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.
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 FC2C activities, 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 pleased to announce that Cabrini University, Community College of Philadelphia, Temple University, and West Chester University are the first institutions in the region to start Campus Support Programs for foster youth. With technical assistance and on-site support from the Field Center and Maddy Day, Director of Outreach and Training for Fostering Success Michigan, these schools will enhance programming providing financial, academic, and other types of supports to help former foster youth succeed in college.
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.
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?
Field Center experts are serving as Guest Editors of a Special Issue of the journal Child Welfare on this topic.
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.