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AFCC - Association of Family and Conciliation Courts
It is with deep disappointment that we announce that we will not hold the 57th AFCC Annual Conference in New Orleans, scheduled for May 27-30, 2020. We are all experiencing an enormous amount of uncertainty in our lives right now, and although we cannot help with the bigger issues, we can at least confirm the postponement early so that those planning to attend can adjust their schedules and make the appropriate cancellations.
This was an incredibly difficult call, and throughout this period of indecision, we have received many emails encouraging us to forge ahead. There were only a handful of cancellations, the hotel room block remained at near capacity, and registrations continue to come in, even today. But in the end, we could not in good conscience continue to ask you to wait for a decision that becomes more likely every day, given the current trajectory of the virus.
In making the decision, we considered several factors:
First, and foremost, the potential health risk, especially given that many AFCC members face elevated risk; i.e., there are many members over the age of 60.
Travel restrictions have been put in place by workplaces and governments that would restrict those outside of the United States, those working in health care settings, and for many academic and other institutions. There was a disproportional impact on our international members, who make such a vital contribution to the atmosphere of an AFCC conference.
Many courts are closing or restricting access in some way, so even if it is healthy to travel, the calendars of registrants and members stand a good chance of being disrupted as things get sorted out. This applies to court employees and private practitioners.
Although we are at times buoyed by the responses of some political leaders, it is inconsistent and none of us can accurately predict what will happen next.
This is a marathon, not a sprint and we are in this with you for the long haul. We want you to be clear that you can count on AFCC to do the right thing.
This is not our first time managing a significant challenge. We had a conference scheduled for New York City on September 13-15, 2001 and the staff was literally boarding a plane for LaGuardia when the towers were hit. Several AFCC members from overseas were stranded in New York. We also held a conference in Ottawa in the immediate aftermath of SARS. And at the last minute, we moved our 2006 conference from New Orleans to Tampa, Florida after Hurricane Katrina.
In each instance, even though AFCC took a hit, we bounced back stronger than ever. Our members stuck with us. They turned out in full force at future events, and the membership continued to grow and is now nearly 5,600 strong. We appreciate your support as we work through this latest challenge.
So, what’s next? We have a lot of administrative unwinding to do after an 18-month planning process, so we appreciate your patience and ask that you give us a few days as we put processes into place. Refunds will be available, and all cancellation fees will be waived.
We hope to hold this very conference next year at the Sheraton Boston, June 2-5, 2021. Think Mardi Gras, but with lobster rolls instead of jambalaya! We will be reaching out to invite all of the presenters to join us in sharing their sessions and we will identify suitable replacements for those who are unable to attend.
We also plan to develop some online programming, most likely in a webinar format, that we can offer in May and June for those who need their CE fix. We will also be working on the other conference-related meetings and events.
It will be a busy few months. There are excellent opportunities for remote participation, although we recognize that nothing can match the real thing. Unfortunately, we have not figured out a good solution for the Hospitality Suite.
The AFCC staff is now working from home with a skeletal staff in the office periodically to make sure we are responsive to your needs. Please bear with us as we adjust, and if you are not getting an immediate response to an urgent matter, you can email Peter at [email protected]
We thank you for your patience, your understanding, and your support while we continue to address this challenge. Above all, we urge you to take all appropriate precautions to protect yourselves and your family, friends, and colleagues. Stay home if you feel sick (and even if you don’t), stay out of crowds, wash your hands, and stop touching your face. We look forward to seeing you and shaking your hand, hugging you, or (the least preferred option) bumping elbows with you, very soon.
Matthew Sullivan, AFCC President
Peter Salem, AFCC Executive Director