UnConference: Creating a Safe Place with Trauma-Informed Care

UnConference Details

Between February 8-18, expert-led workshops will share content related to trauma-informed care. We begin the UnConference with keynote speaker Dr. Veirdre Jackson and dive into how we can create an environment of healing through equity and trust. Following the keynote, workshop sessions include how to identify family stressors, how to provide responsive care-giving for children experiencing trauma, and an overview of the recently launched Rapid Response Team from Trying Together. 

Video recordings of the sessions are available until April 20, 2022. You must have registered for the UnConference in order to access session recordings. If you are having trouble viewing the recordings, please contact Allison Hritz at allison@tryingtogether.org.

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What Do I Receive?

    • PQAS and/or Act 48 hours.
    • Networking with colleagues.
    • Interactive workshop sessions.
    • Refreshed or refined thinking about your work with young children.



Featured Sessions

Keynote: Co-Creating A Healing Community of Equity & Trust

Tuesday, February 8, 2022 | 6:30 – 8 p.m. 
Keynote Speaker: Dr. Veirdre Jackson, Living Strong Consulting

Communities, however defined, are made up of people who bring a range of experiences and histories. Remaining open, curious, and culturally humble is essential to understanding a community’s resilience, strength, and wisdom. Claudia Woody says, “Inclusion means not ‘just we’re allowed to be there,’ but we are valued there.” Participants will explore the 5 Blocks of Building Restorative Relationships that allow caregivers to create holistic and supportive spaces that are responsive to historical trauma and equity literacy, which holds us accountable to doing the work of learning together, seeking understanding, and creating a safe, valued, and heard community.

Rapid Response Team: Reducing Expulsions and Suspensions in Early Childhood Education

Thursday, February 10, 2022 |  6:30 – 8 p.m.
Presented by: Alicia Sebastian, Trying Together

This session will discuss the ongoing and growing issue surrounding expulsion and suspension in early childhood education that have been linked to staff implicit bias, challenging behaviors, and staffing issues. The presentation will guide parents, caregivers, directors, and staff working with children ages 0-5 on how to prevent expulsion and suspension in early childhood education. The session will discuss ways to implement evidence-based strategies to promote positive behavior support, self-regulation, and positive mental health. We will share community resources and programs for children and families in Allegheny County.

Self-Care Isn’t Selfish, It’s Necessary: Practical Tools for Early Childhood Educators to Reduce Stress and Avoid Burn-Out

Monday, February 14, 2022  |  12:30 – 2 p.m.
Presented by: Tracy Larson, Director, Early Childhood Partnerships, Office of Child Development

In this session, participants will learn why self-care is necessary, how to recognize when they need to be more intentional about self-care, and research informed strategies and activities to reduce stress and avoid burn-out. At the end of the session, participants will create a personalized self-care plan.

Talking to Listen: Exploring Family Stressors and Creating Positive Relationships to Support Families

Tuesday, February 15, 2022 | 6:30 – 8 p.m.
Presented by:
Patrick M. McKelvey, MS, NCC, National Youth Advocate Program Inc.

Children react differently to stress and trauma, which can sometimes exhibit itself as challenging behaviors in the classroom. This workshop helps educators understand the impact that family stressors (such as a death, food insecurity, changes in placement, community violence, etc.) can have on both children and their caregivers. Participants will learn how to notice these family stressors; how to communicate with caregivers to build relationships that provide a supportive environment for young children; and self-regulation strategies to manage strong emotions when having difficult conversations with caregivers.

Teaching Children Through a Trauma Lens

Thursday February 17, 2022 | 6:30 – 8 p.m.
Presenters:  Amanda Harrison, MA, LPC, NCC, Infant Early Childhood Mental Health Consultant with the PA Keys

Research continues to show the detrimental effects that complex trauma has on the developing brain with our most vulnerable population. Over time, these young children are at risk for developmental delays, limited positive relationships, and a host of other difficulties. Our early education classrooms can create safe, responsive, and equitable environments to assist in reducing these harmful effects. This presentation will identify different types of trauma, how young children with trauma may present in the classroom, and supportive strategies teachers can implement to foster environments that encourage healing.



Individuals may register for this event online. Recordings of each workshop session will be available on this webpage after the conclusion of each session. Please continue to monitor this page for updates.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How Do I Attend this UnConference Virtually?

These sessions are hosted using the web-based video conferencing platform Zoom. Please download Zoom to your device of choice prior to the start of the UnConference. UnConference hosts send out all workshop links via email at least 24 hours before the start of each event.

How Do I Receive Credit?

PQAS and Act 48 credits are available to professionals who registered for and complete these sessions. More information, including the online Attendance form, will be sent via email to individuals who registered. Once completed, Allison Hritz, Professional Learning Coordinator at Trying Together, will process your credit. If you have questions specific to receiving credit, please email allison@tryingtogether.org.

More Information

For questions about the UnConference, contact Yu-Ling Cheng at conference@tryingtogether.org.



Presenter Information

Keynote Presenter: Dr. Veirdre Jackson, Living Strong Consulting

Dr. Veirdre Jackson is a woman pursuing her purpose, passion, and life’s priority to share her belief that all children deserve the best education available. She is an award-winning author, educator, and entrepreneur who is recognized as a leading educational trainer in trauma informed practices and cultural competence. She is a veteran educator with over 20 years of experience supporting non-profit and executive leadership.

Dr. Jackson is the CEO/Founder of Living Strong Consulting LLC and the Co-Founder of Fresh Fountain of Life Counseling and Wellness. She also serves on the educational executive boards of the Black Women’s Educational Alliance and Camp Endeavor. She is a highly sought-after keynote speaker and consultant, working with organizations like Lakeside Global Institute as a mentor trainer; Penn State Extension as an online course developer; Pennsylvania Early Head Start as a classroom and home visiting coach; Zero to Three as a Certified trainer in Infant Toddler Competencies and the Growing Brain; and various K-12 public and charter school districts as an Equity and Justice Consultant and Relational Coach. Her commitment to leaders and organizational development is elevated through her John Maxwell Team Certification which allows her to support leaders in sustaining growth and maintaining mission through trainings, mastermind sessions, lunch & learns, and coaching in such topics as Today Matters, Leadership Gold, How to Be a REAL Success, Becoming A Person of Influence, The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth, and more. 

Dr. Jackson has been recognized for her expertise in professional development by Pennsylvania’s Keystone Stars’ Southeast Regional Key as a Professional Development Champion; is a featured presenter for the newly released “4 Part Trauma and Child Development Series” by Penn State’s Better Kid Care; has been a contributor to Women’s Entrepreneur Magazine; is a reoccurring keynote and breakout session speaker for conferences nationally and the guest speaker on several podcasts, and was recognized by the Philadelphia Business Journal as one of 40 Leaders Under 40.

Amanda Harrison, MA, LPC, NCC, Infant Early Childhood Mental Health Consultant with the PA Keys

A 2000 graduate with a degree in elementary education from Cameron University in Lawton, Oklahoma, Amanda always had a passion for working with children. Soon after returning to her hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, she went on to complete a Master’s in Clinical Counseling in which she specialized in child and adolescent therapy. For the past 16 years, she has had various roles in the mental health field. Currently, she continues her passion of working with children and families as an Infant Early Childhood Mental Health Consultant with the PA Keys. A current doctoral candidate at IUP’s Counselor Education and Supervision, PhD program, she also continues to specialize her education and assist others in becoming competent mental health professionals.

Dr. Tracy Larson, Director, Early Childhood Partnerships, Office of Child Development

Tracy Larson is a psychologist, educator and consultant who has worked in the early childhood education field for 17 years promoting adult and child social emotional learning and mental health and wellness. Dr. Larson empowers adults to build positive adult-child relationships and create supportive environments where all children thrive.

Patrick M. McKelvey, MS, NCC, National Youth Advocate Program Inc.

Patrick McKelvey earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida and Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology at Chatham University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Patrick is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Nationally Certified Counselor. Patrick has served in a variety of roles including a Clinical Program Manager overseeing pediatric and early childhood behavioral health programs in Western Pennsylvania, specializing in evidenced-based trauma treatments for children and families in various community and school-based settings and serving as an educational and outreach coordinator focused on childhood grief. Patrick currently serves as Clinical Supervisor for the National Youth Advocate Program (NYAP) in Columbus, Ohio where he oversees school-based programming and a newly developed rapid response team for children and adolescents. Patrick has spent the last 4 years collaborating with Allegheny County Children, Youth and Families to develop and implement staff supports to mitigate the effects of secondary traumatic stress. In addition, Patrick is a rostered Child- Parent Psychotherapy (CPP) therapist; and has a passion for developing innovative approaches to working within an interdisciplinary approach with other child-serving systems to advocate for strengthening child-centric and trauma-informed approaches to child and family supports.

Alicia Sebastian, Trying Together

Alicia Sebastian is currently spearheading a new project in Allegheny County focusing on decreasing and eliminating expulsions and suspensions in child care settings. Her current role as the Collaborations and Support Strategist focuses on creating a Rapid Response Team for child care providers to utilize if they are in need of external support for children, staff, and families. She has been working for Trying Together, a non-profit agency in Pittsburgh, PA since February 2020, where she started as an Early Head Start Coach providing support to Early Head Start staff. Prior to working with Trying Together, Alicia spent three years as a developmental therapist working with infants and toddlers ages zero to three throughout Allegheny and Washington County. She graduated from Indiana University of Pennsylvania in 2013 with a Bachelor’s of Science in Disability Services and completed her Master’s Degree in 2016 at the University of Pittsburgh through a program in Early Intervention specializing in Autism.

Thank You To Our Sponsors and Partners

A huge thank you to our series sponsor PNC Grow Up Great.


PNC Grow Up Great logo


About Trying Together

Trying Together supports high-quality care and education for young children by providing advocacy, community resources, and professional growth opportunities for the needs and rights of children, their families, and the individuals who interact with them. Trying Together works regionally (in Southwestern Pennsylvania) and takes its expertise and models to statewide and national audiences.