2022 Adverse Childhood Experiences and Resilience Webinar Series: Preparing for a Better Tomorrow

The 2022 Adverse Childhood Experiences and Resilience Webinar Series will take place Thursdays during the month of September. Mark your calendars now!

  • Sept. 8, Noon - “You Cannot Think Negative About a Child and Expect a Positive Outcome” - Derek Clark, national keynote speaker
  • Sept. 15, Noon - “Attorney ad Litem and Court Appointed Special Advocates: Their Roles in Advocating for Vulnerable and Traumatized Children” - Kathleen O’Connor and Xanthoula Groom
  • Sept. 22, Noon - Summit Award Ceremony
  • Sept. 22, 4 p.m. - “Preparing for a Better Tomorrow with ACEs Awareness and Trauma-Informed School Systems: Lessons Learned and Promising Strategies for Building a More Resilient and Responsive Education System” - Bobby Hart, Laura Abbott, and Jennifer Miller
  • Sept. 29, Noon - “Therapeutic Foster Care: Treating Complex Trauma in a Family System” - Foster Lee

Registration fee: $30

Register today!

Summit award nominations are open

Do you know someone who uses their professional role to improve the lives of children and families across our state? Or an individual who demonstrates resilience in action and uses their life experience to foster resilience in others? Nominate them for an award!

Sponsorship opportunities are available

Follow this link to learn more


Derek Clark

Motivational Speaker Derek Clark's life is one of resilience and redemption. As a child, he suffered unthinkable child abuse, abandonment and emotional distress before being turned over to the psychiatric hospital at age five. His 13 years in the San Francisco bay area foster care system reflected an early life of humiliation, aggression, emotional distress, overwhelming anxiety and being wrongfully labeled. Eventually, with the help of foster parents, a fantastic social worker and mentors, he defied the artificial limitations imposed upon him. Derek knows first-hand how to cope with adversity and overcome hardship. His past has never held him back from accomplishing what he set his heart and mind to.

Derek is an inspiring motivational speaker/trainer. His popular keynotes are "The Power of Resilience and Redemption: From Brutal Trauma to Triumph" and "You Cannot Think Negative About a Child and Expect a Positive Outcome." He is the author of seven books, including Disable the Label: Never Limit the Potential of a Child, Never Limit Your Life and the I Will Never Give Up book series. Derek's true-life trials and personal triumphs have inspired organizations worldwide with his message of resilience, hope, courage, unwavering perseverance and redemption. He recently received the International Foster Care Award through SOS Children's Village, located in 134 countries helping and protecting children.

Derek has also been a featured expert on CNN Headline News, The Steve Harvey TV Show, The Ricki Lake TV Show and other TV shows worldwide. Recently, Derek has become a viral video sensation for his "Rapping Dad" videos which have had over 250 million social media views. You may keep up with his exciting journey by following him on Facebook or his viral video Rapping Dad page.

You can find out more information about motivational speaker Derek Clark at https://www.IWillNeverGiveUp.com.


Kathleen O’Connor

Kathleen O’Connor has been an attorney ad litem in Pulaski County Juvenile Court since 1994. When Kathleen was hired by Merry Alice Hesselbein, there were only two attorneys ad litem to represent all of the children in dependency neglect cases in all three juvenile courts. Kathleen and Merry Alice were also responsible for supervising the Pulaski County CASA Director. They also helped with training of the Pulaski County CASA volunteers. Thanks to that early involvement with CASA, Kathleen learned of the importance of CASA volunteers in effecting results for children in foster care.

In 2000, the Arkansas Administrative Office of the Courts developed a statewide attorney ad litem program. Kathleen continued as an attorney ad litem in Pulaski County Juvenile Court, first in front of Judge Wiley Branton, Jr. and, more recently, in front of Judge Tjuana Byrd Manning. Throughout these years of representing foster children, Kathleen has relied upon the help of the CASA volunteers in her advocacy of the best interests of children.

Kathleen was raised in Little Rock, and she is the youngest of four children. She graduated from Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas with a B.A. in English. After college, she worked for St. Vincent Hospital in the fundraising department. While working at St. Vincent, Kathleen attended law school at night at the Bowen School of Law in Little Rock. She is a third-generation lawyer. She also clerked for Chief Justice Jack Holt, Jr. in the Arkansas Supreme Court. Kathleen and her husband are the proud parents of two wonderful adult children.

Xanthoula Groom

Xanthoula Groom is a native of Greece. She has lived in Arkansas since 1991. She became a CASA Volunteer in 2014 and has successfully advocated for permanency for many children during that time. In addition to her role as Advocate, Xanthoula is Pulaski County CASA’s Community Outreach Liaison and a Certified Trainer.

Xanthoula met her husband Bruce when he was in the military and stationed in Greece. Xanthoula and Bruce have been foster and adoptive parents. They have been married for 32 years and have 4 children and 2 grandchildren. Xanthoula is active in her church and community.

Dr. Bobby Hart

Dr. Bobby Hart is the Superintendent of Searcy Public Schools. He earned his undergraduate and Master of Science in Education degrees from Henderson State University and his Doctor of Education in Educational Administration from Texas A&M in Commerce, Texas. His research interests include the change process and schools, PBL, curriculum development and implementation, and poverty's impact on learning. He plans to use his research on these topics to provide professional training opportunities for educators.

Dr. Hart became the Superintendent of Searcy Pubic Schools in Searcy on July 1, 2021. He serves on the Southwest Arkansas Educational Cooperative’s Board of Directors and is a member of the Arkansas Association of Educational Administrators, A Framework for Understanding Poverty Trainer, Arkansas Teacher Evaluation Program committee member, Arkansas Department of Education Commissioner’s Advisory Council, Arkansas Public School Resource Center Rural Advisory board member, as well as the educational representative on the Arkansas State Police Child Abduction Response Team. In 2019, Dr. Hart was inducted into the Southern Arkansas University Educational Leadership Hall of Fame. He is a Rotarian and received the Paul Harris Fellowship recognition in February of 2017.

Jennifer Miller

Jennifer Miller has a BSE in Elementary Education and an MSE in Special Education. She has worked in educational settings with youth who have emotional and behavioral issues for 26 years. Ms. Miller began her educational career teaching in a private setting with students who had learning disabilities and emotional needs. She went on to work in psychiatric settings including Rivendell Day Treatment, as both a teacher and a director, and then The Pointe Day Treatment as a lead teacher and then director.  She currently works at Arch Ford Educational Services Cooperative. Ms. Miller has an appreciation of the challenges from the perspective of both a teacher and an administrator. Although very humble, Ms. Miller is known for her compassion and insight into working with each child based on their individual needs.  Her fellow teachers describe her as “kind, leads by example, and can be firm while showing the children love.”

Laura Abbott

Ms. Abbott is a thirty-year-plus professional educator with experience and specialized training dedicated to providing prevention education on topics of child abuse, sexual assault, domestic violence, substance misuse/abuse, and suicide ideation while implementing a data-driven Health Education classroom. Raised awareness and educated over 10,000 students with the collaborative violence intervention, mental health, and substance abuse curriculum for Health Education classes.

Laura received the Department of Justice Volunteer for Victims National Crime Victims Award. Laura serves as a Governor-appointed member of The Arkansas Suicide Prevention Council and the Arkansas Commission on Child Abuse Rape and Domestic Violence.

After surviving a near-fatal domestic violence assault in 2012, Laura partnered with lawmakers to draft legislation that included the creation of a state-wide victims’ rights card, victimless prosecution, a state-wide lethality assessment, and mandating teen dating violence/ healthy relationships education in public schools.

"Laura's Card" is a resource including information given to victims of violent crime detailing their rights and resources.

Despite the enduring trauma from her near-death experience, Ms. Abbott uses her experience and compassion to help others. Laura has brought awareness to victims’ rights, the impact of crime and trauma, mental health, suicide prevention, adverse childhood experiences, and post-traumatic growth to thousands of survivors and advocates. Ms. Abbott has presented at the Institute on Violence Trauma and Abuse (IVAT), National Organization for Victims Assistance (NOVA), and the National Center for Victims of Crime on the international and national levels.

Foster Lee, LPE-I

Foster Lee, LPE-I is an independently licensed mental health professional with twenty-eight years of experience providing services for children and adolescents. He is trained in Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and has been providing services for youth in foster care for the last thirteen years. Foster has specialized training in the treatment of adolescent males who have committed sexual offenses and is a clinical member of the Association for the Treatment of Sex Abusers. In addition, he has had extensive training in and supervision while providing Dialectical Behavioral Therapy for adolescents on his caseload. His experience includes managing an admissions/utilization review department in a community mental health center, marketing and public relations, and management of the largest therapeutic foster care program in Arkansas. Foster’s current caseload is comprised of youth who are six to twenty years of age, with half of his clients being males who have a substantiated history of sexual abuse perpetration.