The Support Center for Child Advocates presented Penn President Amy Gutmann with the 2011 Judge Lois G. Forer Child Advocacy Award yesterday evening at a ceremony where, among others, Richard Gelles, dean of the School of Social Policy and Practice, and Ira Harkavy, founding director of the Barbara and Edward Netter Center for Community Partnerships, were also honored as 2011 Distinguished Advocates.
Child Advocates is the nation’s oldest and largest program dedicated to providing pro bono legal services for children in crisis.
Gutmann was honored for her efforts to make education accessible regardless of financial constraints, her emphasis on service learning as a tool for community change and her leadership of the Penn community as a force for social change and as a model for peer institutions both locally and nationally .
“I am honored to accept this award on behalf of Penn, and want to highlight the extraordinary work being done throughout our campus community for local children, especially under the leadership of Richard Gelles at the School of Social Policy and Practice, and Ira Harkavy at the Netter Center for Community Partnerships,” Gutmann says. “I commend the work of the Support Center for Child Advocates on behalf of children without a voice, for providing helping hands, caring hearts, and life-support systems for our most vulnerable citizens.”
Gelles has dedicated more than 35 years to research, advocacy and changing policy for victims of child abuse and neglect. He was instrumental in launching the Field Center for Children’s Policy, Practice and Research, an interdisciplinary collaboration that addresses issues facing the child welfare system.
“While this is a great honor, the more important issue here is drawing attention to the need for systemic reform within the child welfare arena, so that no child falls through the cracks,” Gelles says. “For every incident of child abuse or neglect that gets reported, it’s estimated that two others go unreported.”
Harkavy has extensive experience building university-community-school partnerships. As director of the Netter Center since 1992, Harkavy has helped to develop service-learning courses as well as research projects that involve creating University-assisted community schools in West Philadelphia. He also teaches in the departments of history, urban studies, Africana studies and city and regional planning.
“I am deeply honored to be named a Distinguished Advocate for Children for the work of the Netter Center that helps to improve the lives of children and their families in West Philadelphia,” he says. “I can truly think of no more important work than contributing to the healthy development of young people who face severe obstacles to success.”