizational techniques that improve the quality and persuasiveness of appellate briefs. Finally, judge michele christiansen then presented on what she's looking for in a brief from the position of the bench. She also engaged in a very useful dialogue on this topic with our members. We had approximately 30 people attend this in-person training event. Feedback from our survey of the event was entirely positive, with 100% of those responding rating the event as "excellent- or "good. " one survey participant said the following about this event: this group puts on one of the most consistently good series of continuing legal education courses in the state. There is very little i could suggest to improve. You do a great job. I am most grateful. The pda received approval for 3 hours of cle credit from the utah bar. The event was so successful, that the staff of the court of appeals was open to perhaps hosting a yearly event to improve training in this particularly difficult area of parental defense work. April 27-28, 2016 event: annual parental defense conference location:the zermatt resort and spa, midway, utah number of registrations:171 presenters: "keynote: the project to enhance permanency by christine sabino kiesel, esq. "getting an early start on cases: panel discussion by mckette hinkins allred, janell bryan, and jason richards, moderated by david boyer "successful strategies for effective parent time by tara adamson, cmhc "preservation: starting with the appeal in mind by mark tanner, pda board of directors "celebrity match game professionalism and civility challenge by grant dickinson, pda board of directors "advancing your argument by professor kristin gerdy, director of the advocacy program at the j. Reuben clark law school at byu and kirstin norman, executive director of the pda "case law update by mary westby, staff attorney for the utah court of appeals "ethics: dealing with difficult clients by lisa lokken, lokken & associates, p. C. "the brain architecture game administered by the pda board of directors "legislative update by tara harrison, associate general counsel for the office of legislative research this year's conference had the largest number of registrants for a parental defense conference ever hosted by the pda. We had 171 persons register, which is approximately 13% more than the two previous years of the conference. Additionally, of those 171 registrants, 163 actually attended, where our typical attendance is usually between 130-140, which represents a growth in the number of actual attendees nearer 25%. This growth provided challenges, one of which was finding sufficient lodging for all attendees. We ended up needing to sign a contract with the nearby homestead resort for overflow. Despite these challenges, administration of the conference went very smoothly, and the increased attendance did not ultimately impact the function or quality of the conference. July 14, 2017 event:lunch cle location:utah county public defender's office, provo, ut topic:enhancing permanency presenter:margaret lindsay number of attendees: 9 following up on the keynote address at the pda annual conference, margaret lindsay held an afternoon cle event addressing how the enhance permanency hearings. She drew her remarks from some of the data that christine kiesel had presented at our annual conference as to what factors are most likely to contribute to better outcomes for parents and families. She then led a discussion on what efforts practitioners could specifically make in the 4th district to make some of these factors a reality. One example was for attorneys to ask for 2 hours of parent time a week instead of settling for the customary 1 hour per week that is currently adhered to by most courts. It was a great opportunity for practitioners in the 4th district to meet margaret and unify their efforts to push for system change that will be better for families in ways that are realistic and meaningful. July 28, 2017 event:lunch cle location:frontier grill, roosevelt, ut topic:practical tips and resource review presenter:mark tanner number of attendees:5 mark tanner presented a lunch cle training to attorneys in the 7th and 8th districts that addressed some practical tips, particularly focused on preservation techniques, and a case review of two utah supreme court cases that had been handed down in the past year that impacted parental defense that he had worked on personally. He also did a resource review for the members who attended so they would know exactly how the pda was equipped to assist them in their practice. Given the geographical remoteness of these districts, we were very happy with the turnout. Several of the attendees specifically mentioned how grateful they were that the pda would make the effort to come out to them for the training event. We understand that these are some of our most underserved members, and that familiarizing them with the pda resources available to them is of paramount importance. It also offered the unique opportunity for mr. Tanner to meet face to face with attorneys he often doesn't get to see, so that they could feel connected to their representative on the pda board of directors. These small lunch training opportunities are incredibly valuable to the pda, particularly in helping us become more acquainted with the unique needs our members have in their different geographic locales. We plan on continuing these training opportunities in the future, with a goal to continually rotate to some of the more rural district