Cris Beam, foster parent and author of To the End of June: The Intimate Life of American Foster Care, will be the opening keynoter. Other speakers include poet and child abuse victim Deborah Fries; Nicole Pittman, an expert on juvenile sex offender laws from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency; and Robert Anda, co-principal investigator of the Adverse Childhood Experiences study at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“The Adverse Childhood Experiences study tracked 17,000 patients and monitored the effects of child abuse and childhood trauma on health throughout the lifespan,” said Debra Schilling Wolfe, executive director for the Field Center. “Clearly, it is the most significant study about the effects of trauma in our time.”
The panel discussions will focus on insular and isolated communities who are absent from the child welfare system and on the pipeline that carries young adults who have aged out of foster care and into the hands of sex traffickers.
“The majority of children who are sex trafficked are coming out of foster care,” Wolfe said. “Sex traffickers are predators that are simply waiting for these children, who are completely vulnerable with nowhere to go and no financial support.”
Conference workshops also include sessions on how to engage with non-residential fathers in child welfare, the high rates of psychiatric hospitalization among children in foster care, using data to better understand factors related to child abuse fatalities and child abuse reporting policies among military families.
“This conference highlights the conversations that people are not having. There is a lot of research about the over-representation of African-American youth in the child welfare system, but nobody is talking about the underrepresented populations and that’s what the Field Center is examining,” Wolfe said. “We’re also looking at how social services can be available to and accepted by isolated communities that usually don’t look for outside help.”