2024 Chief Justice Max Baer Children’s Summit

This year marks the twentieth year I have been involved in Pennsylvania’s Dependency Court Improvement work. The first several years were dedicated to visioning, planning, and strengthening relationships. That time was well spent, as our original structure, the Children’s Roundtables, developed in 2004, continues today! 

This structure includes local county groups known as Children’s Roundtables, like-size county groups known as Leadership Roundtables, and a statewide group known as the State Roundtable.  Each group creates space to discuss mutual concerns, develop solutions that fit the majority, and strengthen relationships. 

These groups have implemented many strategies that have dramatically improved how our child welfare and dependency systems help children and families. One of these strategies is this bi-annual Children’s Summit. The Summit is designed to bring together county teams led by the dependency judge and child welfare director and state partners to continue our system improvement efforts and strengthen relationships.

I’ve intentionally mentioned the word “relationships” several times already. Because, at the end of the day, relationships matter more than just about anything. This year’s Summit theme is “REAL” (Renew, Engage, Advocate, Lead). All of these activities are accomplished through relationships. Our Summit presenters will speak directly to these issues. You’ll repeatedly hear how vital relationships are to the people we serve, each of us, and our ability to Renew, Engage, Advocate, and Lead!

In keeping with our Summit theme, I want to highlight a relationship that many of us hold dear to our hearts as “REAL” and one that ended far too soon – a relationship with the man who began this journey that we all continue. Former Chief Justice Max Baer led our work for many years, encouraging us as we implemented countless ideas, including this Summit. His work to help children and families was his life’s passion and was instrumental in transforming our Commonwealth’s child dependency system. As such, it seemed fitting to rename the Children’s Summit to the Chief Justice Max Baer Children’s Summit.  

Therefore, I am honored to welcome you to the 2024 Chief Justice Max Baer Children’s Summit. You can read more about the late Chief’s impact in the Summit materials, but suffice it to say our dependency system greatly benefited from his leadership and the collective relationships he facilitated.

I want to thank everyone who contributed to this event. Specifically, I would like to thank our Summit Planning Committee Chairpersons and my friends, Judge John Cherry, Dauphin County, and Snyder County Children and Youth Administrator, Jenn Napp Evans, Psy.D. I would also like to thank the entire planning team, our Office of Children and Families in the Courts, and AOPC staff. Without you, the Summit would not be possible.

Finally, I would like to thank every single attendee. I am confident the new knowledge and insight gained from the Summit will enhance our work to positively and permanently impact the lives of children and families.

Enjoy the Summit!

Kevin M. Dougherty, Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice