Conference Keynote Presenters


Chief of the Division of Child Advocacy, Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh

Rachel Berger, MD, MPH is a Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh, chief of the division of Child Advocacy at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh and the director of child abuse research at the Safar Center for Resuscitation Research at the University of Pittsburgh. She attended medical school at Columbia University and completed her pediatric internship and residency and a fellowship in general academic pediatrics at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. Dr. Berger also completed a Master’s in Public Health at the University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health.

Over the past 20 years, her research has focused on improving identification and evaluation of suspected physical abuse using serum biomarkers, clinical decision rules and more recently, the use of the electronic health record. She has received research funding from multiple sources including National Institutes of Health, the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute and the Hillman Foundation. She has also been involved in child abuse-related policy and served on the Pennsylvania Task Force for Child Protection and as the research lead for the Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities (CECANF). She is a currently a senior policy fellow for Casey Family Programs.


Director, American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law

Prudence Beidler Carr is the Director of the American Bar Association’s Center on Children and the Law in Washington DC, where she manages a team of attorneys and staff who work on children’s law projects throughout the country. Prudence provides substantive expertise on Center projects related to federal legislation, child welfare and immigration, and legal representation.

Immediately before joining the Center, Prudence lived in Mexico City where she partnered with JUCONI, a Mexican organization that helps street-living youth reintegrate with their families. Previously, Prudence worked in the General Counsel’s Office at the Department of Homeland Security, where she managed class action, appellate and Supreme Court litigation and advised senior leaders on the legal effects of immigration and national security policies.

Prudence has served on several public interest and education boards, including the Insight Center for Community Economic Development in California and the Law Board at Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law. Prudence has an undergraduate degree from Harvard University and a JD from Northwestern. Following law school, she clerked for District Judge Paul S. Diamond in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.


Former Associate Commissioner of the Children’s Bureau

Carol W. Spigner, D.S.W. is the former Associate Commissioner of the Children’s Bureau at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families (ACF). Dr. Spigner was responsible for the administration of federal child welfare programs, including developing guidelines to the states on maltreatment and oversight of research and demonstration programs focused on neglect.

Dr. Spigner served as associate professor/clinician educator and director of the social policy program at the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy and Practice until 2010. Most recently she has served on the Pew Commission for Children in Foster Care, the Mayor’s Child Welfare Review Panel for the City of Philadelphia, and the Workgroup for the Michigan Racial Equity Task Force. She also chairs the Board of the Center for the Study of Social Policy.

A native of Los Angeles, Dr. Spigner began her career working for the Los Angeles County Departments of Adoption and Probation and received her undergraduate degree from the University of California at Riverside and her graduate degrees from the University of Southern California.

Conference Plenary Panels

Plenary Panel I: Implementing the Family First Prevention Services Act of 2018


Tom Rawlings, MA, JD., Director, Georgia Division of Family and Children Services

Daniel Heimpel, President, Fostering Media Connections

Linda Spears, MSW, Commissioner, Massachusetts Department of Children and Families

Plenary Panel II: Legal Issues and Developments in Child Protective Services


Frank Cervone, Esq., Executive Director, Support Center for Child Advocates

Nadeem Bezar, Esq., Partner, Kline and Spector

Kara R. Finck, Esq., Practice Professor of Law, University of Pennsylvania

Plenary Panel III: Predictive Analytics in Child Protective Services


Emily Putnam-Hornstein, PhD., Associate Professor of Social Work Department of Children Youth and Families, University of Southern California

Rhema Vaithianathan, PhD, Professor of Economics; Auckland University Of Technology

Richard Berk, PhD, Professor of Criminology, University of Pennsylvania

Plenary Panel IV: Navigating the Pitfalls of the Transition to Adulthood for Vulnerable Youth


John Ducoff, Esq. Chief Legal Officer, Covenant House International

Johanna K.P. Greeson, PhD, MSS, MLSP, Associate Professor of Social Work, University of Pennsylvania

Sara Jaffee, PhD, Professor of Psychology, University of Pennsylvania