What We Do
Guided by the Schools of Social Policy & Practice, Law, and Medicine and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, the Field Center for Children’s Policy, Practice & Research brings together the resources of the University of Pennsylvania to enhance and assure the well-being of abused and neglected children and those at risk of maltreatment.
By moving beyond traditional approaches, the Field Center utilizes an interdisciplinary model to integrate clinical care, research and education, inform local and national policy, and prepare the nation’s future leaders, for the benefit of children and their families.
Creative Interdisciplinary Collaborations
The Field Center partners with a variety of disciplines and non-traditional partners to affect needed change. For example, to assist in improving services to families awaiting proceedings in Family Court, the Field Center has combined the talents of social work, law, public health, graphic design, and architecture to offer creative solutions. The Field Center collaborates both within the University of Pennsylvania community and with the greater professional community both locally and nationally.
National Legislative, Policy, and Legal Initiatives
The Field Center has participated in groundbreaking legislative and legal initiatives which have set precedents in the child welfare system. Examples include:
- Filing of Amicus Brief on Troxel v. Granville Supreme Court Case regarding grandparents’ visitation rights
- Appointment to the Pew Commission on Foster Care
- Joined Amicus Brief which resulted in the defeat of the juvenile death penalty
The Field Center offers symposia to the professional community on current issues of interest. Past topics include:
- Emerging Legal Issues in Child Welfare
- Post ASFA: Securing Adoption for the Hardest to Place Children
- Responding to the Mental Health Needs of Children in Foster Care
- The Plight of African American Children and Families in the Child Welfare System: Policy and Practice Challenges
- Education for Kids in Care: 50 Years after Brown vs. the Board of Education
- Issues Facing Immigrant and Refugee Children
- Clinicians in the Courtroom: What Every Clinician Needs to Know About Testifying In Court
- Playing with Anger: Making Meaning of Aggression and Bonding with African American Boys
- Risk Assessment and Stages of Change
- Kids in Care: Where We Are, Where We Need to Go
- Confronting Child Neglect: Concepts and Challenges
- Juvenile Sexual Offenders: Analysis & Management of Risk
- Parents' Rights vs. Children's Rights: A Debate of the Issues
- Studying and Changing Treatment Practices in Child Welfare: Trials and Tribulations
- Findings from the Multi-Site Evaluation of Children's Advocacy Centers: Implications for Future CAC Development
- The Allegheny County Experience: The Transformation of a Child Welfare System to a National Model
- Bang for Your Buck: Public Child Welfare and the Pursuit of Accountability
- The Nurse-Family Partnership: From Trials to International Replication
- The Art of Perception: Rethinking What We See
Contracted Training and Consultation
The Field Center offers individualized training and consultation services based on the specific needs of agencies and staff. Training topics range from individual case decisions to larger organizational issues. Some examples of past training and consultation include:
- Needs assessment for family court
- Case consultation with child welfare agency on complex placement decisions
- Training in utilizing child development in decision making for dependency judges
- Consultation on procedures for child fatality cases
- Case consultation for family court case disposition
Child Advocacy Clinic
Taught by two of the Field Center’s Faculty Directors, law professor Alan Lerner, Esq., and pediatrician Cindy Christian, MD, and social work supervisor Amira Abdul-Wakeel, MSW, the Child Advocacy Clinic provides education jointly to law, medical and social work students while offering students the opportunity to both advocate for and represent children in dependency cases in Family Court.
Assistance in Critical Cases
The Field Center’s Interdisciplinary Evaluation Clinic combines the disciplines of social work, law, medicine, and psychology to provide comprehensive evaluations of children and their families involved in the child welfare system. The Field Center’s state-of-the-art Clinic allows for team observation and documentation of evaluation sessions. Evaluation reports and court testimony by the Field Center’s expert staff completes the process.
Training Future Leaders
The Field Center provides interdisciplinary education for area students in a variety of disciplines, including social work, law, medicine, and public health. Students work with Penn’s faculty and staff on policy, research and practice initiatives and participate with the Field Center team on projects and activities. Former Field Center students are currently serving in a variety of capacities, including:
- Assistant Attorney General in the Child Protection Section of the DC Attorney General’s Office
- Equal Justice Works Fellow/Staff Attorney, Rocky Mountain Children’s Law Center
- Executive Assistant to the Director of the DC Child and Family Services Agency
- Assistant Professor of Law at Loyola University Chicago School of Law
The Field Center Faculty Directors, Dr. Richard Gelles, Dr. Cindy Christian, and Professor Alan Lerner, along with University of Pennsylvania Graduate Students and program staff, conduct critical scholarly research on child maltreatment to advance knowledge in the field and impart change.
National Child Welfare Conference
One Child, Many Hands: A Multidisciplinary Conference on Child Welfare, the Field Center’s biennial national child welfare conference, is held in Philadelphia in the Spring of alternate years. The only national child welfare conference which truly integrates the perspectives of the multiple disciplines involved in the child welfare arena, One Child, Many Hands brings together the nation’s leading experts in an interdisciplinary presentation of the “state of the art” in child welfare policy, practice and research.