Field Center at Penn Addresses America’s ‘Throwaway Children’ Through History

The Field Center for Children’s Policy, Practice & Research at the University of Pennsylvania will host a community symposium in conjunction with One Book, One Philadelphia, Monday, Feb. 9, at 8:30 a.m. at the Penn Law School, 3501 Sansom St.

The symposium will focus on “The U.S. Response to Throwaway Children: From Orphan Trains to the Current Migrant Crisis” and will include Christina Baker Kline, author of Orphan Train, the 2015 One Book, One Philadelphia reading selection.

The book is rooted in the stories of more than 200,000 impoverished and abandoned children who traveled to the Midwest from the East Coast via train between 1854 and 1929. Once at their destinations, they were shuffled into forced labor in farming communities and abusive situations. It illustrates the historical context that’s led to today’s social, moral and legal crisis created by large numbers of unaccompanied migrant children arriving at America’s borders.

Providing a parallel theme on contemporary foster care, Orphan Train also serves as the inspiration for more than 100 art installations, performances, panel discussions and other events scheduled across Philadelphia through March 19.

“This timely book selection provided an opportunity to examine the plight of children abandoned at our borders within a historical context,” said Debra Schilling Wolfe, executive director of the Field Center. “By bringing together the nation’s top experts on social policy, child-welfare services and children’s rights, we offer a critical look at how our nation cares for vulnerable children.”

The community symposium will feature a panel of the nation’s leading experts on child welfare, including:

“The U.S. Response to Throwaway Children” is free and open to the public; advance registration is required by Wednesday, Feb. 4.  Register at

A continental breakfast will be provided.

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