Posted Thursday, January 30, 2020 by Team Northwoods

Can't Miss Conferences for Human Services in 2020 [Updated!]

Editor's note: We're monitoring information to provide updates as conferences across the country get cancelled or postponed due to COVID-19. This post was most recently updated on August 28, 2020.

If one of your 2020 goals is to keep your finger on the pulse of key issues, trends, and topics impacting your agency and/or the community, industry conferences are a great way to get started.

We've vetted a lot of human services and digital government conferences over time, and we like to start each new year with our recommendations.


This list represents events that not only have excellent programming and speakers, but also build in time for attendees to network and discuss how they're addressing key opportunities and challenges.

Unfortunately, all the conferences on our 2020 list were canceled or postponed due to COVID-19 except for CWDA Annual Conference, which will be held virtually in October. However, in lieu of hosting physical events, most organizations have created various digital resources and learning opportunities which are now linked below. 

  1. CWLA 2020 National Conference
  2. OJFSDA Annual Training Conference
  3. APHSA's National Health and Human Services Summit
  4. NYPWA's Annual Summer Conference
  5. FCC Foundation's Annual Conference
  6. HSFo Annual Conference
  7. MESC 2020
  8. APHSA's ISM Conference
  9. CWDA Annual Conference

You may also be interested in tuning in to these virtual events:


Child Welfare League of America (CWLA) 2020 Conference

  • COVID-19 update: The conference has been postponed until March 2021. In the meantime, CWLA is regularly updating its COVID-19 resource page with news, information, and learning opportunities for child welfare professionals, parents, caregivers, community partners, and others impacted by the crisis.
  • Who? Child and family program administrators; agency leadership; policy and research professionals; caregivers and community partners.
  • What? Celebrates leadership in creating and advancing standards of practice, advocacy, and information-sharing to enhance the well-being of children and families.
  • When? March 25-29
  • Where? Washington, DC
  • Why? Since this year marks CWLA's 100th anniversary, we're looking forward to sessions about reflecting on the past in hopes they'll lead to productive discussions around creating a new and better path forward.
  • Related link: Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway—5 Ideas to Create Meaningful Change in Child Welfare
  • Learn more: Visit CWLA's conference website for additional information


Ohio Job and Family Services Directors' Association (OJFSDA) Annual Training Conference

  • COVID-19 update: OJFSDA Annual Training Conference has been canceled.
  • Who? Directors and leaders from county agencies; state and local policymakers, legislators, and commissioners
  • What? Provides training, research, education, and idea-sharing to help attendees find new ways to better serve the citizens of Ohio.
  • When? May 14-15
  • Where? Columbus, OH
  • Why? OJFSDA is always a good opportunity to hear updates around modernization and innovation efforts underway across the state, plus offers a chance for us to check in with our Ohio customers.
  • Related link: Northwoods Working with State of Ohio on Statewide Document Management
  • Learn more: Visit OJFSDA's website for additional information


American Public Human Services Association's (APHSA) National Health and Human Services (HHS) Summit

  • Rich Bowlen, child welfare evangelist, answers questions at APHSA's National Health and Human Services SummitCOVID-19 update: APHSA cancelled the summit and most 2020 events, but continues to publish COVID-19 updates and resources, including contributed content from strategic industry partners.
  • Who? HHS agency directors, program administrators, and professionals
  • What? Showcases HHS innovation and focuses on improving collaboration to achieve better outcomes for children, families, and communities.
  • When? June 7-10
  • Where? Arlington, VA
  • Why? This conference is one of only two that have been on our list since its inception! Northwoodians who attend the summit come back with a ton of insight on upcoming policy/program changes and industry trends will affect our partners.
  • Related link: Systems as Storytellers: Connecting People and Systems to Boost Collaboration
  • Learn more: Visit the summit website or find more information about all of APHSA's conferences and events

New York Public Welfare Association's (NYPWA) Annual Summer Conference

  • Andrea Tipping and Cole Krumpak represent Northwoods at NYPWA conferenceCOVID-19 update: While the summer conference has been canceled, NYPWA's Annual Winter Conference will be held virtually from January 19-22, 2021.
  • Who? New York's local and state social services agency administrators
  • What? Promotes the exchange of ideas, development of new initiatives, and refinement of existing programs and services among New York’s 58 local departments of social services, state government agencies, and other organizations.
  • When? July 19-22
  • Where? Saratoga Springs, NY
  • Why? New York's commissioners share our commitment to innovation and helping agencies leverage new technology to make the biggest impact on the community. This year, we're excited to share updates on the projects we have underway with Cayuga, Chautauqua, Jefferson, Onondaga, Madison, and Seneca counties.
  • Related links: Resources for child welfare in New York; Resources for lobby management
  • Learn more: Visit NYPWA's website for additional information 

Florida Coalition for Children (FCC) Foundation's Annual Conference

  • COVID-19 update: The FCC 2020 Annual Conference has been canceled. The Coalition continues to add resources to its COVID-19 response page.
  • Who? Child welfare agency directors, board members, program managers, supervisors, case managers, administrative staff, and advocates
  • What? Focuses on the agencies and individuals who work on the behalf of Florida’s abused, abandoned, neglected, and at-risk children.
  • When? July 27-29
  • Where? Orlando, FL
  • Why? This conference draws a wide array of attendees and we value the opportunity to have conversations with both policy-makers and frontline workers about how Traverse® can help workers facilitate more purposeful visits.
  • Related link: Connecting the Dots: How Traverse Can Positively Impact a Child's Life
  • Learn more: Visit the FCC conference website for additional information 

National Association of State Human Services Finance Officers Organization (HSFo) Annual Conference

  • COVID-19 update: HSFo has canceled the conference, plus all training events that require travel until further notice. Information provided by members related to the budget and financial impacts of the crisis will be shared among members and attendees instead.
  • Who? State and local finance professionals; federal officials and policy-makers
  • What? Exchanging ideas, learning from each other's successes, and blending best practices related to changes in federal and state policies and regulations.
  • When? August 9-13
  • Where? Providence, RI
  • Why? We know that budgets and finance are an ongoing challenge in human services, especially when it comes to purchasing technology. This conference provides a wealth of knowledge and ideas that we can share with agencies when they need help.
  • Related link: Technology Toolkit: An Essential Buyer's Guide for Human Services
  • Learn more: Visit HSFo's website for additional information

Medicaid Enterprise Systems Conference (MESC) 2020

  • COVID-19 update: MESC postponed the conference until 2021, but the planning committee will be announcing different opportunities for attendees to exchange information and build relationships over the next 12 months. 
  • Who? Public and private sector Medicaid IT professionals and thought leaders
  • What? Sharing ideas and information related to Medicaid systems and initiatives, as well as policies affected by those systems.
  • When? August 10-13
  • Where? Boston, MA
  • Why? This conference presents an opportunity to expand our knowledge around enterprise systems, integrated eligibility, and statewide modernization efforts. 
  • Related link: Envisioning the New Normal: Paving a Path Through Technology
  • Learn more: Visit the MESC 2020 website for additional information


APHSA’s IT Solutions Management (ISM) for Human Services

  • Northwoodians at ISM 2018COVID-19 update: APHSA cancelled ISM and most 2020 events, but continues to publish COVID-19 updates and resources, including contributed content from strategic industry partners.
  • Who? Agency directors, program administrators, IT directors, technology partners, and federal/state officials
  • What? Brings together federal, state, local, and private sector thought leaders to discuss lessons learned, emerging issues, and key trends relating to HHS technology.
  • When? September 13-16
  • Where? Kissimmee, FL
  • Why? ISM is hands down one of our favorite events to hear from partners and industry experts about the most important IT topics and innovations impacting human services.
  • Related link: Machine-Assisted Social Work and the Future of Child Welfare Technology
  • Learn more: Visit the ISM website or find more information about all of APHSA's conferences and events


County Welfare Directors Association (CWDA) of California Annual Conference

  • Northwoods helps California social services agencies keep up with complex demandsCOVID-19 update: The conference will be held virtually October 7-8.
  • Who? California child welfare agency directors, program managers, and supervisors
  • What? Promotes innovation and encourages attendees to expand their approaches to best serving children, families, and aging individuals
  • When? October 7-9
  • Where? Anaheim, CA
  • Why? This is another good opportunity to hear about digital, forward-thinking strategies and ideas to improve service delivery across the continuum of care. We're excited to show how our solutions can help California agencies use a person's entire history to help shape their future, plus provide updates on our work with Monterey, Ventura, and Yuba counties.
  • Related link: Resources for child welfare in California
  • Learn more: Visit CWDA's website for additional information


What other conferences are on your radar this year? Let us know in the comments. You can also visit our website to see a full list of national and state-specific conferences we’re planning to attend each quarter.


Subscribe to Northwoods' blog for human services