Keynote Speakers

Monday, October 15, 2018

Helen BlankHelen Blank

Director of Child Care and Early Learning
Nation Women’s Law Center, Washington, DC

Helen Blank is Director of Child Care and Early Learning, working on child care and early education issues, at the National Women’s Law Center.

Previously Ms. Blank served 24 years as the director of the Child Care and Development Division at the Children’s Defense Fund. While at the Children’s Defense Fund, Ms. Blank spearheaded a variety of efforts for improved early learning legislation. In an effort to pass the Act for Better Child Care, the first comprehensive federal child care legislation, she organized the Alliance for Better Child Care. Additionally, she developed a guide for the implementation of the legislation that was enacted, the Child Care and Development Block Grant, that was widely used by state policymakers and child care leaders. In 1991, she led an effective campaign to convince the Bush administration to issue regulations for the Child Care and Development Block Grant that allowed states to use the new federal funds in the best interests of children. She was also a leader in efforts to expand and improve the child care provisions in welfare reform, subsequently developing a guide to assist states in implementing the provisions. In addition, she created the Child Care Now! Campaign, an ongoing initiative, which attempts to focus attention on early care and education.

She has authored and co-authored numerous major studies and reports on state child care policies including A Center Piece of the Child Care Puzzle; Providing Prekindergarten in Child Care Centers; Getting Organized: Unionizing Home-Based Child Care Providers; Close to Home: State Strategies to Strengthen and Support Family, Friend and Neighbor Care; In Their Own Voices: Parents and Providers Struggling with Child Care Cuts; Working Together for Children: Head Start and Child Care Partnerships; Seeds of Success: Pre-Kindergarten Initiatives; and A Fragile Foundation: State Child Care Assistance Policies, and numerous articles and papers on child care policies.

Prior to her work at the Children’s Defense Fund, she spent two years at the Child Welfare League of America where she was instrumental in the development of child welfare reform legislation. Working with the National Child Nutrition Project, she directed a model food stamp outreach campaign in the Washington Metropolitan area that increased food stamp participation and resulted in major improvements in the administration of the program in several local jurisdictions. In addition, she helped advocate for replication of this campaign in a number of states.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

DrJanaDr. Lara Jana

Associate Research Professor
Penn State’s Edna Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center

Pediatrician, educator, author, and health communicator, Dr. Laura Jana finds connections across disciplines and crystallizes big ideas into far-reaching, real-world applications.

Currently an Associate Research Professor at Penn State’s Edna Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center, Dr. Jana was most recently Director of Innovation in Public Health at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, and continues to serve as a strategic consultant to numerous government, nonprofit, and corporate clients, she has navigated the traditionally siloed worlds of academia, medicine, publishing, and commerce.

Dr. Jana is nationally recognized for her more than two decades worth of ongoing efforts to promote healthy lifestyles for children and practical parenting advice to new and expectant parents. She serves as a consultant to a wide range of academic and government organizations, non-profits and corporations.

She has appeared on The Today Show, CNN, NPR, Good Morning America, ABC News, NBC News and Fox News and has been quoted extensively in outlets such as TimePeople, WebMD, Parents magazine, The New York Times and USA Today. Dr. Jana serves as a media spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics and has served on the national Executive Committee for Early Education and Child Care.

Increasingly, Dr. Jana has been dedicated to innovatively addressing the earliest and most urgent needs of children locally, nationally, and globally – especially those living in poverty. Dr. Jana is particularly focused on collective impact, technology-driven innovations in health and education, social impact finance, and fostering cross-collaborations to improve the well-being of children, families and communities.

Currently focused on innovation in parenting, pediatrics, public health, health system transformation and community development, what she sees is a bevy of great minds circling the same topics from different angles. As a translator of ideas and facilitator of dialogue, she’s on a mission to unite these worlds in order to change the public conversation about the skills needed for success in the Digital Age.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

BensoJoan-0823-10 current headshotJoan L. Benso

President and CEO
Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children, Harrisburg, PA

Joan L. Benso is President and CEO of Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children (PPC). Since 1995, Ms. Benso has been responsible for the organization’s daily administration and effective functioning. She is directly involved in the organization’s interaction with state-level public policymakers, Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation, the news media, the children’s advocacy community, funders and service sectors.

Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children is a strong, effective and trusted voice to improve the health, education, and well-being of the commonwealth’s children.

In Harrisburg and Washington, D.C., PPC voices policy solutions proven to guide Pennsylvania’s children toward lifetime success and away from failure. PPC’s vision is to move Pennsylvania into position as one of the top 10 states in the nation to be a child and to raise a child. PPC uses research and analysis, government relations, strategic communications, and grassroots and grasstops mobilization as core strategies to drive change.

Ms. Benso’s leadership in child advocacy has had a profound impact on the well-being of Pennsylvania’s children. PPC has championed many issues and led a broad array of coalitions during her tenure, including those which had yielded the passage of state universal children’s health insurance law, the creation of a state pre-kindergarten program and a more rational funding system for public education. Ms. Benso’s work has led to landmark investments in early childhood education including child care subsidy, quality, Head Start and pre-K, state support for full-day kindergarten, reduced elementary class, high school reform, dual high school/college enrollment, youth development programs and the implementation of tax strategies that allow low-income working families to keep more of their wages to raise their children.

Ms. Benso has served on various state and national boards addressing health care, school readiness, youth development, college and career readiness and other critical children’s issues.