The Texas Center for Child and Family Studies and TACFS held the 2023 Texas Child Care Administrators Conference last week in Houston, Texas. Over the course of three days more than 1,000 participants gathered in person and another 500 joined us online to learn from state and national experts in child and family wellbeing.  

This year’s theme, Grounded & Growing, was chosen to capture the values, knowledge, and experiences that brought us to this point, and our shared vision to continue to improve and better serve children, youth, and families.  

So much was covered over the course of the conference, but a few highlights and themes emerged from our time together.

  • #HoustonStrong— In the heart of downtown Houston, locals welcomed us and we enjoyed being together in this vibrant community. We were thrilled to be regaled by the former Houston Youth Poet Laureate Avalon Hogans and received encouraging words from former Justice Eva Guzman as they opened the conference and welcomed us to the city.  
  • Prioritizing Connectedness and Wellbeing—There is no doubt the work of the TACFS network is rewarding, but it is also difficult and complex. This may lead to burnout or impact an organization’s ability to retain a high-quality workforce. Several speakers, including keynote Dr. Marisa Franco, Dr. Amelia Franck Meyer, and TACFS staff Sarah Hall and Katelyn Powers spoke to important factors to keep employees engaged and supported. There were practical tips to keep employees connected and important conversations to better support them as they navigate secondary trauma, grief, and burnout.  
  • Gratitude and Self-reflection— Conference attendees took time to celebrate what was working well and reflect on the commitment of their volunteers, foster and kinship families, staff, and communities. We learned and celebrated experiences, thoughts, advice, and gratitude with each other throughout the week.

Speaking of… what was that thing? Upon check-in, attendees were met with an interactive infographic wall which has become familiarly known as “the string thing.”  

It started completely blank waiting to be covered with whatever this exact group of participants from far and wide had to offer it. When the TACFS staff and board started planning around the theme of Grounded & Growing, it was about getting back to our roots as a community of providers and child welfare folks while committing to grow toward our shared purpose and vision of serving Texas kids. While that’s still and always the goal, “the string thing” asked in-person attendees to do something a little more introspective.  

  • Learning from Research, Best Practice, and Lived Experience –   On top of that warm, connected feeling, the Conference reminds us that we are surrounded by the brightest minds in the State. Dedicated professionals from every corner brought the backing of nationwide expertise to 55 breakout sessions and keynote panels! Notably represented among that expertise were several participants with lived experience.
  • Community – Highlights like Monday’s Reception with a spinning photo booth, the Gospel Brunch, and the race to win Sponsor Bingo remind us that this community of TACFS is special. Throughout the week it was clear how much attendees, members, exhibitors, and guests enjoyed connecting, learning, and laughing together.  

Thanks for another great Texas Child Care Administrators Conference! We are already excited about next year.