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.
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.
The tragedy of the Sandusky case in which numerous children were sexually abused pointed out the failure of the system to adequately address child abuse in Pennsylvania and the need for systemic reform. The Field Center conducted an analysis and served a key role in Pennsylvania’s efforts to improve their response to victims of child abuse.
The Field Center’s team of child welfare experts conducted an in-depth analysis of the challenges and failings in Pennsylvania’s response to reports of child abuse in the wake of the Sandusky case. With a public outcry to institute change and the political will to act quickly, the Field Center sought to bring research and evidence to bear in the process of reform. The Center completed an analysis of the Pennsylvania child protection laws, studied data and reports, and reviewed applicable research to help form specific recommendations for needed change.
Click here to read The Field Center’s recommendations for reform.
The Field Center supported the creation of a Task Force on Child Protection, signed into law by Governor Corbett in December 2012, to examine the problems with Pennsylvania’s response to child abuse reports and make recommendations for legislative and policy change. The 11-member task force was created and Field Center Faculty Director Dr. Cindy Christian was one of Governor Corbett’s four appointees to the time-limited task force.
The Field Center hosted the first community-based public hearing on behalf of the task force on April 18, 2012 at Penn Law’s Fitts Auditorium. Two representatives of the Field Center, Dean Richard Gelles and Executive Director Debra Schilling Wolfe, were asked to testify before the Task Force on Child Protection at the State Capitol in Harrisburg. Their testimonies may be found here:
The Pennsylvania Task Force on Child Protection concluded its work and released its report in November 2012. The Field Center’s recommendations weighed heavily in the task force deliberations. Click here to read the final report.
The Field Center has been at the forefront of child welfare system reform in Philadelphia. With a philosophy of making systemic reform to impact individual cases while utilizing lessons learned from individual cases to make system-level change, the Field Center’s experts share their expertise with the Philadelphia Department of Human Services.
In 2007, the Philadelphia Inquirer published a series of in-depth articles highlighting the failures of Philadelphia’s Department of Human Services to protect the lives of the city’s abused and neglected children. The reporters relied heavily on the expertise of Field Center Faculty Director Richard Gelles in its reporting and critique of the system’s shortcomings. Dean Gelles was instrumental in identifying systemic failures and the lack of adherence to best practice in the field.
As a result of the series of articles, then-Philadelphia Mayor John Street convened a Child Welfare Review Panel to conduct an in-depth review of Philadelphia’s child welfare system. Two of the Field Center’s four Faculty Directors were selected by Mayor Street to serve on this nine-member panel. Former Field Center Faculty Director Carol Wilson Spigner, DSW was appointed co-chair of the panel and Faculty Director Cindy Christian, MD served as the panel’s medical expert.
The panel’s report was completed and delivered in May 2007 at a press conference led by Dr. Carol Wilson Spigner. Mayor Street, mayoral candidates, and the new DHS Acting Commissioner committed to implementing the recommendations of this ground-breaking effort.
Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter convened a Community Oversight Board (COB) charged with overseeing implementation of the Review Panel’s recommendations. With Dr. Spigner as chair and Dr. Christian as a member, the COB supported the newly appointed commissioner, Anne Marie Ambrose, in her efforts to overhaul DHS.
In July 2010, Mayor Nutter appointed Dr. Cindy Christian as the Philadelphia Department of Human Service’s first Medical Director. Under her direction, DHS is developing policies to address health outcomes for children in its care.
The Field Center has focused efforts on policy and practice improvement for youth aging out of the foster care system. The center was honored to host a Public Hearing at the request of the Pennsylvania Senate Aging and Youth Committee on Youth Aging Out of the Foster Care system. The Field Center has also authored a white paper on the topic.
Initiated in 2004, the City of Philadelphia Department of Human Services (DHS) Child Protective Services Training and Program Development Project was a part of an ongoing effort to provide assistance to the local child welfare system in improving the delivery of services. Field Center faculty, staff and students collaborated on this project that supported the agency in improved policy and practice.
The City of Philadelphia Department of Human Services (DHS) Child Protective Services Training and Program Development Project was a part of an ongoing effort to provide assistance to the local child welfare system in improving the delivery of services. This project was initiated in 2004 with the following goals:
To accommodate the critical needs of DHS administrators, staff concentrated their efforts on developing several modules for a user-friendly practice manual that would be utilized to guide and direct front line workers in the investigation process. The priority areas of work have been Fatality Investigations and Safety Planning. Some of the accomplishments of this project were:
Faculty Director Carol Wilson Spigner served on the Pew Commission on Children in Foster Care. The Commission was established to develop recommendations to improve outcomes for children in the foster care system. Of primary importance were expediting the movement of such children from foster care into safe, permanent, nurturing families, and preventing unnecessary placements in foster care.
Faculty Director Carol Wilson Spigner served on the Pew Commission on Children in Foster Care. The Commission was established to develop recommendations to improve outcomes for children in the foster care system. Of primary importance were expediting the movement of such children from foster care into safe, permanent, nurturing families, and preventing unnecessary placements in foster care. In particular, the Commission sought to investigate and offer comprehensive recommendations on improving existing federal financing mechanisms to facilitate faster movement of children from foster care into safe, permanent families, to reduce the need to place children in foster care, and improving court oversight of child welfare cases to facilitate better and more timely decisions related to children’s safety, permanence, and well-being.
The Pew Commission on Children in Foster Care was announced on May 7, 2003. The Commission is supported through a grant from The Pew Charitable Trusts to the Georgetown University Public Policy Institute in Washington, D.C. It is an independent, nonpartisan entity dedicated to developing effective, practical policy recommendations to improve the foster care system. The Commission includes some of the nation’s leading child welfare experts, heads of state and local child welfare agencies, prominent judges, social workers, foster and adoptive parents, former foster youth, and others. It convened its first meeting in May 2003 and issued its final report and recommendations in May 2004.
Project PENN offered 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 provided 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 took 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 and continued through 2020.
Through Project PENN, families met individually, in a private office with graduate students who assisted 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 received 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 provided information and made referrals for families, accessing both the phone and internet, from their office located in the large waiting room at the Philadelphia Family Court.
Data was tracked on program utilization and was incorporated in the court’s annual report.
Read the completed report HERE.
Child Advocacy Centers provide a child-friendly, coordinated process of interviewing victims of suspected child abuse by a trained forensic interviewer on behalf of all of the systems and professionals who would have otherwise interviewed the child individually. The Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD) contracted with the Field Center to conduct research and planning assistance to support the development of new Child Advocacy Centers (CACs) across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The Field Center gathered and analyzed data, utilizing mapping technology to make recommendations to PCCD on proposed locations for new Child Advocacy Centers so that every child in Pennsylvania will have access to a CAC, in accordance with the recommendation of the Pennsylvania Task Force on Child Protection. The Task Force recommendations came on the heels of the Sandusky case in which sexual abuse victims did not have access to a CAC for appropriate interviewing and coordinated case planning.
Child Advocacy Centers provide a child-friendly, coordinated process of interviewing victims of suspected child abuse by a trained forensic interviewer on behalf of the child welfare, law enforcement, victim advocacy, district attorney, medical, and behavioral health systems. This model of investigation minimizes the need for child victims to tell their story over and over to different people, and offers them a safe and supportive environment to talk about their abuse. A team comprised of representatives of these different systems observes the interview via one-way mirror or closed circuit TV, and the interview is recorded for use by the legal system. As a result, victims are not further traumatized by the systems that are designed to help them. Prosecution and case planning benefits as well. A multidisciplinary team (MDT) provides coordinated case planning, a more efficient and family-friendly method of response. Additionally, victim advocates support the family through the process. Medical examinations are conducted by trained medical experts, and behavioral health services to help the child heal are trauma-informed and geared specifically for victims of child abuse. Child Advocacy Centers serve primarily victims of child sexual abuse, but many also serve victims of physical abuse or witnesses to violent crime. They may serve children referred to the county child welfare system, local police departments, the district attorney’s office for potential prosecution of sexual offenses against children, or a combination. Although there are national standards of accreditation for Child Advocacy Centers, centers have the flexibility to be designed to meet the needs of their particular communities within these standards. In order to be most successful, strategic and research-supported planning needs to occur.
The National Children’s Alliance is the national accrediting body for child advocacy centers. They establish standards of practice by which Child Advocacy Centers are measured. Standards address each component of the Child Advocacy Center and its process. Child Advocacy Centers may be structured differently, be housed within one or more partner agencies or as an independent organization, and vary in theircomposition. However, each is held to the same standards to assure adherence to the principles and processes required.
In January of 2012, the Pennsylvania Legislature convened the Task Force on Child Protection to help identify challenges in Pennsylvania’s response to child abuse and recommend needed reforms. In their comprehensive report, released in November 2012, Task Force Chair, Bucks County DA David Heckler, stated that “a Child Advocacy Center should be reasonably accessible to every child in this Commonwealth.” Specific recommendations include “a thorough study of the existing CACs and MDITs throughout the Commonwealth. This study should include an analysis of structure and funding sources for CACs and identify those areas of the Commonwealth best suited for the establishment of additional CACs.” Currently, there are a limited number of CACs across the commonwealth. Although each county is required to have an MDIT, variation exists from county to county in regard to their structure, utilization, and compliance. In addition, MDITs are limited in both scope and resources, with CACs offering more comprehensive services to the child victim.
Establishing a statewide plan for new Child Advocacy Centers in not as simple as placing pins on a map. In order to develop a plan to meet the needs of the Commonwealth’s children, a well-researched proposal is required. The location of cases, both in the child welfare and criminal justice systems, is required to inform the process. Geographical considerations include county and agency boundaries, accessibility by potential users of the service, and available transportation. Resources to provide all required components of the multidisciplinary team process must be identified so that recommendations for future sites are able to provide the needed service. Lastly, to address economies of scale, regional Child Advocacy Centers need to be explored to serve some of the Commonwealth’s less populated areas.
The Field Center will be reviewing child welfare, prosecution, and law enforcement data on a county-by-county basis over the past five years, current Child Advocacy Center and MDIT utilization, location of potential resources to meet the multidisciplinary needs of the center. The University of Pennsylvania’s Cartographic Modeling Lab will provide GIS support and analysis for the project, including helping to identify the ideal locations for new Child Advocacy Centers so that they are within reasonable driving distances for children, families, and MDT representatives.
The Field Center for Children’s Policy, Practice & Research’s Interdisciplinary Evaluation Clinic provided comprehensive interdisciplinary evaluations of children and families with a history of significant child abuse or neglect. Staffed by the Field Center’s faculty directors, staff, and fellows, all experts in child welfare representing a variety of disciplines and perspectives, the Interdisciplinary Evaluation Clinic focused its work on cases that were high risk, most challenging, and/or precedent-setting. To this end, the Field Center selected a small number of significant cases to evaluate rather than supporting a high volume clinic.
The focus of the Field Center’s Interdisciplinary Clinic was to inform decision-making from the perspective of what was in the best interest of the child, based on:
The interdisciplinary nature of the Field Center provided a unique and comprehensive approach to the evaluation process. The clinicians conducting the evaluation served as representatives of the team as a whole so that the interdisciplinary process was one of collaboration rather than merely consultation. The evaluation process embraced the interactive methodology of the team so that it was characterized as “interdisciplinary” rather than “multidisciplinary” in scope.
Cases were staffed at intake and upon completion of the evaluation among the entire clinic team along with the assigned caseworker, supervisor, and attorney representing the referring child welfare agency. All available records on family members were obtained and reviewed to support a comprehensive evaluation process. Interdisciplinary Evaluation Clinic team members included the disciplines of forensic psychology, law, pediatric medicine, social work, nursing, child and family therapy, and social policy. Psychological testing and medical examinations were provided if deemed necessary by the team. Evaluations were conducted in the Field Center’s on-sight clinic that offered clinic observation opportunities for the team and video recording of each evaluation session. Comprehensive evaluation reports were written and the clinic’s lead clinician provided expert testimony as required. Evaluations were conducted on a fee for service basis.
In keeping with the Field Center’s mission to inform systemic change, the Field Center also provided the child welfare agency director with written recommendations for systemic improvement that resulted from individual case evaluations.
With the support of a grant from the Philadelphia Foundation, Media-based non-profit Family Support Line contracted with the Field Center to provide technical assistance and support to establish a new Child Advocacy Center for Delaware County, PA.
Child Advocacy Centers (CACs) provide a child-friendly, coordinated process of interviewing victims of suspected child abuse by a trained forensic interviewer on behalf of the child welfare, law enforcement, victim advocacy, district attorney, medical, and behavioral health systems. This model of investigation minimizes the need for child victims to tell their story over and over to different people, and offers them a safe and supportive environment to talk about their abuse. A team comprised of representatives of these different systems observes the interview via one-way mirror or closed circuit TV, and the interview is recorded for use by the legal system. As a result, victims are not further traumatized by the systems that are designed to help them. Prosecution and case planning benefits as well. A multidisciplinary team (MDT) provides coordinated case planning, a more efficient and family-friendly method of response. Additionally, Victim Advocates support the family through the process. Medical exams are conducted by trained medical experts, and behavioral health services to help the child heal are trauma-informed and geared specifically for victims of child abuse. Child Advocacy Centers serve primarily victims of child sexual abuse, but many also serve victims of physical abuse or witnesses to violent crime.
To support the development of a Child Advocacy Center to meet the specific and unique needs of Delaware County, the Field Center conducted a needs assessment to identify current and historical patterns of the numbers and types of cases, community demographics, and other factors that were critical to inform the design of the center. In addition, a feasibility study involved interviewing key community stakeholders.
The Field Center’s work included partnership development, community engagement work, research and analysis, CAC structure including staffing pattern and board of directors structure, input on facility design, identification of multidisciplinary team (MDT) members, developing and negotiating Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) among the partner agencies (including all police departments within the county), national accreditation standards gap analysis, recruitment and hiring of the CAC director, identifying operating and capital budget needs, and preparing the new Child Advocacy Center to open its doors.
The final deliverable included the following reports:
The Field Center assisted the Montgomery County Office of Children and Youth with guidance and technical assistance to devise a plan to utilize social media in recruiting potential foster parents. The Field Center conducted an extensive literature review detailing the innovative ways that social media is being used in the child welfare system throughout the country. The Field Center conceptualized a social media campaign for Foster Care Awareness Month that linked Montgomery County’s Facebook and Twitter accounts to increase visibility of their foster parent recruitment efforts. This campaign profiled successful foster families, provided FAQ’s, foster care statistics, direct stories from youth, and helpful tips for family activities. This comprehensive campaign both informed community members on the process of becoming a foster parent and the many advantages that come with giving a child a safe and loving home.
The Field Center identified the lack of use of technology to support child welfare decision-making as a key systemic failure. The business world readily utilizes technological support, yet we fail to offer the same solutions when children’s lives are at stake. Wondering why Fedex can tell you where a package is at any time yet we have woefully little information about the children involved in the child welfare system, the Field Center instituted a large-scale initiative to bring critical technology to support efforts to protect children.
The Field Center hosted a day-long national Child Welfare Summit on Information Technology at the Penn Club in New York on March 2, 2007. The summit brought together experts from multiple arenas to explore the need for a transparent and effective means of managing information and improve accountability in the child welfare system. The goal of the summit was to establish the foundation for the eventual development of a casework management information system that can track cases in real time and alert supervisors and agency officials as to gaps or inadequacies in casework services and monitoring and provide workers in the field with critical case information. Participating in the summit were 25 key leaders and representatives from the public and private sectors from around the country including commissioners, technology and program staff from multiple child welfare systems, child welfare information technology experts, U.S. House of Representatives staff, business and philanthropy leaders, the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Casey Strategic Consulting Group, and Field Center child welfare experts.
Three task forces were identified to further explore issues that emerged from the March Summit. These task forces covered the topics of Site Selection and Development, Steps and Strategies for Implementation, and Interoperability.
The Field Center convened a follow-up session to their 2007 Child Welfare Summit on March 25, 2008. Participants came to the table to advance the discussion on potential implementation of a pilot model of a management information system that would provide real-time access to critical information for both child welfare caseworkers and management as well as the sharing of data across child and family-serving systems.
Gathered at New York’s Penn Club, along with the Field Center’s interdisciplinary team, were:
Participants in this day-long session discussed the need for systemic culture change to embrace interoperability. A consumer-centric model of technology development will bridge traditional silos and result in a truly interoperable system that can share critical information across systems of care. By merging business thinking with technology, child welfare systems are able to access needed data that will ultimately inform decision-making. Software capability currently exists that can address the broad needs of child welfare interoperability. In addition, hardware is available to meet the real-time needs of caseworkers and their supervisors, including the soon-to-be required documentation of visiting children in care.
The Field Center convened experts and leaders, led by Stewards of Change, to develop a replicable model of an interoperable management information system with hand-held, real-time capability to be piloted in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. By providing caseworkers and managers with critical, timely information, informed decision-making and better accountability can be realized.
With continued support from the Hite Foundation and a contract with Montgomery County, PA, the Field Center and its partners completed its initial work on its Information Portability Project (IPP), designed to develop technology solutions that would share information across child and family-serving systems and make this available in real-time and in the field. Supported by shared state and local funding, the Montgomery County Commissioners had passed a formal resolution awarding a $950,000 contract to the Field Center who, with partners Stewards of Change, Microsoft and Motorola Corporation, was charged with developing a plan to implement this first-of-its-kind initiative.
Over the course of the project, the Field Center convened regular conference calls and in-person meetings to coordinate activities, monitor contract compliance, and shepherd the project toward completion. During the latter half of the project, the Field Center collaborated with legal experts from Stewards of Change to integrate the Field Center’s research, completed by former Faculty Director Alan Lerner and several law students, on state and local statutes and regulations regarding confidentiality and information sharing with information on promising practices from around the country into the final deliverable for Montgomery County.
The Field Center participated in three different sessions with experts from Motorola designed to gather detailed information about the needs and processes within Montgomery County’s child welfare system to inform the design of the hand-held units. Separate focus groups were held with the child welfare caseworkers, casework supervisors, and agency management. Each session provided critical information on the unique needs and capacities for those who work directly with families in the field, those who assign and monitor caseloads and provide supervision to staff, and those who are responsible on a more aggregate basis and have additional accountability outside of the agency. Capacities that emerged include having a panic button that connects directly with the 911 system; date, time and location stamping of key activities; providing a high quality speaker phone so supervisors can participate remotely in home visits; and being able to have a global view of caseloads for management and to identify training needs.
The Field Center team held a series of meetings with the principals of the project to review findings, help structure the reports, and provide strategic support for presentation of findings. Each document was thoroughly reviewed by the Field Center team who provided feedback and signed off on the final reports. The final written deliverable to Montgomery County was presented in two large binders, incorporating all business process and technology assessments, readiness to change evaluation materials, confidentiality research and recommendations, technology plans, and overall summary and recommendations. Full implementation of the recommendations would occur over four years at a cost of $6 million. Written reports were completed in March 2010, with formal presentations to both Montgomery County leadership and a consortium of Pennsylvania statewide leaders and stakeholders in Harrisburg. The Information Portability Project received high marks by both audiences, with a strong interest in moving forward on both implementation and replication. However, with the subsequent economic climate, future investment in large-scale implementation of the recommendations presented a challenge.
Montgomery County remained committed to implementing mobile technology and the Field Center supported its efforts to work with Motorola, the hardware supplier, Mobile Epiphany, the software developer, and AltruIT, the implementation provider. Units were purchased and program with software based on the priority of needs identified by county staff. Field testing commenced in 2012, programmed to address a limited number of processes for the Office of Children and Youth. Further refinement will take place to address issues as they arise.
In 2007, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania wanted to open a county-wide Child Advocacy Center (CAC) so that victims of sexual abuse could tell their stories once, to a trained forensic interviewer in a child-friendly facility, and be spared the additional trauma that the traditional criminal justice and child welfare systems can cause. The Field Center conducted the necessary research and guidance to open a new non-profit that met the specifics needs of this diverse community. Today, “Mission Kids” is a fully-accredited model CAC that serves 400 child victims per year.
The Field Center was awarded a grant to provide technical assistance to Montgomery County, Pennsylvania in developing a child advocacy center for victims of sexual and severe physical abuse. Mission Kids, a collaborative effort of the Montgomery County District Attorney, the Police Chiefs of Montgomery County, and the Montgomery County Office of Children and Youth, was developed to provide child-friendly interviews of victims of child abuse by representatives of the District Attorney’s Office, law enforcement, and social services working as a multidisciplinary team (MDT). The Field Center assisted in the formulation and development of a best-practice model in accordance with national standards that meet the specific needs of Montgomery County.
The Child Advocacy Center interview process eliminates the need for representatives from each system to conduct separate, distinct interviews of child victims by providing a single interview by a trained forensic clinician observable by the other MDT members via a one-way mirror or closed circuit video. The MDT approach to child interviewing addresses several critical components key to the diagnosis and treatment of this population. This coordination among systems responding to child abuse provides more efficient, thorough, high-quality investigations and prosecutions that assure that child victims receive effective, sensitive and immediate support in a setting that puts the child’s needs first. It offers a location where the services of multiple disciplines can be provided.
Nationally, the CAC model is viewed as effective, efficient, and sensitive to the needs of children and families in the investigation and prosecution of child abuse cases. Not only does a single forensic interview spare traumatized children from the additional trauma of multiple interviews, it eliminates the problem of prosecuting a case with potentially different interviews being presented in the courtroom and often leads to a plea bargain with the defendant. The CAC model improves professional skills and promotes a collaborative relationship among the various systems involved with child abuse cases. This often has a positive effect in the broader community when these professionals interact outside of the MDT setting. The implementation of an MDT model to child abuse investigations will result in a more efficient use of county resources.
The Field Center provided Mission Kids with technical assistance in its formative development of the most effective and efficient model of service to address the needs of child victims of sexual and serious physical abuse. To that end, the Field Center provided assistance with:
The Field Center utilized its own national child abuse experts in the fields of law, medicine, social policy, research and clinical services, graduate student resources through the University of Pennsylvania, technical assistance of Penn’s Cartographic Modeling Lab, and CAC experts in the professional community to achieve its goals.
The Field Center continues to provide technical assistance to the Mission Kids Executive Director and Management Team in policy and protocol development.
During the summer of 2005, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s Juvenile Procedural Rules Committee, which had been working to create a statewide system of procedural rules for Dependency Court, published proposed rules and distributed copies to lawyers and judges who work in the Dependency system throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, inviting comments by 10/1/05. In order to conduct a thorough review and present a cohesive and impactful response, the Field Center convened a task force of all of the constituent agencies and groups in Philadelphia to come together to discuss the proposed rules and to try to agree upon a common set of questions and comments.
During the summer of 2005, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s Juvenile Procedural Rules Committee, which had been working to create a statewide system of procedural rules for Dependency Court, published proposed rules and distributed copies to lawyers and judges who work in the Dependency system throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, inviting comments by 10/1/05. In order to conduct a thorough review and present a cohesive and impactful response, the Field Center convened a task force of all of the constituent agencies and groups in Philadelphia to come together to discuss the proposed rules and to try to agree upon a common set of questions and comments. Over the next two months, at a series of meetings, representatives of each legal constituency met and discussed the proposed rules. Participants included:
Specific proposals of the Rules Committee were analyzed, research conducted, and proposed responses were drafted for discussion among the task force members, with explanations for all to review at subsequent meetings. Through this process a single set of comments including proposed changes to the Rules Committee’s draft were developed and submitted to the Rules Committee.
The Field Center has provided training to the Philadelphia Family Court bench to provide judges with tools for better informed decision-making.
Funded by the Van Pelt Foundation, former Field Center Faculty Director Annie Steinberg, MD provided regular training, including case-based consultation, with family court judges in matters pertaining to children involved with the child welfare and juvenile justice system as well as child custody proceedings. Dr. Steinberg conducted weekly large group didactic sessions alternating with breakout group discussions on topics of interest to the participating judges.
Drexel University School of Public Health graduate student Morgan Model coordinated a one-day training program for all Philadelphia Family Court judges in October 2004 at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. Trainers included:
The focus of the training was to provide a child developmental context for judicial decision-making.
The Field Center partnered with The Institute for Safe Families (ISF) on ISF’s family violence prevention initiative. Doctoral student Rachel Fusco and Faculty Director Carol Wilson Spigner helped bridge child welfare and domestic violence thinking in their work.
The Field Center partnered with The Institute for Safe Families (ISF) on ISF’s family violence prevention initiative. The Field Center, represented by doctoral student Rachel Fusco and Faculty Director Carol Wilson Spigner, provided:
Youth in foster care and those who have aged out of foster care are uniquely vulnerable to experience adverse outcomes related to the COVID-19 pandemic. In response to the widespread need reported by this population, Think of Us, a nonprofit, systems-change firm focused on transforming child welfare and dedicated to leveraging the lived experience of people with foster care experiences, launched the Micro-Cash Grant Project. Think of Us disbursed $550,000 in micro-grants, ranging between $500 and $1000 to current and former foster youth (age 14 to 29) who spent at least one day in foster care after their 14th birthday. Due to the extraordinary response in Round 1 of the initiative, with 27,000 applications received, The Field Center provided pro bono support and mentorship around analysis and interpretation of the data received through the application process. Through their partnership with the Field Center, Think of Us will be uniquely positioned to advocate for how best to direct public and private resources for youth in and aged out of foster care.
To view state-specific fact sheets for CA, FL, GA, IN, KS, KY, MA, NY, VA & WA click here.
Each year, between 1,500 and 2,000 children in the United States are killed by their caretakers. Many of the children who died come from families that had prior contact with the child welfare system, providing an opportunity for intervention before it is too late. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has seen a recent increase in statewide fatalities and near-fatalities due to child abuse and neglect. In cases of fatalities or near-fatalities, Act 33 mandates reviews and recommendations provided to the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services. The Field Center conducted statewide research to illuminate patterns, risk factors, and protective factors related to Pennsylvania Act 33 cases. The Field Center and state agencies utilized the findings from this study to make specific recommendations to inform statewide policy and practice to prevent child fatalities. The study may also provide other states with a framework on how to examine and address child fatalities in a local context.
Click here to read more.
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 recently served as Guest Editors of a Special Issue of the CWLA journal Child Welfare on this topic.
Faculty Director Richard Gelles collaborated with the Center for Research on Youth and Social Policy (CRYSP) as Co-Principal Investigator on a National Institute of Justice (NIJ) Grant which examined Florida’s transfer of investigation of child maltreatment from child welfare to law enforcement.
Faculty Director Richard Gelles collaborated with the Center for Research on Youth and Social Policy (CRYSP) as Co-Principal Investigator on a National Institute of Justice (NIJ) Grant. The study used secondary analysis of administrative data from the Department of Children and Families in nine Florida counties to compare maltreatment recurrence and recidivism pre and post the transfer of responsibility for child maltreatment investigations to law enforcement in four of the counties. The study also developed a flowchart of the process by which cases move from substantiation to arrest to prosecution to disposition in an attempt determine the effect the transfer has had on criminalization of child maltreatment. The study then tracked a random sample of cases in Broward County to determine how many offenders suffer criminal sanctions as a result of the actions.
This research project delineated the nature and exposure of children to domestic violence by conducting secondary analyses of an archival data collected by police officers in the Montgomery County Police Department in Maryland.
Rachel Fusco, a doctoral candidate investigator, delineated the nature and exposure of children to domestic violence by conducting secondary analyses of an archival data collected by police officers in the Montgomery County Police Department in Maryland. At the time of her research, there were no scientifically credible national prevalence data for what constitutes domestic violence and child exposure to it, nor ways to verify that the violence and the exposure occurred. Ms. Fusco’s study attempted to fill the knowledge gap in this area.
This research study examined the impact of early childhood learning experiences on school success of children who had an out-of-home placement.
Staci Perlman, a doctoral candidate investigator, focused on school readiness among children in foster care. Early childhood research shows that formal early childhood learning experiences serve a protective function for young children at risk for poor school outcomes. Ms. Perlman’s research examined the impact of these learning experiences on the early school success of children who have had out-of-home placement experiences prior to kindergarten.
Dr. Carol Wilson Spigner, Field Center Faculty Director, and Cay Bradley, doctoral student, documented the reaction of urban parents to the removal of children from their families and their perception of services under the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA).
Dr. Carol Wilson Spigner, Field Center Faculty Director, and Cay Bradley, doctoral student, documented the reaction of urban parents to the removal of children from their families and their perception of services under the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA).
This study was based on the premise that, if the child welfare system is to be effective, it must improve performance both in adoption and family reunification. Although birth parents remain the primary resource for children in care, little attention has been paid to their experience with public child welfare agencies in the context of these reforms. This study began to address this gap in information for the purpose of improving practice and training and stimulating additional research.
The Field Center hosted a Documentary Film Contest on the subject of child abuse for Philadelphia-area high school and college students. Held in conjunction with the Field Center’s national child welfare conference, the Documentary Film Festival screened Amy Berg’s award-winning documentary on Catholic priest sexual abuse, Deliver Us From Evil, and the winners of the film contest.
The Field Center hosted a Documentary Film Contest on the subject of child abuse for area high school and college students from the Greater Philadelphia area. Winning films included:
A Documentary Film Festival was held the evening of May 30, 2007 in the Zellerbach Theater of the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts. After introductions by Joan Bressler of the Greater Philadelphia Film Office and State Representative Mike Gerber, prizes were awarded to the winning filmmakers by Film Contest Judge Judy Gelles, an award-winning documentary filmmaker. The audience was treated to a screening of the winning films as well as the Academy Award-nominated documentary, Deliver Us From Evil, a groundbreaking film by One Child, Many Hands: A Multidisciplinary Conference on Child Welfare special guest presenter Amy Berg on the sexual abuse of children by a Catholic priest.
Contest judges included: