Field Center at Penn Hosts First International Program on Child Welfare

The Field Center for Children’s Policy, Practice & Research at the University of Pennsylvania welcomed a group of students from South Korea’s Namseoul University to campus for an inaugural three-week summer program illustrating how child welfare is practiced in the United States.

As a part of the new program, faculty from the Field Center, School of Social Policy & Practice, Penn Law School, Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine and School of Nursing and from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia will teach 20 graduate and undergraduate students from Namsoul about “Child Welfare and the U.S. Approach,” which runs through Wednesday, July 9, 2014.

The curriculum addresses topics like the medical diagnosis of child abuse, child welfare advocacy and system reform, effective treatment for traumatized children, a history of children’s health and social welfare policy, how preserving families can cost children’s lives, the legal framework of child abuse, models in child advocacy, disproportionality, the effect of maltreatment on child development and aging out of the foster care system.

“This intensive training allows students to view child welfare through a number of different lenses, while emphasizing the U.S. approach, which is informed by our own laws, values and culture,” Debra Schilling Wolfe, the executive director of the Field Center, said. “In contrast, in the Republic of Korea, ‘child welfare’ is defined more broadly than here and includes any services that support children, such as child care. In Korea, they pay incentives for people to report child abuse; in the U.S., we criminally charge professionals who don’t.”

The all-female group of students will also make on-site visits to a number of agencies, such as Philadelphia Family Court, the Children’s Village, the Philadelphia Children’s Alliance Child Advocacy Center, the Philadelphia Police Department Special Victims Unit, CHOP, the Montgomery County Office of Children & Youth, Turning Points for Children Community Umbrella Agency and the Achieving Independence Center.

Wolfe added the new interdisciplinary program aligns with elements of President Amy Gutmann’s Penn Compact 2020, by integrating knowledge and engaging globally.

“This is an opportunity to teach others about child welfare around the world from multiple perspectives and for us to expand our knowledge to better understand how other cultures address these kinds of critical issues,” Wolfe said.

In addition to learning about the child welfare system, the students are also participating in a cultural exchange of sorts, visiting many of Philadelphia’s historic sites, sampling cheesesteaks at Reading Terminal Market and cruising through the city’s many neighborhoods. They are also exploring major cities along the east coast, spending a weekend in New York City and the July 4 holiday in Washington, D.C.

As a result of the program, Richard J. Gelles, a faculty director at the Field Center for Children’s Policy, Practice & Research and the former dean of the School of Social Policy & Practice, signed an Memorandum of Understanding with Yoon Hyeon Lee, the dean of international affairs at Namseoul, establishing a program of mutual exchange and collaboration.

Program organizers look forward to replicating this experience with more international students in the future.

The Field Center for Children’s Policy, Practice & Research integrates the expertise of Penn’s schools, including Social Policy & Practice, Law, Medicine, Nursing, and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia to work to enhance the well being of abused and neglected children through the integration of clinical care, research and education, as well as informing local and national policy.

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