CWU News

CWU to host prestigious state juvenile justice conference

2019 BECCA Conference logoFor the second consecutive year, CWU will host the Washington State Becca Task Force’s annual Becca Conference on Thursday and Friday, November 7 and 8.


The conference brings together school, juvenile court, legal, and social service providers, as well as a variety of other professionals to learn about the latest research, law, policy, programs, and practices in Washington and across the country pertaining to Becca laws.



The Becca laws were named for Rebecca Hedman of Tacoma. Less than a year after running away from home, when she was just 12, Hedman was murdered in Spokane by a man to whom she had sold herself to support her crack cocaine addiction.


The conference’s objective is to advance the development and implementation of science-based systems and practices to confront “one of the most challenging social issues we have today—the problems and struggles young people are facing. If not addressed early, they can become quite tragic as we know from the case of young Becca,” noted Roger Schaefer, CWU law and justice professor.


In effect since 1995 in Washington, the Becca statutes allow judges to place youth in juvenile detention for “status offenses,” such as ignoring curfews, running away from home, or skipping school.


Becca legislation is intended to protect children who pose a danger to themselves through their behaviors; provide support to parents in raising their children while keeping families together; and assisting the state fulfill its responsibility to provide education for all students.


This year's conference theme is “Supporting the Whole Family: Strategies, Practices, and Programs to Promote School Engagement, Family Reconciliation, Well-being, and Lifelong Success.”


On Friday, at 10:00 a.m., the conference’s keynote address will be made by Omari Amili, who will speak about “Root Focus: Setting sights beyond the surface and solving underlying issues related to youth and family disengagement.” His hour-long presentation will be held in the CWU Student Union and Recreation Center (SURC) Theatre. 


An author and community leader, Amili grew up with drug-addicted parents, living in poverty, and struggling in school. He ended up serving time in prison. However, with the opportunity to take college courses—including while incarcerated—he completely changed his life. 


At noon on Friday, Schaefer will lead a roundtable discussion on “Addressing Barriers to Implementing Evidence-Based Practices,” during one of the conference’s breakout sessions.


“What I can bring back to my [CWU] students is, here’s barriers that you might face related to implementing the research-driven, evidence-based practices that I’ve taught you,” he said. “I know that these barriers exist because the people who are out in the field told me these barriers exist.”


The 2019 Becca conference in Ellensburg is presented by the Center for Children and Youth Justice and supported by the Washington Superintendent of Public Instruction, Washington State Partnership Council on Juvenile Justice and the CWU College of the Sciences.


“We want to be ‘Central’ to issues of law and justice in our state,” Schaefer said. “I believe that hosting the Becca Conference on our campus, bringing people to our community, helps us accomplish that goal.”


Pre-conference sessions are also taking place on Wednesday, November 6. They will include a free, public presentation of the documentary “Broken Places” at 7:00 p.m. in the SURC Theatre. The 2018 film examines why some children are damaged by early adversity while others still thrive.




Media contact: Robert Lowery, Department of Public Affairs, director of Radio Services and Integrated Communications, 509-963-1487,