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Join us at the Kempe Conference.

2022 Kempe Conference

A Call to Action to Change Child Welfare

October 3-6, 2022

A family walking their dog in a park

Phoenix Zones Initiative (PZI) and our coalition partners presented at the 2022 Kempe Conference. Hosted by the University of Colorado’s Anschutz Medical Campus, this virtual conference was dedicated to advancing health and justice for children and their families.

PZI organized four panel discussions to elevate the conversation around significant children’s rights initiatives that PZI is pursuing as part of an international coalition. Our coalition has committed to a shared set of policy goals that includes the creation of a US high-level entity dedicated to advancing children’s rights, health, and wellbeing.

Help us advance children’s rights: adding your signature to our sign-on letter shows decision makers that there’s a groundswell of support for advancing the rights and wellbeing of children.

Image of mother holder her child and smiling

Our Featured Panel Presentation:

October 6: Children Are Not Silos: A Rights-Based, Just One Health Approach to Advance Health and Justice

Every human on the planet is either a current or former child. Children are uniquely vulnerable, and they are a non-voting bloc—easily exploited in countless ways and often overlooked in policy decisions. A rights-based, interdisciplinary, and just One Health approach can advance primary prevention and social, economic, and environmental determinants of health for children, recognizing that the rights, health, and wellbeing of children are inextricably linked with those of all people, animals, and the planet.


  • Hope Ferdowsian, MD, MPH, FACP, FACPM, is President/CEO at Phoenix Zones Initiative, an Associate Professor at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine, and a Medical Expert for Physicians for Human Rights.
  • Miriam Abaya, JD, is Vice President for Immigration and Children’s Rights at First Focus on Children.
  • Amy LeBoeuf is a K-12 Public Educator; Founder/Director of Louisiana One Health In Action; Chair, One Health Education Team-US.
  • Emily Peitzman, MD, is an Associate Physician of Pediatrics at COO Children’s Services at the University of California San Francisco.

Watch Miriam Abaya talk about why the US needs a federal leadership position to advocate for children:

Our Other Panel Presentations:

October 3: How Can High-Level Federal Leadership Improve Outcomes for US Children?

Child development is multifaceted and complex. Children’s lived experience cannot be neatly parsed into siloes, yet the US government typically divides children’s issues and programs among sectors that oversee narrowly defined programs. This panel of advocates who are working in a coalition to advance children’s leadership will discuss why such an entity must be given the mandate and resources to help coordinate the array of systems that affect children.


  • Jonathan Todres, JD, is Distinguished University Professor and Professor of Law at Georgia State University College of Law.
  • Jerry Milner, DSW, is Director of Public Knowledge and served as Associate Commissioner of the US Children’s Bureau.
  • Miriam Abaya, JD, is Vice President for Immigration and Children’s Rights at First Focus on Children.
  • Melissa Carter, JD, is Executive Director at Barton Child Law and Policy Center at Emory University.

Watch Jerry Milner talk about how a US federal leadership position could address systemic challenges that affect children:

October 4: Exploring International Models: Ombuds and Commissioners Around the Globe

More than 80 countries have established high-level offices or agencies to coordinate and advocate for children’s issues across layers of government, all with varied levels of authority and autonomy. How might these international offices serve as examples to inform the work of the advocates who are currently working to establish federal children’s leadership in the US?


  • Warren Binford, JD, EdM, is W.H. Lea for Justice Endowed Chair in Pediatric Law, Ethics & Policy, Director for Pediatric Law at University of Colorado Anschutz School of Medicine, and Professor of Law at University of Colorado Law School.
  • Corinne Dettmeijer-Vermeulen, Master of Law, is an Elected Member of The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination and was Dutch National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings and Sexual Violence against Children.
  • Irwin Elman, Med, is Global Strategic Advisor at Until The Last Child and a former Child Advocate for the Province of Ontario, Canada.
  • Mykola Kuleba, MA, is Director of Human Rights at iDemocracy and former Ombudsman for Children with the President of Ukraine.
  • Chizuno Hata, PhD, is Associate Professor in the College of Regional Sciences at Tottori University, Japan.

October 6: How Can Child Advocacy Positions in US States Serve as a Model for Federal-Level Leadership?

Almost half of US states have done what the federal government has yet to do: they have appointed a children’s Commissioner or Ombuds to advocate for and advance children’s interests within government. How can their successes and challenges inform the ongoing effort to establish a high-level federal leadership position to advocate for children’s issues?


  • Jerry Milner, DSW, is Director of Public Knowledge, and served as Former Associate Commissioner at the Children’s Bureau.
  • Stephanie Villafuerte, JD, is Colorado’s Child Protection Ombudsman.
  • Dannette Smith is CEO of Nebraska’s Department of Health and Human Services.
  • Darin Mancuso is Oregon’s first Foster Care Ombudsman and has lived experience in foster care and adoption.

If you’re interested in attending the conference, find out more, and register to attend.

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