Skip to Main Content
Link to SCCID Home

Conference Details« Back

Hot Tips for Parent Representation - IDCA Family Court Training 2023

All IDCA Family Court Attorneys are required to attend this Training Program.
Friday | June 02, 2023 - Friday | June 02, 2023

IDCA Family Court Training Banner 


SCCID strives to provide training to the Indigent Defense Family Court Contract Attorneys that will focus on new ideas and a new understanding of child welfare legal practice. To accomplish this goal, we have prepared an exciting agenda with an amazing faculty. This training will help generate new approaches in child welfare that will assist attorneys to achieve reunification and permanency for families while protecting the rights of parents. 




This Seminar is open ONLY to SCCID Indigent Defense Contract Attorneys (Family Court) and their staff members.

REGISTRATION FOR STAFF MEMBERS - You should be able to register using your own name and email address without the need to log in to an SCCID account.  If you register using another person's information, your name tag and lunch order will show that incorrect information.  If you have any questions or problems, please contact or .



Friday, June 2, 2023  8:55 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.



Blatt Building Room 112

1105 Pendleton Street

Columbia, SC




Lunch will be provided


CLE Credit:  

6.25 Hours MCLE (CLE Course No.:  239395)







CLE Minutes

8:55 – 9:00

Welcome – CLE Credit Instructions

Lawrence Brown, Deputy General Counsel/Training Director, SCCID



9:00 – 9:30

Establishing the Attorney-Client Relationship

Frank Swaggard, Esq., Wukela Law Firm



9:30 – 10:15

High Quality Representation as Seen from the Bench

The Honorable Usha Bridges, Family Court Judge, Seventh Judicial Circuit



10:15 – 11:00

Pre-Merit Hearing Conferences & CFTMs

Dennis Gmerek, Esq., Managing Attorney for County Operations, SCDSS



11:00 – 11:15




11:15 – 12:15

Using Foster Parents as a Resource to Achieve Reunification

Darice M. Good, Esq.

S. Colleen Puckett



12:15 – 12:30

BREAK-Distribute Lunch



12:30 – 1:15

Challenging Central Registry

Allyson Rucker, Esq.

John Rucker, Esq.



1:15 – 2:00

The Harm of Removal and Strategies to Prevent It

Christopher Church, Esq, Emory University School of Law




2:00 – 2:15




2:15 – 2:45

Using Social Workers to Achieve Reunification

Drake Kaiser, Esq., Reddick & Kaiser, LLC

Beverly Bowers, LMSW



2:45 – 3:30

Advocating for Family Time

Melanie Nicholson, Esq.



3:30 – 4:00

Perfecting the Client’s Appellate Rights

Jennifer Mook, Esq.






(6.25 Hours)


Faculty Information:  

Judge Usha J. Bridges was born in Gaffney, South Carolina in 1960. She is the daughter of the late Orban Jefferies, Sr. and Mary D. Jefferies. She graduated from Gaffney High School, received a B.A. Degree in Political Science from the University of South Carolina, and a Juris Doctorate Degree from the University of South Carolina School of Law.

In April 1993, Judge Bridges started practicing law with Fletcher N. Smith & Associates in Greenville, South Carolina. Upon returning to Gaffney in December 1993, she became full-time Juvenile Public Defender with the Cherokee County Public Defender's Office. In July 1996, she contracted with Cherokee County to continue her representation as the Juvenile Public Defender and then opened her private practice. In addition to her private practice and juvenile public defender contract, she contracted with the Governor's office wherein she represented the Volunteer Guardian ad Litem Program. She was also a former member of the Board of Visitors for the University of South Carolina.  In July 1999, she was appointed to serve as a Municipal Judge for the City of Gaffney.  On February 2, 2010, she was elected as Family Court Judge, Seventh Judicial Circuit, Seat 3.  Since being elected, she has served on the Family Court Docketing Committee, Family Court Advisory Committee, Chief Justice Commission on the Profession and Supreme Court of South Carolina Commission on CLE & Specialization.

She is a member of the Indian Baptist Church, Gaffney, South Carolina, where she has served as Sunday School Teacher, Bible Study Teacher and as one of the main cooks in the soup kitchen. She is married to Allie Bridges, Jr. and they have five (5) children, Meredith Bridges McKee, Allie Bridges, III, Garrett S. Bridges, Samantha J. Bridges and Garrison A. Bridges and three (3) grandchildren, Jayden M. Bridges, Alicya N. Sims, and Dylan A. McKee.

Judge Bridges enjoys fishing, reading, cooking, and supporting her children in their extra-curricular activities.


Beverly Bowers is a Licensed Master Social Worker and National Board-Certified Health and Wellness Coach. She has over 20 years' experience working with children, families and individuals as an agent of support, guidance, and encouragement. Her professional life includes a commitment to serving the needs of children, adults and families.

Beverly earned a Bachelor of Social Work degree from Columbia College and a Master’s degree in Social Work from the University of South Carolina

Beverly started her career in Child Welfare. She served in a variety of roles in child protection to include   front line worker in Assessment/Investigations and Family Preservation, MSW Field Liaison and Human Services Coordinator.  She has advocated and represented the myriad of needs of children and families concerning allegations and determination of abuse and neglect. This is where she cultivated her passion for advocating, supporting and strengthening individuals and families.

Beverly currently works as a Disease Managed Care Coordinator for Companion Benefits Alternative at Blue Cross Blue Shield of South Carolina. In her role as care manager, Beverly supports members to navigate their health care needs and provide behavioral health coaching.

Beverly also volunteers as a Court-Appointed Special Advocate (CASA)Guardian ad Litem (GAL) for children who have experienced abuse and/or neglect.   She also works as a contract social worker in the Interdisciplinary Parent Representation (IRP) program, supporting and promoting parent engagement in court-ordered treatment services.

Her favorite talent is showing how a difference in ability is merely unrecognized strength in disguise.


Christopher Church

Christopher is a Senior Clinical Fellow at Emory University School of Law, where he co-directs the Appeal for Youth Clinic.  In this capacity, he oversees the clinic’s dependency appeals through a partnership with the Parental Defense Division of the Fulton County Office of the Public Defender. Christopher is also a Senior Director for Casey Family Programs, the nation’s largest private operating foundation focused on safely reducing the need for foster care and Building Communities of Hope. He also holds an appointment as an Academic Affiliate with the CHAMPS Clinic at the University of South Carolina School of Law, a pediatric medical-legal partnership. Christopher was previously a Staff Attorney for the CHAMPS Clinic and served as a consultant to several national child welfare organizations. He began his career as Managing Attorney for the Supreme Court of Georgia’s Committee on Justice for Children.  Christopher holds an M.S. in Mathematics from the University of North Texas and a J.D. from Gonzaga University School of Law. He completed his undergraduate studies at Concordia College in Bronxville, NY.  He is licensed to practice law in Georgia and South Carolina, and is certified as a Child Welfare Law Specialist by the National Association of Counsel for Children.


DENNIS M. GMEREK, ESQ., serves as Managing Attorney for County Operations for the SCDSS and he is responsible for the supervision of the SCDSS FTE and contract attorneys. He is the designated “point person” in the Office of General to assist counties in issues involving undocumented children. He formerly served as a DSS County Attorney and Circuit Coordinator for legal services in Aiken, Bamberg, and Barnwell counties. He is currently a member of the Best Legal Practices sub-committee of the Family Court Bench Bar Committee. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the College of Charleston in 1982. He received his Juris Doctorate degree in 1985 from the University of South Carolina, School of Law. He is a former president of the South Carolina Professional Society on the Abuse of Children. Mr. Gmerek was involved with Governor Sanford’s Task Force for Children in Foster Care and Adoption Services. He has been active with the Cumbee Center to Assist Abused Persons, Inc. in Aiken, South Carolina, serving both on the board of directors and as a domestic violence volunteer victim advocate.


Darice M. Good is National Child Welfare Law Specialist who practices in Roswell, GA.  Her practice specializes in child abuse and neglect cases as a parent attorney.  Darice has presented on a variety of topics on parent representation in child welfare cases across the country.  She has been recognized as a Shining Star in Child Welfare Law and presented with the Georgia Juvenile Attorneys of the Year Award.  She graduated from the University of Washington with a bachelor’s degree and obtained her law degree from Mercer University School of Law.


Drake H. Kaiser, Esq. is a partner of Reddick & Kaiser, LLC. He has been in private practice since February of 2009, and he has provided service under an Indigent Defense contract for abuse and neglect since July of 2018, currently in Richland and Edgefield counties. He holds a JD from USC and an MPA from the Graduate School at the College of Charleston.


Jennifer Mook

Jennifer Mook started her career at S.C. Legal Services and opened her firm in 2007.  She has offices in Aiken and Greenville.  She graduated from law school from the University of South Carolina in 2004. She received a B.S. in Criminal Justice, a B.A. in Sociology from the University of South Carolina in 2001, and a Masters of Studies in Environmental Law from Vermont Law School in 2004. She is currently a member of the Greenville and Aiken County Bar Associations. Jennifer is married, has three boys, five chickens, two geckos, one dog. Her practice includes domestic litigation, parental defense in abuse and neglect cases, and appeals.  She is passionate about representing parents in child welfare proceedings as well as advocating for parental rights.  She has presented on these topics at the SC Annual Bar Convention, the SC Family Court Judicial Conference, and SCCID trainings.


Melanie C. Nicholson:  B.A., Wofford College; Loyola School of Law, New Orleans, Louisiana, J.D.   Melanie was admitted to the South Carolina Bar in 2005.  She practices solely in the Family Court and has been a 608 Contract Attorney for Horry County since 2013 representing parties in child abuse and neglect actions.  Address:  1021 Sea Mountain Highway, Suite B2, North Myrtle Beach, SC 29582.


S. Colleen Puckett is the Family Support Services Manager for the Good Legal Firm in Roswell, GA.  Colleen has lived experience with the child welfare system and uses her experiences to help attorneys provide quality representation to parents and help parent navigate the child welfare system to increase their chances to reunify with their children as quickly as possible.  Colleen has presented are a number of conferences with Attorney Darice Good sharing her experience and providing tips to attorneys on how to best serve their clients facing the child welfare system.


Allyson Rucker

Allyson is an experienced trial and appellate attorney and practices in the South Carolina Family and Appellate Courts. She formerly served as a South Carolina Department of Social Services attorney and is knowledgeable and experienced at dealing with the complex issues that arise from those cases.  She is a graduate of Clemson University and the University of South Carolina School of Law


John Brandt Rucker

Brandt began his legal career as an Assistant Solicitor in Greenville County in 2001. He has been in private practice since 2004. He has extensive experience in trials and with appeals.  He is a graduate of Presbyterian College and the University of South Carolina School of Law


Frank C. Swaggard

Frank “Clay” Swaggard is a Florence native. He is a magna cum laude graduate of the University of South Carolina where he received a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science in 2006. He graduated from the Charleston School of Law with a Juris Doctor in 2009. During law school, Mr. Swaggard was named to the Moot Court Board where he served as the Associate Justice for External Competitions, was a student representative to the Faculty Curriculum Committee, and was a Charleston School of Law Ambassador. He was also selected to the Student Bar Association’s Judicial Branch as the Chief Justice.

During law school, Mr. Swaggard clerked for the Navy JAG at Naval Weapons Station Charleston and the Federal Public Defender’s office in Florence. Before joining the Wukela Law Firm in November of 2010, he was hired as the Finance Director of Holleman for Education, Frank Holleman’s campaign for State Superintendent of Education. At the end of the campaign, he and his wife Alison returned to Florence and started a family.

Mr. Swaggard’s practice is varied, but his focus is primarily on domestic and real estate matters, as well as personal injury litigation. Clay has been handling DSS Abuse and Neglect cases in the 12th and 4th Circuit as a part of his practice since 2017. 





Non-Discrimination Policy

The South Carolina Commission on Indigent Defense does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, or disability.        



Log In to View Conference Details

Upcoming Conferences and Events