Conference Materials

2020 Virtual Annual Conference of the Parental Defense Alliance of Utah

May 14-12, 2020 1-4pm both days

Thursday, May 14, 2020

12pm - 1pm

Using the Agency's Witness to Make Your Client's Case: Cross Examination Skill Building by Eleanor Wilkinson and Victoria Bleier

There's nothing more satisfying than a good cross-examination. Come learn how to use the agency's witness to make your client's case.  This session will provide participants with practical skills to implement during the cross-examination of an agency case worker.  Through an interactive BINGO game and live demonstrations, learn techniques to turn the worker's testimony to your advantage.  The session will provide information on the need for formal discovery, the importance of preparation, techniques for controlling the witness, and cheat sheets to use in court.

Professional Bios:

Eleanor Wilkinson has been a trial attorney with the Massachusetts public defender agency’s Children and Family Law Division since 2009. In that capacity she represents indigent parents and children in child welfare proceedings, including termination of parental rights trials, and status offense cases. Eleanor received her J.D. in 2008 from Boston College Law School, where she was a Senior Articles Editor of the Boston College Third World Law Journal.

Victoria Bleier has been a trial attorney with the Massachusetts public defender agency’s Children and Family Law Division since 2011. In that capacity she represents indigent parents and children in child welfare proceedings, including termination of parental rights trials, and status offense cases. Victoria Bleier received her J.D. in 2011 from Quinnipiac Law School where she earned a concentration in Family & Juvenile Law.

1pm - 2pm

Ethical Considerations in Removing Barriers to Success in Child Welfare Cases by Alan Sevison

Alan Sevision will be guiding a discussion surrounding the ethical implications surrounding communication with case workers.  

Alan Sevison has worked with the Child Protection Division of the Utah Office of Attorney General as an Assistant Attorney General for 23 years. He is currently a Section Director, supervising child welfare work in the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth judicial districts. Prior to his work with the Attorney General, Alan practiced law as a public defender in Utah County, representing parents in child welfare matters and minors in delinquency cases.”


2pm -3:30pm

Reasonable Efforts by Judge Leonard Edwards

Judge Edwards will be presenting on the topic of reasonable efforts, based on a career-long dedication to that subject.

Judge Leonard Edwards is a retired judge now serving as a consultant and educator.  Judge Edwards was a Superior Court judge for 26 years, retiring in 2006.  He served as Judge-In-Residence with the California Judicial Council for 6 years.  Judge Edwards is a judicial educator having given over 500 invited presentations in 47 states and 13 foreign countries.  He is a past president of the NCJFCJ.  In Santa Clara County he founded the Child Advocate Program, the Domestic Violence Council, Kids in Common, and the Dependency Drug Treatment Court which was the first such treatment court in California.  His publications and videos can be seen on his website –

Friday, May 15, 2020

12pm - 1pm

Dealing with Challenging Clients by Vivek Sankaran

Working with parents in the child welfare system can often prove to be challenging, even for the most experienced family defense attorneys.  This session will give participants the space to think about how they might approach their work differently to better connect with clients, address their needs and support them as they navigate the system.

Vivek Sankaran, '01, advocates for the rights of children and parents involved in child welfare proceedings. His work focuses on improving outcomes for children in foster care by empowering their parents and strengthening decision-making processes in juvenile courts. A clinical professor of law at the University of Michigan Law School, Professor Sankaran directs both the Child Advocacy Law Clinic and the Child Welfare Appellate Clinic, through which law students represent children and parents in trial and appellate proceedings. Professor Sankaran has written numerous articles focused on improving the child welfare system and has litigated cases before the Michigan Supreme Court. In addition, he conducts state and national trainings and works on child welfare initiatives with various national groups, including the American Bar Association, Casey Family Programs, and the National Center for State Courts. 

After graduating from Michigan Law in 2001, Professor Sankaran received a Skadden Fellowship to represent children at The Children's Law Center in Washington, D.C., where he remained until 2005, when he joined the Law School faculty. In 2009, Professor Sankaran founded the Detroit Center for Family Advocacy, the first organization in the country to provide multidisciplinary legal assistance to families to prevent the unnecessary entry of children into foster care. In 2011, he was named Michigan's Parent Attorney of

1pm - 2pm

Drug Test Results In The Courtroom by Samuel Poff and Gordon Nelson

This presentation covers the basics of drug testing, including some discussion of the science behind the drug testing results, including the differences between toxicology tests, and "pure substance" tests, drug metabolism, sources of contamination, deliberate falsification, the different kinds of drug tests, a detailed discussion of marijuana and methamphetamine testing, and the importance of accuracy in drug testing.  Also included are common foundational evidentiary issues, how to get the drug test results (what to ask for in your GRAMA requests), how to choose an expert witness, the best cases to use an expert, cross-examination, case law, hearsay and confrontation clause issues.

Samuel Poff has a bachelor's from Utah State University, a master's degree in chemistry and a law degree from the University of Utah. He worked for 10 years in a drug testing lab, and now works for the Utah County Public Defender's office. Gordon Nelson has over 20 years of experience in SAMHSA / NLCP forensic toxicology laboratories, with many years as a laboratory director (SAMHSA / NLCP Responsible Person) and is a laboratory inspector for SAMHSA / NLCP accredited forensic toxicology laboratories and College of American Pathologists accredited laboratories where he has performed over 100 laboratory inspections.

2pm - 3pm

The Harm of Removal: What Children and Youth Have to Say by Dr. Monique Mitchell

Drawing upon child-centered research, this webinar will address how children are impacted by removal from their original home and entry into foster care. The six major types of ambiguity experienced by children in foster care will be explored and the implications of these experiences in relation to psychological and emotional trauma will be discussed.

Monique B. Mitchell, PhD, FT is the Executive Director of Life Transitions International and the Director of Training & Translational Research at Dougy Center: The National Grief Center for Children & Families. Dr. Mitchell is a nationally recognized authority on children, teens, and families who are grieving in foster care, and the author of The Neglected Transition: Building a Relational Home for Children Entering Foster Care (Oxford University Press, 2016) and Living in an Inspired World: Voices and Visions of Youth in Foster Care (Child Welfare League of America Press, 2017), A Cure Worse than the Disease? The Impact of Removal on Children and their Families (co-authored by Vivek Sankaran and Christopher Church; Marquette Law Review, 2019), among other publications. Dr. Mitchell, alongside her colleague Dr. Donna Schuurman, developed the L.Y.G.H.T. program; a trauma-informed and evidence-based intervention for youth in foster care who are grieving death and non-death losses. 

Dr. Mitchell has trained and researched extensively on topics related to the lived experience of children and youth in the foster care system, taught undergraduate and graduate courses on loss and grief, and developed child-centered curricula to serve children who are grieving. She has worked with children, youth, and young adults who have been impacted by death and non-death losses in Canada, Honduras, and the United States.

Dr. Mitchell has partnered with national agencies such as the United States Children’s Bureau, American Bar Association, the Child Welfare League of America, the National Foster Parent Association, and numerous child welfare agencies. She currently serves on national committees for the Association for Death Education & Counseling (ADEC) and the National Alliance for Grieving Children (NAGC).