2020 Children’s Law Institute Speakers

Laura van Dernoot Lipsky

Pre-Conference Session Facilitator | Wednesday, January 8th

Laura van Dernoot Lipsky, founder and director of The Trauma Stewardship Institute and author of Trauma Stewardship: An Everyday Guide to Caring for Self While Caring for Others, has worked directly with trauma survivors for more than three decades.

She has worked with groups as diverse as zookeepers and reconstruction workers in post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans, community organizers and health care providers in Japan, U.S. Air Force pilots, Canadian firefighters, public school teachers, private practice doctors, tiny non-profits, massive state agencies, libraries, the Pentagon, alternative colleges, and Ivy League universities. Much of her work is being invited to assist in the aftermath of community catastrophes–whether they are fatal storms or mass shootings. She has worked locally, nationally, and internationally. Laura is known as a pioneer in the field of trauma exposure.

Laura is on the advisory board of ZGiRLS, an organization that supports young girls in sports. She is a founding member of the International Transformational Resilience Network, which supports the development of capacity to address climate change. Laura also served as an associate producer of the award-winning film A Lot Like You, and was given a Yo! Mama award in recognition of her work as a community-activist mother.

Laura’s new book, The Age of Overwhelm: Strategies for the Long Haul is now available for order.

Dr. Jaiya John

Opening Keynote Speaker| Wednesday, January 8th

Dr. Jaiya John was born into foster care in New Mexico, and is an internationally recognized freedom worker, author, speaker, poet, and youth mentor. Jaiya is the founder of Soul Water Rising, a global rehumanizing and mission that has donated thousands of Jaiya’s books in support of social healing, and offers scholarships to displaced and vulnerable youth. Jaiya is also the founder of Freedom Project, a global initiative reviving traditional community gathering and storytelling practices to fertilize social healing and liberation. He is a former professor of social psychology at Howard University, has authored numerous books, and has spoken to over a million people worldwide and audiences as large as several thousand, including national and international conferences, schools, Indigenous reservations and communities, prisons and detention centers, shelters, and universities. Jaiya is a National Science Foundation fellow, and holds doctorate and master’s degrees in social psychology from the University of California, Santa Cruz, with a focus on intergroup relations and identity development. As an undergraduate, he attended Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon, and lived in Kathmandu, Nepal, where he studied Tibetan Holistic Medicine through independent research with Tibetan doctors.

Jaiya’s book titles include Freedom: Medicine Words for Your Revolutionary Soul, Your Caring Heart: Renewal for Helping Professionals and Systems, Daughter Drink This Water, Calm: Inspiration for a Possible Life, Sincerity of Sunlight, Fresh Peace, Legendary: A Tribute to Those Who Honorably Serve Devalued Children, Beautiful: A Poetic Celebration of Displaced Children, Reflection Pond: Nurturing Wholeness in Displaced Children, Clear Moon Tribe, The Day Jumoke Found His Name, Father to Son: Ode to Black Boys, Habanero Love: A Poem of Sacred Passion, Lyric of Silence: A Poetic Telling of the Human Soul Journey, and Black Baby White Hands: A View from the Crib.

Dr. Andrew Hsi

Featured Speaker Session III | Thursday, January 9th

Session IV Workshop | Thursday, January 9th

Dr. Hsi co-chairs the CARA Workgroup. He attended the University of Washington School of Public Health in Seattle WA where he completed an MPH in 1980. He attended the University of California San Diego School of Medicine completing an MD in 1980. In 1984, he completed the pediatric residency at UNM. He heads the UNM Institute for Resilience, Health, and Justice. Over 30 years, he has led the FOCUS Program at UNM and developed systems of care for children and families affected by prenatal alcohol and drug exposure, family violence, parental mental illnesses, and unsupported teen parenting.




Lexie Gruber

Workshop Session II | Thursday, January 9th

Featured Speaker Session III | Thursday, January 9th

Lexie is a tireless advocate for youth in foster care and is dedicated to ensuring success and safety for all children in our country’s child welfare systems. In 2015, Lexie graduated magna cum laude from Quinnipiac University with a degree in political science. That same year, her testimony before the U.S. Senate Finance Committee about her experience in the child welfare system was instrumental in the passage of the Family First Act, a comprehensive reform bill that aims to keep children with their families and out of foster care.

Lexie currently works as a management consultant in the Health and Public Service. In this role, she works with government agencies and nonprofits to optimize their business processes and drive innovative campaigns and communications strategy to improve how the government serves and interacts with citizens. Prior to joining Accenture, she worked in Congress, consulted the Children’s Bureau during the Obama Administration, and worked at a national member association representing state and local human service agency commissioners before Congress and the Administration to drive innovative reforms and modernization of the nation’s early childhood and child welfare system.

Lexie has testified before the United States Congress and the Connecticut State Legislature and has presented at the White House and several Congressional briefings. Her writing been published in the Washington Post, Hartford Courant, Chronicle of Social Change, and Huffington Post.


Dr. Sam Himelstein

Featured Speaker Session III | Thursday, January 9th

Session IV Workshop | Thursday, January 9th

Dr. Himelstein is a Licensed Psychologist (PSY25229) in the state of California. Most of his work has involved working with high-risk and marginalized youth in the juvenile justice system, foster care system, and those suffering from addiction issues. He’s previously worked at the Chemical Dependency program at Kaiser Permanente with teens and their families, in a number of juvenile halls conducting psychotherapy, psychological evaluations, and researching the efficacy of mindfulness-based interventions with incarcerated and underserved adolescent populations. Dr. Himelstein is the author of multiple scholarly journal articles and three books, and travels the country speaking at conferences and conducting professional trainings.

Dr. Himelstein is the founder of the Center for Adolescent Studies, a multidisciplinary training institute focusing on creating authentic, healing relationships with adolescents that contribute to positive outcomes. Most of his trainings and speaking lies at the intersection of building authentic relationships, trauma-informed care, and teaching mindfulness to youth.

Dr. Himelstein is a formerly incarcerated youth and was privileged to change from a path of drugs, violence, crime, and self-destruction to that of healing and transformation. His mission is to help young people become aware of the power of self-awareness and transformation, and train professionals with similar interests. Learn more about his philosophy and approach in his books: A Mindfulness-Based Approach to Working with High-Risk Adolescents (Routledge, 2013), Mindfulness-Based Substance Abuse Treatment for Adolescents: A 12-Session Curriculum (Routledge, 2015), and Trauma-Informed Mindfulness With Teens: A Guide for Mental Health Professionals (Norton, 2019).

Dr. Amelia Franck Meyer

Closing Keynote Speaker | Friday, January 10th

Dr. Amelia Franck Meyer is the founder and CEO of Alia: innovations for people and systems impacted by childhood trauma. Alia is building a Proof of Concept that public child welfare agencies can serve as primary prevention agencies with a newly redesigned purpose of keeping children safe with, not from, their families.  Amelia and her team believe that what all children need most is an uninterrupted sense of belonging that only their family can provide.

Alia works with child welfare leaders who are innovators and early adapters in jurisdictions around the country and the globe to create transformational change child welfare.  Team Alia and partners are laser-focused on building a new way of work that focuses on helping parents to safely parent their children, not separating families and “treating” children after abuse has already occurred.  Additionally, Amelia and her team are building evidence for a new way including commissioning social return on investment studies, research briefs, and outcomes reports to help chart a new pathway forward with a strong commitment to anti-racism.

Amelia’s 30-years of experience and change efforts have not gone unnoticed.  Amelia has received numerous awards for her work in permanency, wellbeing, systems change and innovation.  Most recently, Amelia was named one of People Magazine’s “25 Women Changing the World” in 2018.  In 2015, Amelia was named as a Bush Foundation Fellow and an Ashoka Fellow.  Amelia and Team Alia are leading a national movement to bring together child welfare innovators and those with lived experience to build a better way, together!