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Each year Defending the Cause brings together top experts from around the Greater Sacramento Region and beyond to provide valuable training on the effects of childhood abuse, neglect and trauma.  We believe every child deserves to grow up in a safe, loving family environment and when parents, caregivers and providers understand of the implications of childhood trauma, they can meet needs more effectively, promote healing and build resilience in the next generation. 


This year we're excited to bring the Training Up Conference directly to you in a new online format and our 2020 theme is "What Kids Need Most in the Midst of Chaos & Disruption." The main conference, held on Saturday, August 29th, will include valuable tools and resources for ALL parents, foster/adoptive families, teachers, social workers, counselors and anyone working or volunteering with children. Can't join us on the 29th? No problem! We've pre-recorded all 7 keynote sessions and anyone that registers will be able to watch these sessions on-demand from our website until Nov. 30th. We're also hosting 5 FREE workshops just for caregivers throughout the fall. 

We'll miss seeing you in-person this year but look forward to gathering online. We're all in this together!

Children Embracing in Circle



Live Conference

Saturday August 29th

8:30am - 12:00pm

Exclusive All-Conference Access

Available NOW for a Limited Time

Watch ALL Keynote Session On-Demand

Conference schedule

8:15-8:30am       Login Open
8:30-8:45am       Welcome Message

8:45-10:00am     Session 1 Keynotes

10:00-10:15am     Intermission
10:15-11:30am     Session 2 Keynotes

11:30-12pm          Conversation on Resilience

Event Sponsors

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Keynote Sessions



More Than Adequate Academic Support

Dr. Cindy Petersen | Superintendent - Gateway Community Charters

Despite all the changes to the education system this year, each of our kids still deserves the best education possible. With kids going back to school in a distance learning format, it’s vital for parents and educators to approach this new challenge optimistically and use creative methods to relate to each student and enhance learning by providing appropriate support. In this session Gateway Community Charter School Superintendent, Dr. Cindy Petersen will share valuable distance learning tips along with ideas to increase collaboration between parents and educators.

Healthy Doses of Activity & Touch 

Amy Oettle, OT | Highest Potential Therapy

All children are sensory beings and need daily doses of touch and activity. With kids learning from home this fall not participating in normal P.E. classes or many extracurricular sports, creative solutions are necessary to keep their “engines running right.” In this session, pediatric OT, Amy Oettle, shares trade secrets to ensure your child gets their daily sensory needs met, can focus well while doing distance learning and keep their bodies active and healthy.

Early Understanding of Equality & Acceptance

Nicole Fladger | Sacramento County Child Welfare Services​

Teaching children the meaning of equality and acceptance for all people is essential at a young age. Children are most impressionable and begin forming opinions and preferences during the first five years of life. During this time, kids also learn primarily through demonstration, rather than verbal instruction. In this keynote, we’ll share practical ways to teach children what true equality and acceptance is and how to demonstrate these imperative concepts through your own actions and non-verbal cues.

Protectors - Recognizing & Reporting Child Abuse & Neglect

Mike Mason | KidsFirst

With schools doing distance learning and most community-based activities on hold, children across the state are no longer in direct contact with their support network. Because of this, reports of child abuse are down significantly even though the frequency and intensity of these situations is likely rising. In this keynote, we’ll discuss the 1-2-3's of recognizing and reporting potential cases of child abuse or neglect empowering all community members to do their part in protecting kids and teens.

A Balance of Structure & Nurture

Tiffany Saathoff | Destiny Community Center

Parenting is a constant balance between providing healthy boundaries to keep kids safe and creating an open and loving environment that builds trust.  Children truly need both structure and nurture on a daily basis in order to learn, grow and mature. Right now, life is full of disruptions and unknowns but as adults, we can help our kids through the challenges they face by being consistent, clear and caring.  This keynote outlines the 4 categories of parenting and practical tips to help you succeed in day-to-day interactions with your children.

Space & Time to Process Emotions

Debbie McJimsey, LMFT | Adoption Therapist, TBRI Practitioner

Homes that have open lines of communication where thoughts and feelings can be shared safely, provide a lifeline for children. With so many big emotions to process in our current reality, adults need to be able to address their own feelings and invite kids to do the same. This session will help you develop practical skills to create safe connections and ensure a culture of communication with your kiddos.

Conversation about Hope & Resilience 

Special Guest Dr. Ashley Cross




Monday Evenings

Sept. 14th - Oct. 12th

8pm - 9pm


Sign up for the Sessions that Interest You

Cost: FREE



Click on the images below to register for each workshop.  Pick and choose or join us for all 5!

Resource families can earn 1 hour of Parent Training for each class. 

Secondary Trauma & Compassion Fatigue

A Night of Community

& Hope


Responding to Chaos & Disruption Using TBRI


Secondary Trauma & Compassion Fatigue


Bringing Reconciliation Home


Understanding Developmental Reflexes



A Night of Community & Hope - Sept. 14th

DTCRA Staff with Special Guest Joanna Jullien (Core Connectivity)

The past 6 months have been a challenge to say the least! Our world has been turned up-side-down by the pandemic, racial tensions and political agendas. All the changes have an amplified impact on kids from hard places making our job as parents and caregivers a little more challenging on a day-to-day basis. In times like these, we need community and encouragement more than ever. Join foster/resource, adoptive and kinship families for an evening filled with messages of hope from our DTC team, caregiver tips from special guest Joanna Jullien (Core Connectivity) and time to connect with like-minded people.

Responding to Chaos & Disruption Using TBRI - Sept. 21st

Charlotte Fritz, LMFT | Growing Hope

When kids from hard places experience chaos and disruption, they often have the additional struggle of being reminded of a chaotic past. Using the skills of Trust Based Relational Intervention, caregivers can work to help kids by a creating a supportive environment and addressing sensory needs. This workshop will discuss tangible skills caregivers can use right away to support children in their care.


Secondary Trauma & Compassion Fatigue - Sept. 28th

Mark O’Sullivan, Senior Chaplain | Educational Ministries, Inc. & O’Sullivan Consulting

Compassion fatigue can be a serious occupational hazard for anyone serving in a caring profession or capacity.  It’s typically those who exercise the most empathy who are at highest risk. In this breakout session, seasoned chaplain and trauma expert Mark O’Sullivan will outline the relationship between secondary trauma and compassion fatigue, the typical characteristics of physical and emotional exhaustion along with a profound decrease in the ability to empathize, plus valuable tools to combat these things when caring for kids from hard places.


Bringing Reconciliation Home - Oct. 5th

Heidi White | DTCRA  &   Nicole Fladger | Sacramento Child Welfare

In the world of foster care and adoption, many families welcome children of different races and ethnicities. Multiracial families face unique challenges in the community and at home that need to be addressed in order to promote healing for kids from trauma.  In this workshop, we’ll look at race from a systemic and historical vantage point and address the role healthy race relations has in raising children of a different race. We’ll also lay out practical steps to take in bringing reconciliation home.


Understanding Developmental Reflexes - Oct. 12th

Leanne Liddicoat, O.D. | ClearVue Eye Care  &  Teri Gelgood, LMFT | Creating Joy Now

Primitive or developmental reflexes are involuntary motor responses originating in the brainstem that are present at birth and in early childhood. For healthy children, these reflexes integrate or disappear automatically during normal development but trauma or neglect may cause some of these reflexes to be retained. In this workshop, co-presenters Leanne Liddicoat, O.D and Teri Gelgood, LMFT will explain what retained reflexes are, how they affect learning, why they resurface with trauma and how they can be addressed.

Speaker Bios

Amy Oettle, OTR/L

Amy is a pediatric occupational therapist with many years of experience in out-patient clinics and school based settings. She holds a Master’s degree from the University of Southern California (USC) and received training from the National Center for Equine Facilitated Therapy. Amy also earned her Certification in Sensory Integration (AKA “SIPT-certified”), holds training in Handwriting without Tears and completed Level I and level II hippotherapy training from the American Hippotherapy Association. Whether working in a therapy room or a horse arena, Amy is passionate about helping children improve their fine motor, gross motor and sensory processing skills to achieve their highest potential.

Dr. Ashley R. Cross

Dr. Ashley Cross established the first girls’ home in Tulsa, OK and raised awareness in the city about the issues concerning girls in foster care. Dr. Cross lives to help vulnerable children build hope that the future will be better and help them see that they have a part to play in it. She currently serves as the Executive Director of Generation Two in Rochester, NY, runs the Monroe County CarePortal through the Hub585, Inc., and Pastor’s alongside her husband at Glory House International. Dr. Cross has her bachelor’s degree in Psychology, a Master’s in Not-for-Profit Management, and Doctor of Educational Leadership, all from Oral Roberts University.

Charlotte Fritz, LMFT

Charlotte has been married to her husband Scott for 13 years. They adopted two beautiful children locally through foster-adoption over the course of the last 7 years, and fostered two other children who later reunited with their birth family. Charlotte has been a Marriage and Family Therapist since 2007, and currently specializes in working with families who are raising children who have experienced trauma. Charlotte is a certified TBRI provider and her passion is connecting foster and post-adoptive families with the resources they need.

Dr. Cindy Petersen

Dr. Cindy Petersen is the Superintendent/CEO of Gateway Community Charters, a group of nine charters serving approximately 4,700 K-12 students in the greater Sacramento region. Dr. Petersen is a life-long learner and a committed educator, having served in education in a wide array of roles and settings.  She is passionate about meeting the unique and diverse needs of students in our community.  Dr. Petersen has received many honors including the 2019 Exemplary Woman In Education Award and she is highly involved in advancing character and leadership development in elementary schools. 

Debbie McJimsey, LMFT

Debbie is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and the Founder/Director of West Roseville Counseling Center. She is a Certified Adoption Competent Therapist, Certified Trainer for the Adoption Competency program and has post-graduate training in EMDR, TBRI, and EFT. She is the trainer for Resource Parents at Lilliput Families and for therapists/social workers who are seeking post-graduate certification in Adoption Competence (an 18-month long certification program). Debbie has been married for 25 years and is the parent of three children: two biological and one through international adoption.

Heidi White

Heidi majored in Sociology in college and began her career with Koinonia Family Services where she worked for 4 years as Child Care Counselor in group homes and as a clerk in adoptions. Heidi joined staff at Bayside Church in 2013 as the Women’s Student Life Director of Thrive School. Her passion for foster care and adoptions began when she was 15 years old and currently Heidi is transitioning into a full-time role with Defending the Cause Regional Alliance as the Church Relations Director connecting the heart of the Father with the hearts and homes of the Church.

Joanna Jullien

Joanna is the founder and CEO of Core Connectivity, a foundation to empower families. She has served the community as a prevention and recovery strategist and as a parenting and family life educator and coach on strengthening the parent-child relationship in a cyber-powered world. She is a former technology executive trained in behavioral science at U.C. Berkeley, a mother of two grown sons, and an author of books for practical guidance on parenting, growing up and family life in the network culture. As a family and technology culture adviser, Joanna has appeared on 103.9FM The Fish, 710AM Keeping Faith in America, 1380AM The Answer, and

Leanne Liddicoat, O.D.

Dr. Leanne Liddicoat completed her undergraduate studies at UC Davis in Economics. Motivated by her own vision issues, she chose a career in optometry out of a desire to help others see and function better.  She graduated from the UC Berkeley School of Optometry in 1998, receiving awards for both her theses work on vision related learning disorders and emergency eye care.  Dr. Liddicoat's passion for pediatric eye care leads her to coordinate school vision screenings, publish articles, and give presentations on vision therapy to other colleagues, pediatricians, school teachers, administrators, and parents.  She and her family reside in the Loomis/Newcastle area, and she's been practicing optometry in the Roseville, Rocklin & Granite Bay area for almost 20 years.

Mark O'Sullivan

Mark has been a career Law Enforcement and Public Safety Chaplain for over 38 years. He holds a Masters of Ministry Degree in Public Safety from Trinity Biblical University and attained Master Chaplain Certification with the International Conference of Police Chaplains. Chaplain O’Sullivan has served as the Senior Law Enforcement Chaplain in Placer and Sacramento Counties, as a Senior Chaplain with the F.B.I. and Past President of the International Conference of Police Chaplains. He is a “Certified Expert” in the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress and an educational provider in the field of Critical Incident Stress Management, Crisis Response and Traumatics. He is currently the President and Executive Director of Educational Ministries, Inc. and President of O’Sullivan Consulting. Chaplain O’Sullivan and his wife Patti have three grown children, Daniel, Michael and Erin. 

Mike Mason

Mike has been with KidsFirst Counseling and Family Resource Centers for over 6 years. He is a graduate of the Defense School of Public Affairs & has a B.A. in Communication Studies as well as two Professional Life Coaching certifications. A father of 2 adult children, Mike’s background is Marketing & Public Relations, but he found a new passion in social causes - particularly in advocating for child abuse prevention as well as positive father involvement. In addition to his community relations & development duties at KidsFirst, he teaches Mandated Reporting, Child Abuse Signs & Symptoms and ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences) Awareness in California as well as manages his agency’s Forever Fathers dads support groups.

Nicole Fladger

Nicole is a Social Worker and African American Cultural Specialist with Sacramento County where she assists families in reunification. Nicole is passionate about giving back to her community and helping individuals over come mental, physical, and emotional blocks in their lives. She also has a heart for racial reconciliation and in 2017, Nicole founded "Wisdom and Worth Ministries", an organization to help educate and empower people. Nicole holds degrees in Christian Education and Human Services with a concentration in Child and Family Services and is currently working on her Master’s degree in Social Work. i

Teri Gelgood, LMFT

Teri is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who has worked with foster and adopted children and their families for over 25 years in various capacities and settings.   Teri specializes in the area of neurodevelopmental trauma and is a clinician, trainer, consultant and expert witness.  Teri is the creator of Healing Difficult Beginnings:  Neurodevelopmental Parenting and is in private practice in El Dorado County. 

Tiffany Loeffler, DPT

Tiffany is the founder and director of Defending the Cause Regional Alliance (DTCRA) in addition to working in the healthcare field as orthopedic physical therapist.  She firmly believes that every child deserves a family who loves them and that collaboration is the only way to see wide-spread impact. Tiffany and her husband Matt led short term mission teams to Haiti for 7 years plus founded a local church-based foster care and adoption ministry where she made connections with agencies and nonprofits all around the Greater Sacramento Area prior to launching DTCRA in 2016. They have 2 amazing kids, James (13) & Laurie (18), who were adopted from Haiti after a miraculous 6 1/2 year international adoption process.

Tiffany Saathoff

Tiffany and her husband Eric have been married 13 years, have two children, Blake and Paige, who were adopted from Placer County Foster Care and a baby on the way. Together, Eric and Tiffany have a heart for strengthening the family unit. They were children's pastors at Destiny Christian Church for 10 years and now are Directors of Destiny Community Center where they offer resources to strengthen and support families. Trained in Love & Logic and Kimochi Social Therapy, Tiffany teaches West Coast leaders in churches, community centers and public schools and she developed a 3-week Co-Parenting curriculum for separated/divorced/foster/adopt/blended families. With a degree from UC Davis in Psychology emphasizing on Child and Family Development, Tiffany is trained in assessing and implementing family health strategies. Eric and Tiffany's goal is simple, to provide the resources and education necessary to see stability and health in local homes. 

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