November 15, 2013: Trauma-Informed Practice and Policy for Disconnected Girls Conference, Hosted by the Center on Poverty, the Human Rights Project for Girls, and The National Crittenton Foundation.
October 29, 2013 - Report on Career and Technical Education published by Faculty Co-Director Harry Holzer:
Please read to see recommendations for the future of high quality career and technical education.
October 11, 2013 - Op-Ed by Faculty Co-Director Peter Edelman and Executive Director Rebecca Epstein published by Reuters
Helping the victims of American sex trafficking
October 11, 2013 @ 11:33 am
By Peter Edelman and Rebecca Epstein
Friday marks the International Day of the Girl . The United Nations has set aside October 11 to focus on the discrimination and abuse that women and girls suffer throughout the world.
One brutal crime that demands a far more intensive worldwide response is commercial sexual exploitation. This problem is of crisis proportion, and each time it happens it amounts to selling the rape of a child for profit.
This illicit global industry has begun to receive some of the attention its victims desperately require. But a blind spot remains: American girls on American soil.
It is happening here, to our girls. By conservative estimates, 100,000 American children are trafficked each year. Many, though not all, of these victims lived at the margins of American life before they were trafficked. They were struggling against poverty, and often had histories of trauma, abuse, violence or neglect.
So although October 11 has been designated as a day of international focus, Americans should also turn their attention inward — where it is often most painful to look.
Marginalized girls are more vulnerable to being lured by a pimp’s promises of money, food, shelter, drugs, admiration or love. Others are forced — kidnapped in their own neighborhoods, shopping malls or other public places that pimps target with cunning care. Once girls have entered the circle of trafficking, it is difficult to escape — whether they are physically held captive or bound by threats to themselves or their families, or pimps’ other, often sophisticated, tools of psychological manipulation.
Whatever path leads them there, most of the victims in this country share one characteristic: They are American. So when we envision only foreign victims in a distant location, we are seeing sex trafficking through a distorted lens — perhaps because that distortion helps distance ourselves from the crime.
It is far easier to absorb the horror of young girls being raped for profit from the comfortable perch of moral certainty that it can’t happen here, it can’t happen to us.
But these girls are among us — sometimes just down the street. They attend our schools, live in our communities, reside in our foster care homes and move in and out of our child welfare system and juvenile justice system. They are our collective responsibility.
The fact that these girls are all around us means they are within reach. We can help them. But only if we identify who they are, understand their needs, and form multi-agency teams to help them.
Some public systems have already begun this work. Innovative efforts are underway in Connecticut, Ohio, California, Massachusetts and elsewhere to train staff about the commercial sex trafficking of children in their communities and to work together in task forces to identify victims, provide treatment and placement programs and help them build a viable path forward.
It is crucial that we scale up these efforts. Across the United States, child welfare systems, juvenile justice systems, schools, hospitals and other public systems need to work together in the fight against domestic sex trafficking. With local, multidisciplinary teams, they can develop ways to address victims’ immediate needs in their community and, in the longer term, to gather data and monitor progress.
Government at all levels must fund these efforts. We must raise public awareness through media campaigns and ensure that anti-trafficking legislation helps foreign and American victims equally.
Each of us must raise our voice to insist that our government end the treatment of sex trafficking survivors as criminal offenders. We must instead view them as child victims of serial sex abuse — who need, and deserve, specialized support to help them rebuild after their trauma and live healthy, successful lives.
PHOTO: A Romanian girl, former sex slave, looks out in a shelter in Romania in this Nobember 30, 2006 file picture. REUTERS/Bogdan Cristel
August 5, 2013 - Washington Post Blog "She the People" cites Center on Poverty report.
‘Bolster’ black boys, but don’t forget about black girls
By Bernardine Watson
President Obama, in his remarks after the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, asked what we could do as a nation to “learn some lessons from this and move in a positive direction?” One of his thoughts was to “spend some time thinking about how we bolster our African American boys.”
Many, especially in the African American community, agree with him. In fact some see the Martin case as an opportunity for a national discussion about young black males and the justice system. Certainly a national focus on young African American males is overdue, particularly given their over-representation in the delinquency system. However, as we look for strategies to “bolster” black boys, it’s important to acknowledge that African American girls are the fastest growing segment of the juvenile justice system, and need just as much attention.
A recent report by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) shows that while males still dominate the justice system, the caseload for girls has grown significantly — from 20 percent of all juvenile arrests in 1980 to 30 percent in 2009. Girls of color make up nearly two-thirds of the female juvenile justice population. In fact, according OJJDP research, the average girl in the system is between 15 to 16 years old; lives in an urban environment with one parent and is a girl of color.
Experts agree that the increase in girl offenders over the past several decades is not due to a “girls gone wild” phenomenon. Girls still commit far fewer violent crimes than boys. More girls are ending up in court because of policies and policing practices such as zero tolerance in schools and state statutes against domestic violence that now encompass minor-age victims and offenders and result in mandatory arrests. Also, according to a study by the Georgetown Center on Poverty, Inequality and Public Policy, girls are far more likely than boys to be detained for non-serious offenses such as truancy, running away and underage drinking or technical probation violations, such as missing a meeting with a probation officer or violating curfew.
Given the statistics, race is clearly a determinant in which girls get arrested and enter the system. Troubled African American girls and other girls of color often live in heavily policed neighborhoods and attend schools that enforce zero tolerance policies. These girls are more likely to come to the attention of law enforcement than white girls. Studies show that girls of color tend to benefit less from leniency and diversion programs and generally receive harsher punishments than white girls for similar offenses. Some researchers and advocates speculate that these differences in treatment may result from negative stereotypes that police and court officials have about girls of color, which can influence decision-making.
Advocates and researchers also say that girls’ offending is often connected to complicated life experiences that need to be explored and addressed. For example, the “average” delinquent girl has been the victim of physical, sexual or psychological abuse; comes from a more dysfunctional family than most delinquent boys and has been in foster care. Delinquent behavior such as running away from home or domestic fighting may for these girls be a rational response to an unbearable home situation.
Helen Wade, executive director of Young Ladies of Tomorrow (YLOT), one of the few programs in Washington that serves delinquent girls, says, “Our girls come to us with mother, father, and anger issues because they’ve been mistreated.” Like most boys in the system, delinquent girls from tough neighborhoods have to be willing to fight to protect themselves. A 16 year old African American probationer in Wade’s program who was locked up for fighting says, “I had to fight. You can’t let people see you scared.”
Resources to help these girls are frustratingly limited. The juvenile system is geared to boys and ill equipped to meet girls needs. The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention is attempting to make reforms. However, according to the Georgetown report, reform efforts are being hampered by declining federal investments in programs to reduce delinquency. State budgets for juvenile justice programs have been radically cut as well.
Some advocates like Child Welfare League of America are developing “gender specific programming” designed to meet the needs of girls in or at risk of entering the juvenile system. YLOT is helping participants build trusting relationships with adults and peers; develop skills for making good decisions and make positive use of survival skills they already have. As the girl in Wade’s program says, “all we know is the hood.”
Much needs to be done to raise the visibility of African American girls in the justice system and the issues they face: their disproportionate numbers, harsher treatment and the lack of services to meet their needs. Yes, it would be wonderful if the country were to focus on troubled black boys. But we shouldn’t forget about black girls.
Bernardine (Dine) Watson is a social policy researcher and writer living in Washington DC. Follow her on Twitter at @dinewatson.
April 11, 2013 -
Executive Director Rebecca Epstei
March 12, 2013 -
Today, the Center on Poverty co-hosted a conference, "Critical Connections: A Multi-System Approach to the Sex Trafficking of Girls," together with The National Crittenton Foundation and the Human Rights Project for Girls.
The keynote address was delivered by Tina Tchen, Chief of Staff to the First Lady and Executive Director of the White House Council on Women and Girls.
It was an energetic day of constructive conversation, and we left inspired to continue to move forward on this important topic.
Faculty Co-Director Professor Peter Edelman
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May 5, 2013 -
Representative DeLauro (D-Conn.) has introduced a bill in the House of Representatives that addresses one of the central recommendations in the Center on Poverty's recently released report, "Improving the Juvenile Justice System for Girls: Lessons from the States." (see below for press release.)
The bill would amend the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act to expand the allowable uses of grants awarded under Title V of the act to include gender-responsive services, which the bill defines as those that 1) comprehensively address the needs of girls in the juvenile justice system, and 2) include trama-specific services.
We are encouraged that Rep. DeLauro has taken action on this issue.
Georgetown Law Releases Comprehensive Report on Girls in the Juvenile Justice System
October 23, 2012 —
Today, the Georgetown Center on Poverty, Inequality, and Public Policy at Georgetown Law releases a report that lays out gender-specific reforms for girls in the juvenile justice system. The report, Improving the Juvenile Justice System for Girls: Lessons from the States, offers innovative solutions for federal and state governments and suggests strategies to adopt and implement critical improvements based on successful reforms in Connecticut, Florida and Stanislaus County, California.
See more here
Professor Holzer, Payments to Elders are Harming our Future, Washington Post Op-Ed, March 9, 2013: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/payments-to-elders-are-harming-our-future/2013/03/08/08c9030c-82bd-11e2-b99e-6baf4ebe42df_story.html
Professor Edelman's most recent blog on the Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/peter-edelman/poverty-social-safety-net_b_1980431.html
Peter Edelman, Poverty in America: Why Can’t We End It? New York Times Op-Ed, July 28, 2012.
Harry Holzer, Can The U.S. Produce Good Jobs And Good Workers To Fill Them?, Huffington Post, June 21, 2012