Current Projects

Child Trafficking: Legislative and Policy Advocacy

We are pleased to announce that Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf signed SB 554 into law, creating a “Safe Harbor” for minor victims of trafficking. The Field Center has advocated for its passage for over three years, and was honored to be invited to witness the signing of this important legislation:


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.

Our work to support the enactment of Safe Harbor legislation included authoring a White Paper on An Analysis of Safe Harbor Laws for Minor Victims of Commercial Sexual Exploitation: Implications for Pennsylvania and Other States. Click here to read this important report.

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.

Foster Care to College (FC2C): Fostering Success for the Future

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 currently supporting the following colleges and universities across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in the development and operation of campus-based support programs for foster youth: Bloomsburg University, Cabrini University, California University of Pennsylvania, Chestnut Hill College, Community College of Allegheny – South Campus, Community College of Philadelphia, East Stroudsburg University, Lackawanna College, Keystone College, Kutztown University, Manor College, Montgomery County Community College, Penn State Abington, Penn State Greater Allegheny, Temple University, West Chester University, and Westmoreland County Community College. These schools have or will enhance programming providing financial, academic, and other types of supports to help former foster youth succeed in college.

To be added to the mailing list to receive the Foster Care to College Newsletter and stay informed about issues related to foster youth and higher education across Pennsylvania, email

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 2019 Campus Programming Directory for Foster Youth

Absent from the Child Welfare System: Insular and Isolated Communities

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.

Call for Essays: Child Maltreatment in Insular and Isolated Communities

Project PENN: A Philadelphia Family Court-based outreach program

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.

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