After a year of adapting to so much change, the theme for our 29th Annual Conference and Trade Show —Resilience: Strengthening and Supporting Families — couldn’t have been more timely. Local and state WIC staff, vendors, and community partners who labor to make WIC work have already shown incredible resilience. The 2021 Conference is a fantastic opportunity to celebrate that resilience while gaining more skills and connections to help us continue successfully into the unknown future. 

Like many nonprofit organizations and state agencies, we have gone virtual. We know that there are mixed opinions about learning on a virtual platform, and we understand. The biggest takeaway for CWA, from 2020, and now for 2021 and 2022, is that ALL levels of WIC staff, students, and allied health professionals can come together as collaborators, teachers, and learners. We have a track dedicated to Equity for ALL Families, but we also stand behind the idea of equitable access to educational and networking opportunities that enhance and elevate our membership and our partners. 

 So, what happens at a 5-day virtual conference? More than 25 sessions offer 30+ continuing education units for RDs, IBCLCs, and RNs. New this year: two learning tracks for certain portions of the conference, and all attendees will have until August 31st to watch what they missed on-demand. What this means for WIC staff, is that if you can’t come for the entire conference, there is a no-stress solution! View it at your own pace over the next three months! 

Given the popularity of our two virtual conferences in 2020, the 2021 and 2022 Annual Conference will be just as vibrant and interactive. We read each and every evaluation, and tried to apply as many recommendations and ideas as we could. Our Conference Planning Committee, comprised of representatives from multiple WIC agencies and organizations, also brought the voices of WIC staff to the forefront during our planning process. The following are some highlights and we hope to see you in 2022! Dates to be determined, but you won’t want to miss it.  

Pre-conferences aren’t new to CWA’s conference agenda, however, they were new to this year’s virtual agenda. Attendees have the choice between two sessions offering training on Perinatal Opioid Use Disorder or Marketing Outreach and Social Media

Plenary Sessions: Monday, Dr. Arthur James, Ohio OBGYN and pediatrician, and a research expert and thought leader on the racial and ethnic disparities of infant and maternal mortality, will share insights on Achieving Equity Through Birth Outcomes, a Message of Hope, and a Call to Action for Healthy People 2030. To follow in this vein, Stephanie Weldy, MEd, will explore Behavior Design: A Systemic Approach to Lasting Change, which will give attendees some new tools to provide inclusive services to all groups, eliminating the gaps that create racial disparities, while caring for one another in cohesive environments. 

Workshops: Each 60- to 90-minute session focuses on topics richly relevant to the challenges and changes WIC staff face. Learn about connections between culture, trauma and breastfeeding; leadership and emotional resiliency; breastmilk supply and sharing strategies; toddler feeding practices; human trafficking responses; maternal mental health and birth outcomes; outreach strategies; and so much more! Workshop presenters integrate approaches vital to WIC’s success, such as racial and social justice, wellness promotion, innovation, and collaboration.

One of the perks of having virtual conferences is the access to a wider range of speakers. Wendy and Jess from Food Heaven, headquartered in New York, are a dynamic duo whose social media presence is electrifying. They help their followers understand the importance of inclusive messaging around nutrition and challenge some of the status quo about bodies, dieting, and privilege. [insert pic of wendy & jess] 

Liz Brooks, JD, IBCLC, FILCA, from Pennsylvania, a popular speaker on topics important to lactation professionals, talks about the ethical and legal angles to Human Milk Sharing, Selling, and Donation, while Nekisha Killings, from Florida, MPH, IBCLC, draws a line of trust and respect between patient and provider, teaching her workshop attendees about challenging their own implicit biases and considering attitudes, culture, language, and other factors that might have traditionally impeded communication, or relational connection in her take on BreastSide Manner. [insert photo of Liz, Nekisha]

Camie Jae Goldhammer, MSW, LICSW, IBCLC, brings attendees closer to understanding intergenerational trauma and how it affects parenting practices specifically breastfeeding is Communities of Color, in her talk Culture, Trauma, Breastfeeding: How it is all Connected. Camie is the founder and chair of the Native American Breastfeeding Coalition of Washington. She is also a founding mother and President Elect of the National Association of Professional and Peer Lactation Supporters of Color. In 2013 she became Washington state’s first Native American IBCLC. [Insert photo of Camie]

Nakeisha Robinson, MA, LMFT, leads a powerful workshop on Perinatal Mental Health: Strategies to address racial and geographic disparities in birth outcomes, where attendees will explore policies and systems that uphold the status quo or built-in discrimination and maintain the health disparities we aim to end. Our allies at Dignity Health lead a discussion for social service providers on Human Trafficking. 

Whether you attend our conferences for nutrition, breastfeeding, or both, there is no shortage of topics that will keep you informed and thinking. Additionally, we are always happy to bring on speakers that help us work in better ways. Coming to us from Colorado, Michelle Cummings, MS, Founder  of the organizational development firm Training Wheels, ties in the theme of our 29th Annual Conference by teaching us about Leadership &  Emotional Resiliency, and our ability to adapt to stressful relationships and situations as we encounter them in our day to day. Amy Climer, PhD, from North Carolina, is an expert in creative leadership and team development as we move through big systems changes, and fosters big ideas on how to drive innovation within organizations by focusing on developing Deliberate Creative Teams. [insert pics of Michelle and Amy]

Virtual Trade Show: The Virtual Trade Show continues to evolve in really wonderful ways, where exhibitors can provide on-demand learning as well as allowing for attendees to view materials, and chat with them in real time. Attendees can also meet with our trade partners via links available throughout the conference week and participate in a number of Q&A sessions, lunch & learns, scavenger hunts, and contests. Vendors and Community Partners can reach to attendees on the platform and vice versa. 

We are inspired by your ongoing resilience! While we will miss being with you in person, we hope you find the conferences, in their current iteration, offer you valuable education that’s equally as inspiring in an accessible and flexible format. We also really like being together and we know that you do too. With that in mind, there are so many opportunities on a virtual platform to network and stay engaged. Whether it is participating in a very active chat, offering thought-provoking questions in our Q&A feeds, showing up and showing out for our virtual contests (who doesn’t love a good picture of a baby or a puppy), and revisiting the platform to ensure that you take all of this knowledge back to your colleagues, we are here for your ideas! So stay tuned, and stay engaged. We will see you soon! 

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