Research tells us that 70% of foster youth aspire to go to college, yet they attend at less than half the rate of their peers. And most who do attend do not make it past their first year. As every year of education mitigates poor outcomes, reducing the likelihood of involvement in the criminal justice system, substance abuse, and teen pregnancy, the Field Center strives to make higher education more accessible and successful for youth leaving the foster care system. Building on the success of the Field Center’s 2013 colloquium, Foster Care to College: Strategies for Success, the Field Center is engaging in a menu of activities through their FC2C program, including convening a work group of community and statewide stakeholders, conducting research, and advocating for legislative and policy change, both on local and national levels.
The Field Center is providing the opportunity for select Greater Philadelphia colleges and universities to receive technical assistance to be the first in the region to start a College Support Program on their campus. We are pleased to announce that Cabrini University, Community College of Philadelphia, Temple University, and West Chester University were selected to receive technical assistance to develop campus-based support programs for youth from foster care. The Field Center has engaged Maddy Day, MSW, Director of Outreach and Training for Fostering Success Michigan and one of the nation’s foremost experts in college-based support programs for foster youth, to provide on-site support for colleges and universities in the Greater Philadelphia area that are committed to addressing the unique needs of foster youth who pursue higher education.
Campus Support Programs provide financial, academic, and other types of supports to help former foster youth succeed in college. This may include tuition assistance/scholarships, campus housing, a campus coach, meal plans, life skills training, mentorship, social enrichment, transportation, healthcare, and financial literacy. Campus support programs encourage a successful transition into adulthood, completion of a college degree, and career entry. Many of the resources that can successfully support foster youth already exist on campuses and can be accessed as part of a coordinated initiative.
Click here to view Foster Care to College event and training videos.
Click here to view the Foster Care to College Resource Library.
Click here to view the Campus Programming Directory for Foster Youth.
Click here to view the Stoneleigh Foundation Emerging Leader Fellowship Opportunity, 2017-2019.
While a great deal of research has focused on the overrepresentation of populations in the child welfare system, there has been relatively little work exploring the inverse. Much of this research has examined the involvement of minority populations, primarily African American children and youth, in the child protection and foster care systems. Yet other cultures and communities are reported to and served by the child welfare system at a rate well under their representation in the general population. This is an area of little to no research and inquiry to date. The Field Center is looking at this issue and identifying means of providing protection to victims of child abuse and neglect who might fly under the radar. Why do some communities have little involvement in the public child welfare system? Does their isolation place children at risk of harm? If so, are there models of intervention that can help protect children who are members of insular and isolated communities, or how can such models be developed?
Sadly, the majority of young people who are sex trafficked in the United States come from the foster care and child welfare systems. A variety of factors make them easy prey for perpetrators who are waiting at the door for youth to age out of the foster care system, often without income, housing, or a support system. The Field Center is concerned about a system that removes children from homes where they are abused, only to discharge them to a future of further abuse. Our work in this area includes education, research, and advocacy. The Field Center’s recent conference Plenary Panel brought leading experts, including a foster care to sex trafficking survivor, to offer insight and recommendations. Click here to watch this compelling presentation. The Field Center offered testimony on PA Senate Bill 851: Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children, to support offering sex trafficking victims services rather than charging them with prostitution or related crimes. Click here to read Executive Director Debra Schilling Wolfe’s testimony.
Reports of child abuse and neglect that involve more that one state can fail to be investigated because jurisdiction is determined by individual state laws and child welfare policies. The Field Center identified this as a critical issue, documenting specific cases in which this occurred. Prior to Field Center involvement, there was no thought to track this data or remedy this problem.
The Field Center has identified situations in which reports of child abuse and neglect “fall through the cracks” and result in no jurisdiction assuming responsibility for accepting the report and investigating its allegations. Every day that passes, children remain in harm’s way because the current child abuse reporting and investigations system has no provision for accepting and then investigating reports of child abuse and neglect when the child, perpetrator, and incident are not all within one state. Individual states have statutory and operational strategies for investigating suspected child maltreatment but where the case involves more than one jurisdiction, there is no policy set in place that ensures the acceptance of a report from one state to the other. Substantial risk is then evident in the failure to pursue these investigations because of the existing barriers that separate the jurisdictions. The Field Center has been working to ensure that every incident of suspected maltreatment gets investigated and responded to appropriately, even if the incident crosses jurisdictional boundaries.
The Field Center provided testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and Labor, Subcommittee on Education and Labor, in of 2009. A provision to begin to track data was written in to the most recent reauthorization of CAPTA (Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act).
The Stoneleigh Foundation funded a fellowship with the Field Center to support comprehensive research into this issue. Each state’s child abuse reporting laws and regulations were analyzed, and state child welfare policies regarding the acceptance and investigation of reports in which the incident, victim and/or alleged perpetrator involved more that one state were studied.
The Field Center identified strategies and solutions to assure that victims no longer fall through the cracks because of jurisdictional barriers. Senator Bob Casey recognized the need for a federal remedy and included the Field Center’s recommendations in his federal legislation, Speak Up to Protect Every Abused Kid Act.
Project PENN offers a unique court-based information and referral program for families awaiting dependency (child abuse and neglect) proceedings at Philadelphia Family Court. Underwritten through the Nancy Glickenhaus Family Court Program, Project PENN provides a learning opportunity for Field Center graduate student interns while connecting families with critical community-based services.
Arising from a 2005 Field Center research study that examined the experiences of families awaiting dependency proceedings in Philadelphia Family Court, Project PENN seeks to take advantage of the “teachable moment” while families are present at the courthouse. The realization that the majority of families were experiencing a long wait before seeing a judge, with little privacy, limited knowledge of the court process, and lack of information on social service programs, prompted the Field Center to develop this innovative program. With the full support of the court’s administrative judge, Project PENN opened its doors in 2009.
Through Project PENN, families meet individually, in a private office with graduate students who assist them in identifying concrete resources in the community to address the needs that frequently cause stress and disruption in families and place children at risk for harm. Families receive access to a comprehensive resource directory (developed and updated regularly by Field Center student interns), web-based resources, and clear and understandable brochures on topics such as housing, employment, food, clothing and healthcare. By helping families identify and prioritize their needs and increasing their knowledge of and access to community resources, Project PENN both teaches problem-solving skills and supports families in problem solving. Project PENN staff provides information and makes referrals for families, accessing both the phone and internet, from their office located in the large waiting room at the Philadelphia Family Court.
Data is tracked on program utilization and is incorporated in the court’s annual report.