Join Us

The Alberta Foster and Kinship Association's 50th Annual Caregiver Training Conference

Don’t miss our 50th anniversary of this incredible event. We can’t wait to see you there!

June 6-8, 2024 - Calgary, Alberta

Open Hearts,
Valued Voices: Empowering Caregivers

For 50 years, we have proudly hosted our annual conference, a cornerstone event that reflects our commitment to learning, connection, networking, relaxation, and fun.

This year, as we embrace the theme “Open Hearts, Valued Voices,” we’re thrilled to announce two significant changes designed to make the conference more accessible and enjoyable for everyone across Alberta.

New Location, Broader Accessibility: Understanding the diverse locations of our valued members, we’ve moved the conference from the beautiful but remote Jasper to the vibrant and accessible city of Calgary. This change ensures that more caregivers and professionals can join us without the long journey, making it easier for our community to come together.

A Warmer Welcome in June: Traditionally held in November, a time often marked by cold and snow, especially in Jasper, we’ve shifted the conference to June.

This change promises warmer weather and aligns with a season of renewal and growth, reflecting the spirit of our gathering.

This year’s conference remains jam-packed with fantastic courses designed for learning and growth. It’s also an opportunity to recognize and celebrate your meaningful contributions to the lives of children and youth in care.

Join us as we gather with open hearts, ready to amplify the valued voices within our community, in a setting that’s more accessible and welcoming than ever.

We look forward to seeing you there!

This year’s conference will be held in beautiful Calgary, Alberta at the Deerfoot Inn and Casino.


A Message from the President

Rene Rajotte, President of Alberta Foster and Kinship Association
Rene Rajotte

Welcome to the AFKA’s landmark 50th caregiver training conference! For 49 years we have come together for training, networking, shared stories and experiences, and to celebrate you, Alberta’s foster and kinship caregivers.

For several years I’ve had the honour of sitting on the AFKA Board of Directors as Vice-President, and now your President since November 2023. I’d like to thank everyone who invited me to this role and those that made it possible. I hope to live up to the high standards set by our Past President, Sylvia Thompson.

We’ve been through a lot of changes over the years and this year is no exception! The AFKA has spent the entire year evolving. We’ve expanded our supports to foster and kinship caregivers, overhauled our entire website, developed a brand-new member database, and are currently working on a member portal to create a hands-on user experience for our members! Not to mention, we moved our conference!

Our time in Jasper holds many wonderful memories, I think it holds a special place in all of our hearts. Its beauty is certainly unparalleled and the venue cozy, lending itself to a quaint spot for our conference. Moving the conference to June made good sense to us, providing a greater opportunity for more foster and kinship families to join us for training and networking.

Changing the location to Calgary means a bigger space, which in turn means more caregivers for us to host, more training to offer, and an easier commute. We hope you enjoy this change and can’t wait to connect with both returning delegates and new ones who have never been to our conference!

With that said, get ready for an amazing event this year! We’ve added diverse training including multiple breakout sessions, a few new speakers, additional booths and resources, expanded our silent auction to include online bidding, and even brought back a favourite – dueling pianos for our entertainment evening!

We can’t wait to see you there!


Meet Our Speakers

Brandi Heather

Keynote Speaker | Facilitator | Best-Selling Author

Brandi Heather is a respected speaker, award-winning educator, and the best-selling author of Return To Play: Rebuilding Resilience, Risk and Connection, from Red Deer, Alberta. She specializes in taking care of people who care for children and families. With boundless energy, she shares a unique blend of humor, hope, and compassion with audiences across North America, delivering this message: it is time to return to play. With over 25 years of experience in education, human services, and healthcare, she tackles fatigue, burnout, and disconnection within the caregiving community using the serious science of play and creativity. Her ground-breaking strategies and research are delivered in high-energy, high-impact keynotes that emphasize that one of the greatest untapped human resources we have for coping and resilience is our biological drive to play at every age. Speaking from deep personal and professional experience, Brandi understands the challenge of losing one's zest for play in a world where you are expected to always be “ok” and shares the journey to reclaim it. She is a nominee for this year’s RBC Women of Influence Award and currently collaborating with Clan Mothers Healing Village in Winnipeg to develop movement and play programs for Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQI+ individuals living with trauma. Having established multiple inclusive programs for children living with disabilities and training thousands of caregivers in self-care, she is proud and honored to participate in this year’s Open Hearts Valued Voices: Empowering Caregivers Conference.

Mark Hattori

Scholar in Residence

Mark Hattori has over 30 years of experience in the social services sector in Alberta. He has worked as a child and youth care counselor, child protection worker, supervisor, manager, regional Child and Family Services Authority Chief Executive Officer, and completed the last ten years of his career as an Assistant Deputy Minister in the Government of Alberta.  Currently, Mark is a contractor who has been working with First Nations in Alberta, Alberta Government social services programs, and the Nova Scotia Child Protection system. Mark is a strong advocate for the well-being of children, youth, and families, and for the caregivers, program staff and communities who work in partnership to support them. He has worked and collaborated with the caregiving community since he began his career and believes whole-heartedly that Kinship families and Foster Parents are the backbone, foundation, and pillars of a caring community - past, present, and future.

Brandi Heather


Brandi Heather is an expert speaker and the best-selling author of “Return To Play: Rebuilding Resilience, Risk and Connection” from Red Deer, Alberta. She specializes in taking care of people who take care of children and families.

With 25+ years of experience in adult education, human services, and healthcare, she is tackling fatigue, burnout, and disengagement in the compassionate workforce utilizing the serious science of play.

Her ground-breaking strategies and research delivered in high energy, high impact keynotes help to restore, recruit and re-engage our caregiver community.

With an emphasis on mental wellness and the often-underappreciated superpowers of creativity, courage, and connection, she shares her work from the heart of an educator and practitioner who has been there. With years in education and disability inclusion, she has taught thousands of people how to take care of themselves so they can take care of others.

Mark Hattori

Scholar in Residence

Mark Hattori has over 30 years of experience in the social services sector in Alberta. He has worked as a child and youth care counselor, child protection worker, supervisor, manager, regional Child and Family Services Authority Chief Executive Officer, and completed the last ten years of his career as an Assistant Deputy Minister in the Government of Alberta. 

Currently, Mark is a contractor who has been working with First Nations in Alberta, Alberta Government social services programs, and the Nova Scotia Child Protection system.

Mark is a strong advocate for the well-being of children, youth, and families, and for the caregivers, program staff and communities who work in partnership to support them. He has worked and collaborated with the caregiving community since he began his career and believes whole-heartedly that Kinship families and Foster Parents are the backbone, foundation, and pillars of a caring community – past, present, and future.

Our Honoured Guests

Elder Jackson Wesley

Presentation Title: Role of the Band Designate

Elder Leonard Bastien (Weasel Traveller)

Presentation Title: Smudging in Blackfoot World View

Smudge is facilitated by a Traditional Knowledge Keeper.  Roman Catholicism Sunday Mass is conducted by a Priest that has undergone years of Bible Study, Christian Philosophy, Prayers and Sacrifices. This is the same Philosophy of practice for the facilitation of smudging from the Blackfoot World View. Smudging is facilitated by a Traditional Knowledge Keeper with years of prayer, meditation, teaching and sacrifice. 

Conference Schedule

All meals, speeches/speakers, and entertainment will take place in the Sundance Ballroom.

6:30 am – 8:00 am:
(Elder Leonard Bastien/Weasel Traveller)

8:00 am – 9:00 am:
Opening Prayer (Elder)
Opening Remarks (Emcee)
Scholar in Residence

*First Aid (all day training, space is limited)*
9:00 am – 10:45 am
Keynote Speaker 


11:00 am – 12:00 pm
Breakout Sessions (8 Sessions x 1 hour each)

12:00 pm – 1:15pm

1:15pm – 4:15pm
Afternoon Sessions (7 Sessions x 3 hours each) 

Cash Bar Opens


Guest Speakers


*Silent Auction Bidding Ends at 8pm*

6:30 am – 8:00 am:

8:00 am – 8:30 am:

Morning Sessions (8 Sessions x 3 hours each)


Afternoon Sessions (8 Sessions x 3 hours each)


Closing Remarks (Scholar in Residence)
Closing Prayer

Meet and Greet
Conference Sign-in
Silent Auction/Raffle

Conference Agenda

Thursday, June 6, 2024 – Saturday, June 8, 2024 
  • Join us Thursday evening for our meet where you’ll sign-in for conference, pick up your swag bag, conference brochure and lanyards. Then enjoy a light fare, connect, mingle and settle in for a couple days of networking, learning and a splash of fun too!

  • We’ll begin Friday with a cleansing smudge and opening prayer with Elder Leonard Bastien (Weasel Traveller), followed by opening remarks, our Scholar in Residence, and topped with an invigorating keynote address! We’ll finish Friday morning with 8 one-hour breakout sessions for you to choose from to attend, and end them just in time for lunch.

  • Another 8 sessions in the afternoon and continued through Saturday round out the training – these ones offered 3 times! That means if you miss one Friday afternoon, you can take it on Saturday! This allows you the flexibility of creating your own schedule!

  • Join us Friday night for dinner, guest speakers, and a show to remember!
    See details below!

  • To complete this year’s conference, Elder Jackson Wesley will send us off with a closing prayer, and our scholar in residence will leave us with some heartfelt take-aways. Check back on the site regularly as we get closer to conference for Raffle and Silent Auction news and more updates!
Please Note:
First Aid will be offered Friday, June 7, 2024, requires pre-registration, and is an all day training from 8:15am-4:15pm; there are limited spots and will fill up fast! First Aid spaces are limited to conference attendees (Add it to your ticket to register!)

Breakout Sessions (1-hour)

(Friday, June 7, 2024 ONLY:  11:00am – 12:00pm)

No registration is required for breakout sessions.
You’ll have the option to attend whichever sessions you choose (space permitting)! 
Big Brothers Big Sisters Mentoring Program for youth in care and adults transitioning from care.

Hear about the mentoring program being offered by three Big Brother Big Sister Agency’s in the province for youth in care and adults transitioning from care.  Agency staff will share a bit about the history of the program, the guiding principles, the program design, the benefits of mentoring as well as the evaluation.  They will share their experiences around the evolution of the program and the experiences of young people who have been matched with a mentor.

Amy Jeske/Melissa Hill
June 7, 2024

Room: Mindapore A
The Power of Attachment: Strategies for Fostering Secure Attachments with Children in Care

This presentation aims to equip caregivers with information and strategies to better understand attachment issues and needs. Topics covered include primary and disrupted attachments, attachment disorders and behaviors, the impact of separation on children in care, and strategies for forming attachments with new caregivers. Participants will learn about the signs of attachment disruptions and receive practical strategies to foster safety, trust, and connection, which are key to developing healing relationships and secure attachments.

Christina Guilherme, MSW, RSW
June 7, 2024

Room: Bridalwood A
Children and Family Services updates on An Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Metis children, youth and families.

An Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Metis children, youth and families came into force and effect on January 1, 2020. Children and Family Services has been working with First Nations, the Inuit and the Metis to ensure that children, youth and families continue to have the supports and services they need. With the Act coming into force and effect this has brought some changes as we move through this journey. What does this mean for caregivers? What can caregivers expect? As caregivers you all play a very important role in children and youth’s lives and will continue to do so. Please join us for updates and a conversation on An Act Respecting First Nations, Inuit and Metis children, youth and families.

Tim Gillis/Nicole Samoisette
June 7, 2024

Room: Bridalwood B
Smudging in Blackfoot World View

Smudge is facilitated by a Traditional Knowledge Keeper. Roman Catholicism Sunday Mass is conducted by a Priest that has undergone years of Bible Study, Christian Philosophy, Prayers and Sacrifices. This is the same Philosophy of practice for the facilitation of smudging from the Blackfoot World View. Smudging is facilitated by a Traditional Knowledge Keeper with years of prayer, meditation, teaching and sacrifice. Children in care need to have a Traditional Knowledge Keeper of this background of knowledge and experience in life.

Elder Leonard Bastien (Weasel Traveller)
June 7, 2024

Room: Lake Bonavista
Treaty 7: Role of the Band Designate

Representatives from various Treaty 7 Bands come together to talk about their role with CFS/DFNA. What is a band designate? What are their roles?

Assisted by Elder Jackson Wesley, this informative session will conclude with a 25 minute video. 

Norma Littlechild, Trudy Yellowfly, Harriet North, Diane Dixon, Bryce Rollinmud, Deb Hellwig
June 7, 2024

Room: Mindapore B
There's an FRN for that...

Join us as we explore Alberta’s Family Resource Network Program, or FRNs as they are colloquially referred to. With over 70 networks across the province, children, youth, and families can access a wide range of free programs and services in their local community.

These programs range from parent education and child and youth development groups to opportunities for cultural connections and intensive support for families facing unique challenges. With life growing increasingly complex, we’re here to share some of the community programs and services that might ease stress, offer support and information, and empower you to connect to your community in times of need.

Stewart G. Chiu, BSW, RSW., Heidi Greenhalgh, BCST, Shirley Dawley
June 7, 2024

Room: Bridalwood C
The Power of Advocacy

Have you ever wondered how to have your voice heard in the grand scheme of government? Join us for an enlightening journey to gain comprehensive insights into the mechanisms of the Provincial government. Delve into the roles and responsibilities of Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) and uncover how your advocacy as a foster parent can truly make a difference.

This specialized session is tailored to equip you with a profound understanding of the Provincial government system. Explore the vital role of constituency offices and unlock the ways in which effective advocacy can bring about tangible change. Empower yourself to navigate the intricate landscape of governance and harness your voice to champion the needs of foster children and families.

Chad Krahn
June 7, 2024

Room: Sundance Ballroom C
TAP (Transition to Adulthood Program)

The Youth in Transitions Branch of Child Intervention Delivery provides supports and services for youth and young adults who are transitioning from the care system into adulthood and interdependence.

The Transitions to Adulthood Program (TAP), which includes Advancing Futures (AF) fully launched over 18 months ago as clients moved from Support and Financial Assistance Agreements to TAP agreements, and moved from regional service delivery into the YIT branch.

This presentation will provide an overview of branch services, with a focus on TAP, AF and the new Foster Caregivers Caring for Young Adults (FCCYA) option for young adults and their former foster caregivers.

You will learn about the admissions process, how you can support youth to enter into TAP, further their education, get connected to disability services and enhance their career and employment opportunities.

Jody Passmore, Melantha Bain, Lindsay Siciliano
June 7, 2024

Room: McKenzie


Breakout Sessions (3-hours)

(Friday June 7, 2024: 1:15pm – 4:15pm 
Saturday, June 8, 2024: 8:30am – 11:30am and 12:45pm – 3:45pm)
No registration is required for breakout sessions.
You’ll have the option to attend whichever sessions you choose (space permitting)! 
Your Role on the Caregiving Team

Caregiving is, by design, a temporary situation and most children and youth today, do not stay permanently in a kinship or foster home. We believe that by helping you see a more complete picture of your role, you will have a better understanding and appreciation of the roles of the other members of the child’s team. While you have a critical role as the primary caregiver(s) for children and youth, you are a part of a collaborative, multi-disciplinary team of professionals. Working with this team requires an understanding of your role and responsibilities and the roles and responsibilities of the other team members.

Therese Johnson / Heather Kleckner
Friday, June 7 and Saturday, June 8, 2024
Nurturing Child and Youth Connections

We all experienced the importance of connections and relationships in our own lives – and research and legislation reinforce how connections support a child’s safety and well-being. As a caregiver it is critically important to help the children and youth in your care maintain relationships and build meaningful connections with people who are important to them. In this workshop you will explore the importance of building connections to the wellbeing of the children and youth in your care, your role in building relationships with those the child or youth is connected to and strategies to help you support children and youth in building and nurturing their connections.

Zil Azeem / Christine Duteau
Friday, June 7 and Saturday, June 8, 2024
Play: The Building Block of Development and Connection

Play is an important part of a child’s development. Play develops lifelong tools by building the brain and relationship connections. This half-day workshop provides an overview about what makes an activity “play” and will help you: Support a variety of play activities; introduce you the benefits of play to building the brain and connections so you can help meet needs of the children in your home; and build practical ways to create fun activities for the whole family!

Tanis Suchow / Darlene Perry / Nancy Claydon
Friday, June 7 and Saturday, June 8, 2024
The Unique Dynamics of Kinship Care

Kinship is the preferred placement for children in care. Becoming a kinship caregiver is a unique experience with both joys and challenges. This session will cover a variety of topics including a discussion of the impact on your family, supporting natural parents, what supports are helpful/needed and navigating the system.


Joan Connibear / Sharlene Van Etten
Friday, June 7 and Saturday, June 8, 2024
Building Supportive Communities: Understanding the Impact of Minority Stress on the Mental Health and Wellbeing of Youth

Youth, particularly from racialized and equity-seeking groups, face numerous challenges when navigating healthcare systems, schools and learning environments, community spaces, and peer groups.

Race-based trauma disproportionately impacts racialized youth, exacerbating mental health burdens they may face in childhood and adolescence. As such, this discussion will focus on how caregivers can provide support to their children and families navigating discriminatory or harmful experiences based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, ability status, and other protected identities.

To provide support for caregivers and their families, the discussion will center (a) the unique experiences of colorism, texturism, and featurism, (b) ways to facilitate difficult conversations around identity concerns, and (c) recommendations for empowering minoritized youth.

We will also review strategies for advocating for inclusivity and cultural responsiveness in schools, and coping skills for navigating these complex issues.

Lastly, attendees will have the opportunity to ask questions about issues impacting their families and receive information resources.

Dr. Taymy J. Caso, PhD
Friday, June 7 and Saturday, June 8, 2024
Multi-disciplinary approach to Autism in the Home

Join us for a session that explores different ways to turn your daily routines at home and in the community and into a playground of positive possibilities

During this session, we’ll discuss strategies for promoting desired behaviours, guiding your child to understand expectations, motivating adherence to family rules and teaching alternative ways for meeting your child’s needs. We’ll explore:

  • How to address unsafe or disruptive behaviours effectively. at home and in the community.
  • Explore innovative methods to utilize common household items to stimulate your child’s senses and motor skills.
  • Gain practical insights for enhancing communication through play and within your daily family interactions.
  • Unearth various approaches to involve your child in meaningful household responsibilities that foster engagement, communication, and vital life skills.
Arwen Caines / Shelly Booker Salvador / Kara Wenzel / Ruby Alsharaf
Friday, June 7 and Saturday, June 8, 2024
Memory Books

When we reminisce about  our own childhood, we usually go  through old  photos, or saved  drawings and awards  or we fondly remember  stories we’ve  heard because it brings us back to important people and events. Did you know that every child who has been in care over six months requires a Memory Box? Many children/youth who have made life books, state that these are some of the their most prized possessions.

The life book is autobiographical and is an organized presentation of what children and youth have experienced and WHO they have had the experiences with while honoring the four areas of connection, Physical, Relational, Cultural and Legal. We believe you, as caregivers, play a critical role in being a part of those memories and  we need your help to keep the stories alive!  The most frequently asked questions about Memory Boxes and Life Books are; who does them, what do we put in them, and what happens to them when the child leaves my care?  

Connie Tamagi / Erin Madden / Lindsey Evans
Friday, June 7 and Saturday, June 8, 2024
Exploring What It Means To Be Human - The Reality of Bias and Stigma

Understanding we are all biased; it is a human condition. So what can we do about it?

If bias is part of living as a human in society, then it affects all of us and influences all we do. Most of us want to treat everyone fairly, we believe the kids we work with deserve the best. Let’s work with who we are and think about bringing the best out in ourselves.









Dr. Peter Choate
June 8, 2024

Silent Auction: A Night of Giving & Winning

Join us on the first night of the conference for a special event that combines generosity with excitement – our Silent Auction. This year, we’re thrilled to offer an expanded online auction, making it easier for everyone to participate, regardless of your ability to attend in person.

Online Auction Details

Prepare to be wowed by the array of incredible items we have up for bid. Our online auction platform goes live for viewing on May 28th, giving you plenty of time to browse and select your must-have items. Then, get ready to place your bids from Saturday, June 1st, until Friday, June 7th (closing at 8pm). Stay tuned for more details on how to access the online auction and make your bids count!

AFKA’s Raffle!

For those attending the conference, our Raffle items promise to be a highlight of the conference. Check back for details!

Thursday, June 6, 2024, from 5:30 PM to 8:30 PM

Join us for our meet and greet, enjoy some refreshments, sign in for the weekend and get set for the start of an exciting silent auction bidding war!

Whether you’re with us in person or participating from afar, your bids contribute directly to our mission and help us continue our vital work. Don’t miss this chance to win some incredible items and make a difference. We can’t wait to see what you’ll take home!

We’ve got some INCREDIBLE items up for bid this year! Here’s a sneak peek!

Don’t Miss Out On This Incredible Event

This annual event is the highlight of our year! We can’t wait to see you there, connect, learn, and leave inspired and refreshed.

Event Details


Join us for an enriching experience at the AFKA Annual Conference. Here’s what your registration covers:

  • AFKA Member Registration: $100.00

    • Includes access to all sessions, meals throughout the conference, and scheduled entertainment.
  • Non-Member Registration: $100.00

    • Open to all who are interested in the field of caregiving, this fee includes full participation in all sessions, meals provided, and access to our lively entertainment.

Please note, accommodations are not included in the registration fee. Attendees are responsible for booking their own rooms. This setup gives you the flexibility to choose your stay according to your preferences and budget.

Secure your spot and be part of a community dedicated to excellence in caregiving.

Experience the thrill of Calgary Dueling Pianos at our event—a lively show of skillful musicianship and interactive fun. Join us for a night of your favourite melodies, laughter, and high-spirited entertainment that promises to keep you engaged and entertained!
Calgary Deuling Pianos

“Two extremely talented pianists with great voices and great entertainers. What more could we ask for!” 

Experience the thrill of Calgary Dueling Pianos at our event—a lively show of skillful musicianship and interactive fun. Join us for a night of your favorite melodies, laughter, and high-spirited entertainment that promises to keep you engaged and entertained!

Deerfoot Inn and Casino - the location of AFKA's 50th annual training conference.

2024 Conference Location:
Deerfoot Inn and Casino
11500 35 St SE #1000, Calgary, AB T2Z 3W4

Individual Call-In:
Contact the Deerfoot Inn and Casino’s reservations department as detailed below. Attendees must mention they are attending the Alberta Foster and Kinship Association Conference.

Hotel Direct: 403-236-7529

Toll Free: 1-888-875-4667



When booking online, enter the conference dates on the first page and you will be redirected. Click ‘add code’, add ‘group attendee’ and then enter group code 1008239. Click ‘complete reservation’ and proceed with entering your personal information or ask for “Alberta Foster and Kinship Association Conference”.

Can I transfer my registration to another individual?

Registration is transferable by telephone until 3-weeks prior to conference.

Can I cancel my registration/receive a refund? 

There is a $50.00 non-refundable fee which will apply for any cancellation request received prior to and including Friday, May 24, 2024. 

No refunds will be provided for cancellations after May 24, 2024.

Can I get a discounted rate, for example, if I’m only attending 1 of the 3 days?

Unfortunately, we do not have any pro-rated options available. We only have full conference packages available for purchase.

Are there extra meal tickets available for purchase? 

Unfortunately, we do not have any extra meal tickets available for purchase.

Registration Open!


The numbers below include tickets for this event already in your cart. Clicking "Get Tickets" will allow you to edit any existing attendee information as well as change ticket quantities.
AFKA Caregiver Member
For registered caregiver members of the Alberta Foster and Kinship Association
$ 100.00
193 available
AFKA Associate Member
For registered associate members who are not a caregiver
$ 100.00
193 available
AFKA Non-Member
Please note that all licensed/approved Alberta foster and kinship caregivers are eligible for a complimentary membership with the AFKA. You can visit our website at to sign up for a membership today. You can contact our office once submitted (1-800-667-2372) to obtain your membership number.
$ 100.00
193 available
First Aid Training (Full)
All sessions filled. Please note First Aid Training is a full day from 8:15am to 4:15pm.
$ 0.00
0 available
Sold Out

Interested in speaking at next year’s conference?

We are always looking for subject matter experts to help us deepen our knowledge of essential and relevant topics to raising our foster and kinship kids.

If you are interested in presenting, visit our call for presenters page to apply.


Leonard bastien

Leonard is married to Audrey, and together, they have 4 beautiful daughters, 4 wonderful granddaughters, one amazing grandson and two adorable great-grandsons.

Leonard served as the Head Chief and Councillor for the Piikani Nation for approximately two decades.

He provides advisory services and Blackfoot Traditional Supports for Blackfoot Confederacy comprised of the Blackfeet Nation of Montana, US, The Piikani Nation, Siksika Nation and The Blood Tribe.

For the past 22-plus years, he has provided Traditional Indigenous Supports for Calgary and Area Child and Family Services.

Amy Jeske

Amy Jeske is a Program Manager with BGC Big Brothers Big Sisters of Edmonton & Area. Amy has been with the organization for the last 15 years and been in various roles to support the work of child and youth mentoring.  She currently oversees the Community Based 1-1 Mentoring programs including the PRISM program for 2SLGBTQ+ youth as well as Youth In Care and is passionate about the power of mentoring in young people’s lives.


Christina Guilherme, MSW, RSW

Christina has a Masters in Social Work and an undergraduate degree in Disability Studies. Christina has worked with children, youth and adults with diverse abilities and mental health challenges. She brings theoretical knowledge of how attachment affects children as well as awareness of practical strategies to support children and youth in care.

Nicole Samoisette

Nicole is a citizen of the Métis Nation of Alberta who was born and raised in Calgary. Nicole has spent her career working within Indigenous communities on and off reserve. Nicole has been working for CFS for the past 18 years in different roles and currently is a director in the Calgary Region.

Nicole is and has been an advocate for Indigenous children, youth and families and in trying to ensure that children services is providing culturally appropriate services and supports at all levels.

Tim Gillis

I started with Alberta Children’s Services in 1999. As an Indigenous person working in Children and Family Services my entire career has been focusing on servicing indigenous clients and advocating for better outcomes of indigenous children. I became a Manager in 2004 and in 2017 I became an Associate Director in the Edmonton Region. In 2023 I moved into the position of Executive Director with the First Nations Liaison Branch within the Child Intervention Division

Norma Meguinis Littlechild

Tsuutina/Cree, Social Work Degree from University of Calgary. Professionally have worked in Income Support for 9 years with Louis Bull Tribe and Ermineskin Nation as Director. I then changed profession in the are of Social Work and moved to Child and Welfare with Tsuutina Child and Family Services in the capacity of Caseworker. I was then offered the role of Tsuutina Band Designate, which I happily accepted. I have been in this role for 8 years and I enjoy what I do. The role of Band Designate is very complex and supports not only the child but the family, extended family.

The role of band designate is in short, the advocate, negotiator and mediator for the child(ren)/youth/families who have CFS involvement.

Trudy Yellow Fly

Siksika Band Designate.

Born, raised and work in Siksika. I am a mother to two sons. I have been with Siksika Family Services Corporation for 7 years as the Band Designate and previously as the Cultural Coordinator with Siksika Childrens services. I rec’d a Masters Degree in Education from Western University out of Ontario. I have worked for Indigenous Communities in various capacities for over 25 years. I strongly believe “Cultural Continuity” is essential to planning for every child in care on reserve and out of province. The Band Designate role is a crucial child/youth advocacy piece between First Nations’ leadership, Provincial Ministries and Child/Family services across the country.

Bryce Rollinmud

Âmba Wâthteno 

Hello, My name is Bryce Rollinmud, Chiniki band designate from the Stoney Nation. As a band designate I work closely with child intervention workers in making informed decisions related our nations children or youth’s identity as a First Nation individual. My role is to insure they maintain cultural and familial ties to our community. Advocate for parents and children in achieving the best interest of the child and liaise on various child protection concerns through case conferences, band consults and network meetings.


Diane Dixon

With a Social Work Diploma, my education is combined with Early Child Intervention, Law: Mediation, Admin, Prevention and Certificates in different fields.

1997 – 2007 worked as a National Native Alcohol and Drug Abuse Program Coordinator.

2007 – 2014 worked at the Stoney Nakoda Resort as a Custodian and this was like walking back into SLWK but listening was a tool.

2014 – 2024 I received job opportunity of becoming a Bearspaw Band Designate, this is the most challenging job but I love it.

Today I am still the Bearspaw Band Designate and I love all the children and learning but most of all Bringing Our Children Home and Honoring each child.

Stewart G. Chiu, BSW, RSW

Stewart Chiu is an Early Intervention Specialist with the Ministry of Children and Family Services with the Government of Alberta.

Stewart is trained as a Social Worker, having earned his Bachelor of Social work from the University of Calgary. Stewart started his career in 2007 working with the local Boys and Girls Clubs of Calgary providing after school programming for children and youth. His passion for working with vulnerable youth and supporting families eventually saw him shift to intervention settings, working with youth in shelter and group home programs which led to joining the Ministry in 2007 in the Child Intervention Division.

Stewart worked with children, youth, and families experiencing abuse and neglect in Indigenous, newcomer, and diverse communities, providing case management, safety planning, permanency supports, and investigations.

Following 7 years of work with Child Intervention, in 2022 Stewart moved into a specialist role, returning to his roots in prevention and early intervention. Stewart now works to support the implementation of the Family Resource Network program in Alberta, a collection of agencies providing child development, social cultural connections, and caregiver capacity building programs for Albertans.

Outside of his professional passion for supporting children, youth, and families to live healthy, resilient lives; Stewart enjoys a full life outside the office including cuddling with his double doodle Huxley, exploring the mountains, eating good food, playing games with friends, and travelling with his husband.

Shirley Dawley

Shirley Dawley worked with the Government of Alberta for 27 years, starting in Childcare licensing, (which then also included licensing of Foster Homes). From there, she found her calling as she moved into the broader area of Early Intervention.

Over the last 17 years working as an Early Intervention Specialist, Shirley has had the pleasure of presenting and providing training to Foster Parents and caregivers several times.

The part of these opportunities that she enjoys and remembers the most is hearing the stories and learning from those doing the hard work every day with children and families.

Shirley celebrates the difference caregivers make in the lives of children and is always appreciative of the opportunity to connect, share information about the latest prevention and early intervention programs and support them in the hard work they do every day.

Shirley lives in Red Deer and outside of work enjoys spending time with her family and friends. In the winter, she can be found in a hockey rink cheering on her teenage son and in the summer, she tries to spend as much time as possible getting back to her small-town roots at the family acreage near Didsbury.

Heidi Greenhalgh

Heidi Greenhalgh is an Early Intervention and Family Resource Network (EI/FRN) Specialist for the Government of Alberta, joining the team in February 2024. Before joining the Family Resource Network program, Heidi was a Childcare Licensing Officer in the Central Region. Before her work with the Ministry of Children and Family Services, Heidi worked as a Family Search and Re-Engagement Worker at McMan Family Services and a Family Day Home Consultant.

Her diverse background includes facilitating family group conferences, leading domestic violence programs with fathers, and writing home studies for foster and kinship caregivers. Outside of work, Heidi is a dedicated spouse to her husband and a loving mother to two teenage daughters.

Heidi resides in Red Deer, where she is surrounded by her family who live in Central Alberta. Heidi is actively involved in her community, particularly with the Red Deer Marlins swim team and the Red Deer master’s Swim Club. Heidi also enjoys activities with her family like camping, hiking, attending their nieces and nephews’ sports events, and spending quality time together as a family.

Chad Krahn

AFKA Board Director, Advocacy

Chad Krahn, is a husband, father of five, including two foster children. Alongside his wife Heather, Chad has been fostering for seven years, seeing the good, the bad and the ugly of the system.

Chad was elected to as a City Councilor for the City of Red Deer on April 22, 2024. He has a background in politics, community building, and poverty reduction, Chad is driven by a profound passion for advocacy.

He also serves as a board member of the Alberta Foster and Kinship Association (AFKA), where he lends his expertise to enhance political advocacy for the benefit of foster parents.

With a keen understanding of foster parenting dynamics and understanding of government, Chad is excited to make enduring contributions to both his local community and the broader political landscape.

Jody Passmore

I have worked with Children and Family Services since 2002. My career has taken me into many different roles with CFS, 20 of those years were with the Calgary Region. This  included an extensive period of time as a manager with Foster Care, Placement and the Foundations of Caregiver Supports. Prior to moving to the Youth in Transitions Branch almost two years ago now, I returned to the front line service delivery and was the site manager at the Hunterhorn office.

The Youth in Transitions Branch of CFS is a dynamic branch that has exploded with the additions of the Transitions to Adulthood Program, and expansion of specialized services. There has been lots to learn and I look forward to connecting with you to discuss the changes and opportunities for young adults and the people that care about them, and have cared for them.

When not attending to my professional life, my personal life is always filled with interesting adventures as I have my own young adults that help me to put into practice the paradigms that YIT is founded on. They help “keep it real” and remind me each day that growing up young adults is tricky business and my role has changed as their parent.

I am grateful that the snow has taken a break and summer is starting to arrive. I can’t wait to get out to our summer cottage and soak up some
R & R.

Melantha Bain

I am the current TAP Admission Team lead for South and Central region. I come to TAP with 20 years of experience working with, children, high risk youth and adults with diverse cultural backgrounds. In addition, I also worked with children and youth with behavioral challenges, addictions, developmental disabilities, mental health, dual diagnosis, and mental health concerns. I was born and raised in Edmonton, where I started my career, and began working for a non-profit agencies within their FSCD/PDD and Crisis and High risk youth programs in various roles form frontline to supervisor roles. I also worked in Ottawa where I  supported youth transitioning to independent living as well as PDD adults.  

Following my 4 year stint I  returned to Grande Prairie Alberta and began working for Children services in 2015. Since then I have worked in various frontline CI positions and supervisory roles within children services; with my most recent position working as a Foster care supervisor in Calgary at the Westmount office. 

When I am not working, I enjoy spending time with my husband, two sons, stepdaughter and poodle Coco, along with my extended family and friends. I also enjoy the outdoors-camping, roller blading and biking, and traveling to various parts of the world.  In my current role I enjoy supporting and empowering our youth and young adults within the TAP program and assisting them within the various programs offered within TAP.

Lindsay Siciliano

I started my career with Children and Family Services in 2004; as a Caseworker with the Indigenous Services office.

Throughout the past 20 years, I have held different roles within the Calgary Region; supporting children, families, as well as contracted agencies;  as an Adoption Caseworker; Resource/Contract Specialist; and Program Specialist. 

During my time as a Program Specialist; I had the privilege of working with some of the contracted agency foster homes.

In October 2022; I moved over to the Transition to Adulthood program; as the Transition Specialist for the South Zone.  

The past year and a half has been a huge learning curve for me, as I shift my focused from keeping youth safe, finding them placements….to focusing on  “what supports do we in place to make sure our young adults are ready to move into the adult world, and how do we get those supports in place?” 

When I am not at the office supporting young adults; I am a mom to two teen girls; and one oversized Golden Doodle (who is completely black).

In the winters I split my time between the rinks cheering on my oldest in hockey; and the guitar studio; listening to my youngest daughters’ newest songs. 

In the summers; I love to bike along the Bow on the numerous paved paths Calgary has to offer, and travelling back to Ontario to visit family. 

Heather Kleckner

Heather Kleckner and her family have been a foster and adoptive home since 2001. Heather has worked as a Co-Trainer in the Edmonton region for over 18 years, where she has been blessed with the opportunity to share her passion of supporting Caregiving Families and bettering the lives and connections of children in care. She is joining us from Spruce Grove in Treaty 6 territory.

Therese Johnson

Therese has been working with the Ministry of Children and Family Services for the past 26 years and is currently a Provincial Caregiver Training Facilitator.  Therese was drawn to working with caregivers and has spent most of her career working within various roles in the caregiver programs.  Therese is the proud mom of one vivacious teenager and along with her husband enjoys camping and traveling. 

Zil Azeem

Zil has worked for the Ministry of Children and Family services since 2006.  She has worked in various (i.e. caseworker, assessor, foster care and adoptions).  Zil enjoys, music, hiking, travelling, the theatre, spending time with friends and family.

Christine Duteau

Christine and her husband have been both foster and kinship parents for over 30 years. They are now retired but have had the privilege of having one of their guys still living with them as an adult. Christine has also had the privilege of being a co- trainer with Children and Family Services for about 20 years. 

Tanis Suchow

Tanis is a registered social worker and has been working for Alberta Children and Family Services for over 20 years.   The majority of her career has been working in Foster care support, adoptions and training.  

For more than a decade she has been training caregivers through in person and online delivery.  Tanis currently works at Work Force Development as one of the trainers in the Provincial Caregiver Training Team for the province.   She is the proud mother of two teenage boys and a labradoodle named Luna, which keep her busy when she not training.

Darlene Perry

Darlene has worked with children and families for 35 years, having experience in many different program delivery areas including agency care, Child Intervention, Kinship, Foster Care, Adoption, and many more. For almost 20 years she has been directly involved in providing support to caregivers through training. She loves learning from our caregivers and supporting them to better understand the strengths and challenges of the children and families we serve.  

Nancy Claydon

Nancy Clayden’s greatest joy is being the mother of children.  Her four ‘children’, all of which are grown, have become wonderful adults and close friends. She has been a foster parent for over 23 years and had the privilege in sharing in the lives of over 50 ‘bonus’ children, from premature infants to teens, some of whom she still stays connected with. 

She was recognized for her sacrifice, humour and grounded approach to parenting in 2008, when she was the recipient of the Foster Family of the Year Award in the Calgary Region. Nancy has been a mentor in the program since its inception, 16 years ago and Mentor Program Coordinator in the Calgary region since 2017. 

Nancy is looking forward to reconnecting with many of you and to having some fun through our AFKA Play sessions at conference.

Joan Connibear

Joan has been a social worker since 1986 – the last 27 years with Children and Family Services. She has had experience in many program areas including Child Intervention, Adoptions, SFP, Foster Care and Kinship.

Joan is currently a director responsible for Caregiver Supports in the Edmonton region. She believes it is paramount to keep children connected to their family, community and culture and believes caregivers can play a significant role in developing and maintaining these relationships.

Sharlene Van Etten

Currently a Kinship Manager in the Edmonton Region, Sharlene began her work with Child and Family Services in 2007. Sharlene had the opportunity to work in Intervention and Legal Permanency before accepting a position in Stony Plain, working with both Foster and Kinship Caregivers. During this time, she developed a deep respect for all Caregivers, both foster and kinship, and their commitment to helping children.

This is where her journey with Kinship began as her team worked exclusively on First Nations placing children in Kinship Care with their families.

Sharlene also became part of the new Assessment and Support for Kinship Caregivers pilot, really enjoying this work with Kinship families.

Currently in the Edmonton Region, her kinship team has grown from about 10 Kinship Practitioners to 50 Kinship Practitioners.

Dr. Taymy J. Caso

Dr. Taymy J. Caso, PhD, (they/she) is an Assistant Professor of Counseling Psychology at the University of Alberta and Director of the Intersectional Research, Empowerment, Advocacy, and Community Health Promotion (IREACH) Lab.

Prior to working at the UofA, Dr. Caso completed the Randi and Fred Ettner Postdoctoral Fellow in Transgender Health in the Eli Coleman Institute for Sexual and Gender Health and maintains a research affiliation at the National Center for Gender Spectrum Health.

Dr. Caso holds degrees in counseling and clinical psychology from New York University and Columbia University, Teachers College.

Their research focuses on minority health disparities, intersectionality, identity-based marginalization within LGBTQ+ BIPOC communities, gender and sexual fluidity, social determinants of health and legislative and public policy advocacy.

They hold several leadership roles including Chair for the American Psychological Association’s Committee on Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity (APA CSOGD), Chair-Elect for the APA’s Division 17’s Section for the Advocacy of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity (SASOGD), Vice Director of Justice, Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Access for the Institute of Smart Augmentative and Restorative Technologies and Health Innovations (iSMART).

Their advocacy work utilizes decolonizing pedagogy to deconstruct institutional and systemic barriers to equity and develop community-based interventions for underserved communities. They have been the recipient of several grants and awards, including: the Steven J. Schochet Endowment Course Development and Enhancement, Postdoctoral Award in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Samuel Eshborn Award, Outstanding Research Contribution Award, Research and Scholarship Showcase Award, César Chávez/Clara Hale Community Outreach Award, Ronald McNair/Arturo Alfonso Schomburg Academic Excellence Award, and the Arthur B. Zankel Urban Fellowship. These awards recognize scholarship, service, advocacy, and activism that support and empower marginalized and underrepresented communities.

Arwen Caines

Arwen Caines is the Clinical Director and Registered Occupational Therapist at Society for Autism Support and Services, boasting 20 years of dedicated experience in the field of Autism. With a strong emphasis on supporting families, children and youth, Arwen employs occupational therapy as a vital therapeutic tool for Autistic individuals.

She earned her Masters of Science in Occupational Therapy from McMaster University in 2011, complemented by a Baccalaureate in Community Rehabilitation and Disability Studies from the University of Calgary. Currently pursuing Doctoral studies in Rehabilitation and Health Leadership from Queen’s University.

Arwen remains committed to advancing her expertise in the field. Her unwavering passion for mental health and wellbeing is evident in her tireless efforts to provide quality support and services for Autistic individuals and their families.

Shelley Booker Salvador

Shelley Booker Salvador is a speech-language pathologist who has specialized in supporting autistic children and adults for over 20 years. Shelley’s been involved in research and program development throughout her career, presenting on a variety of communication-related topics and research outcomes across Canada and internationally.

In 2019, she initiated the development of LEAP (Learning, Engagement, and Play) at Society for Autism Support and Services, a program specifically designed to support infants and toddlers diagnosed with or at-risk for autism.

Kara Wenzel

Kara Wenzel has worked in the autism field for over 24 years. She has a Masters of Arts degree in Counselling Psychology, a Diploma in Early Childhood Education and Development, Certificates in Children’s Mental Health and Addictions Studies, and an Applied Degree in Child Studies.

Kara has been employed in various roles by Society for Autism Support and Services since 2000. In her position as the Psychology Department Supervisor// Psychologist, she is responsible for: counselling autistic individuals and their family members; group psychoeducation and therapy; assessment of cognitive, adaptive, and academic functioning; developing and implementing individualized service plans; consultation and teaching of staff and parents in homes, in the community, and in preschool settings; working with multidisciplinary teams to develop and implement behaviour support plans; consultation to school settings; community education; supervision of Behavioral Consultants and Psychologists. Kara also cares for two adults with autism and intellectual impairments in her home on a part time basis.

Ruby Alsharaf

Ruby Alsharaf (she/her) is a registered Social Worker with Society for Autism Support and Services (SASS) as of September of 2023. Ruby completed her Bachelor of Arts in English Literature at the University of Calgary in 2016 and a Bachelor’s of Social Work from Dalhousie University in 2023.

Ruby has always been passionate about working within the non-profit sector and helping environments. Prior to SASS, Ruby worked with families and children facing domestic violence, seniors, and Indigenous communities.

Through SASS, Ruby has gained a passion for working within the disability sector and hopes to continue assisting families with their goals through a nuanced, authentic, and compassionate professional lens.

Connie Tamagi

Connie graduated from Spring Arbor University in Michigan in 2000 with a Bachelor of Arts Degree with a focus in Family Life Education. Soon after graduation she began her work in Children’s Services in Jackson, Michigan.

In 2006 she moved her family to Alberta where she continued her work with children and families in different capacities. Connie is currently an Caregiver Support Supervisor in Calgary.

She brings over 20 years of experience in working with vulnerable children and families in roles within Children’s Services such as Caseworker, Assessor, Intake Worker, Supervisor and also non-profit work. Connie is passionate in supporting children and families in achieving positive outcomes. She believes every children has the right to feel like they belong and know their life story. ‎

Today she hopes to share that passion and she believes caregivers play an important role in supporting a child to understand where they came from and where they are going.

Lindsey Evans

Lindsey graduated from the University of Calgary in June 2010 with a Bachelor of Arts with a focus in Psychology and later completed her Masters in 2015 with the focus of Disability and Community Studies.

She brings over 15 years of experience in case management, crisis intervention, mental health support, assessment, addictions, behavior management, youth education/programming  and most recently joined a permanency team.

Lindsey has a deep passion for supporting families in overcoming barriers and helping them find and cultivate connection.

Lindsey combines advanced knowledge with practical experience to create positive and lasting impacts in the lives of those she works with. 

Erin Madden

Erin has been working with Children’s Services for the past 10 years in casework, kinship care, adoptions and now with the foster care program. She holds degrees in International Relations and Social Work and became registered with the ACSW in 2014.

Erin has learned so much from working directly with caregivers and has a deep respect for the hard work it requires as well as for how emotionally challenging it can be.

Erin is particularly passionate about helping children in care understand their stories and what has happened to them while helping caregivers provide them with life-long memories.

When not working, Erin loves spending time with her three young daughters and exploring the world through their eyes.

Dr. Peter Choate

Dr. Peter Choate is Professor, Social Work at Mount Royal University in Calgary. Peter’s teaching focuses on assessment issues in social work, including families, as well as child and adolescent mental health. 

Peter is an expert witness in social work with sub-specialties in the areas of social work case management, parenting capacity (including risk, domestic violence, and addictions), Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and cross-cultural assessment.