County to host conference on mental health issues

Family or mentors of youth with mental health challenges are invited to a free conference Saturday, March 2, on how to help youth, ages 14-21, transition to independent living.

The conference, called Welcoming Independence and New Growth with Support (WINGS), is hosted by the Anoka County Children and Family Council and Anoka County.

WINGS will take place at Anoka Ramsey Community College, in the Legacy Room (SC270), from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Youth, ages 14-21, are welcome to attend with their family.

The keynote speaker is Brenda Benning, a licensed therapist and adoptive parent of eight children from the child welfare system.

Benning is a certified trainer for “Beyond Consequences, Logic and Control.”

Her practice, H.E.A.L. Family Services, stands for Hope, Empathy And Love.

Conference participants will also pick from a menu of nine breakout sessions covering finances, housing, employment and healthy living topics.

A resource fair will feature services in the area. Lunch will be provided.

Youth with The Open Up Theater will present “Fidgety Tales,” featuring familiar fairy tales with mental health twists. The theater is supported by the Minnesota Association for Children’s Mental Health.

Those that live or work with youth who have mental health challenges are encouraged to attend this informative event, according to Dave Thacker, co-chairperson of the Anoka County Children and Family Council.

“The transition to increased independence can be exciting, and, yet, nerve wracking for everyone involved, especially when youth have mental health challenges,” said Thacker, special education director at Centennial School District.

“The tools and resources at the WINGS conference will help create a successful transition.”

There is no cost to attend, but registration is required. Registration can be done by phone, email or online.

Watch for registration materials at

For more information, contact Gena Rademacher, phone 763-712-2703 or email

The Anoka County Children and Family Council is made up of representatives from Anoka County, Anoka County Community Action Program (ACCAP), community agencies and the school districts of St. Francis, Anoka-Hennepin, Forest Lake, Centennial, Spring Lake Park, Fridley and Columbia Heights.

The council’s mission is to nurture collaborative efforts by building bridges and networks between people and agencies who share a vision of a healthier community for children and families.