By John McDonald, UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies
A new center at UCLA will address the needs of children who are disconnected from traditional paths to success, with a particular focus on youth in foster care. The UCLA Pritzker Center for Strengthening Children and Families is a collaborative hub for research, prevention and intervention efforts that will work to strengthen families, and help children avoid entering the child welfare system.
The center’s staff and faculty will also aim to give foster parents, related caregivers, and adoptive families the skills and resources to promote stable and nurturing families, equitable opportunities and paths to educational success for the children in their care. It will address the complex needs of youth in foster care by bringing together resources and expertise from numerous UCLA units, including the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies’ education department, the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior and Social Welfare at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.
The center was made possible by a gift of $10 million from the Anthony and Jeanne Pritzker Family Foundation. Tony and Jeanne Pritzker are Los Angeles philanthropists and leading supporters of UCLA who have made significant investments toward bettering the lives of foster youth and their families.
“This generous gift from Jeanne and Tony Pritzker allows UCLA to help provide critical resources for our community’s most vulnerable children and youth,” said UCLA Chancellor Gene Block. “As a leading public research university, we have a responsibility to use the breadth and depth of our resources to help address the most critical issues facing society. The UCLA Pritzker Center for Strengthening Children and Families will be a tremendous resource for young people in the foster care system and their families.”
The center will serve as a catalyst for more effective collaboration between UCLA researchers and nonprofit agencies, other colleges and universities, K-12 systems, children and family advocates, and government support services across Los Angeles County. It will also develop innovative classroom support systems, family support services, and programs that help children affected by trauma and promote resilience; and it will produce new research on issues related to foster care, with an initial focus on the dynamics of race in foster care in Los Angeles County.
“This new center is a natural outgrowth of our family’s commitment to increasing UCLA’s capacity to improve outcomes for children,” said Tony Pritzker. “Our intent is that the Pritzker Center will lend synergy to so much good work already being undertaken throughout the institution, and galvanize new research and opportunities for academic advancement across departments.”
The center is directed by Tyrone Howard, a UCLA professor of education and GSEIS’s associate dean of equity and inclusion. Howard also is the director of the Black Male Institute at UCLA. The center’s co-director is Audra Langley, an associate professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at the Semel Institute, and the director of UCLA TIES for Families, which serves children in foster care or adopted families. Patricia Lester, the Jane and Marc Nathanson Family Professor of Psychiatry, and Todd Franke, a professor of social welfare at UCLA Luskin, also serve on the center’s leadership team.
“There are nearly 35,000 young people engaged in the child welfare services system in Los Angeles County, including more than 21,000 in foster care, many of whom are struggling,” Howard said. “Issues of race, poverty and gender all play a role in how children and families seek to navigate complex systems for help and hope. The Pritzker Center will help us to better understand their needs and enhance and intensify our efforts to ensure their educational and social success and economic security.
“We are going to work with others in our community to ensure they get the support and services they need, and maybe more importantly, to strengthen children and families in ways that prevent children from entering the foster care system in the first place.”
Langley said: “We have long been doing important work at UCLA to help optimize the development of children in foster care, but there is more to be done to synergize our efforts. This new center will leverage our campuswide experience and strengthen partnerships with others across Los Angeles County who are working to better serve our children and young people in foster care and prioritize brighter futures for all children and families.”
The gift also establishes the Pritzker Family Endowed Chair in Education for Strengthening Children and Families at the Graduate School of Education; the position will provide faculty leadership for the center.
“With the generous endowment created by the Pritzker family, the Pritzker Center promises to be a lasting resource,” said Marcelo Suárez-Orozco, the UCLA Wasserman Dean of the Graduate School of Education. “The center’s leaders will work collaboratively with those in the nonprofit world and government sectors to develop and identify new rigorous, research-based approaches to better support the needs of foster youth and families.
“Many young people in foster care spend much of their day in public school settings, and we need to explore how educators, social workers, clinicians and public health leaders can work together to empower these young people to live full, successful lives.”
By Colleen Callahan MA UP ’10
Los Angeles County is set to launch its own electricity provider in 2018, giving customers another option besides longtime power company Southern California Edison. Called Los Angeles Community Choice Energy, the county’s venture is part of a wave across California of new community choice aggregators.
Community choice aggregators (CCAs) enable cities or counties to make decisions about what kinds of energy resources and local clean energy programs in which to invest, such as local renewable energy. Since 2010, California communities have established nine CCAs, with over a dozen municipalities actively exploring forming a CCA and many others considering joining one. Multiple CCA models have arisen out of this rapid growth. Now cities such as Santa Monica have multiple CCA options.
A new study by the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation analyzed three CCA options to inform Santa Monica’s decision whether to form or join a CCA.
“This study commissioned by the City of Santa Monica is garnering wide attention from cities across the region that are faced with a similar set of options, because it is an important decision,” said J.R. DeShazo, director of the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation. The decision could affect electricity rates for local customers, the amount of renewable energy procured and how much money could be available for local energy programs, among other consequences.
The study assessed the strengths and potential challenges of Santa Monica’s three CCA options:
- Los Angeles Community Choice Energy (LACCE), a large, soon-to-launch CCA with member cities across Los Angeles County. This regional option may dilute influence for Santa Monica, in terms of its direct vote on the governing board. However, it could also provide Santa Monica with the greatest economies of scale, which would well position the city to meet its ambitious renewable energy and other environmental goals while avoiding long-term risks.
- South Bay Clean Power (SBCP), a CCA designed for a group of cities in the South Bay and Westside subregion. SBCP is more a set of recommendations than an operationally ready option at this time. SBCP’s business plan includes innovative, sophisticated strategies for a next generation CCA, which others outside of SBCP could adopt. With no other currently committed members, Santa Monica would likely have to take the lead in its development and it would likely benefit from fewer economies of scale than LACCE.
- A single-city CCA through the services of California Choice Energy Authority (CCEA), which pools services for multiple single-city CCAs. The business model for CCEA allows for member cities to have a significant amount of autonomy to pursue and meet renewable energy and other goals. However, it would also involve an initial financial and staff commitment.
Relying in part on UCLA’s research findings, the Santa Monica City Council recently voted unanimously to join LACCE as the first step in a two-step approval process.
The associated Santa Monica staff report states, “The UCLA study helped to inform staff’s recommendations. … LACCE is operationally ready and could provide the City with a variety of economies of scale and a stronger voice for the legislative and regulatory discussions that lay ahead.” By collaborating with other cities through this new regional energy partnership, Santa Monica hopes to be a powerful voice pushing for clean energy strategies that advance the City’s progressive environmental goals, according to the report.
By Stan Paul
Kenya Covington has been teaching Public Policy 10A at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs for several years, so she’s well aware of the burdens for students who take the summer class.
Many students have very busy summer schedules “working with congressional members, doing summer internships or running youth mentoring camps,” she said, mentioning just a few of the typical commitments made by undergraduates at UCLA. “It dawned on me after the first summer teaching the course that the alternative online format might work well.”
Thanks to Covington, undergrads who are pursuing a minor in public affairs at UCLA Luskin can take the core introductory course online. Public Policy 10A has served as the gateway for the public affairs minor since shortly after the Luskin School was established more than 20 years ago. Now in its second online summer run, the course is a welcome addition — judging from the impressive summer enrollment of nearly 80 students.
But, despite the convenience, the six-week summer course is no “lite” version of the course offered during the regular academic year, said Covington, who’s also a new member of the UCLA Luskin Public Policy faculty. Covington said that, even though the course is online, it will remain rigorous and true to the in-class version she has taught two previous summers at Luskin.
It was Covington who brought 10A online last summer with an initial enrollment of 35 students. Covington, who has previous online instruction experience at California State University Northridge (CSUN), said her goal was to create a flexible course that “students can take with them on the road.”
“This course is fast-paced,” Covington said. “Students must stay on top of the work … there are quite a few tasks to be completed for every weekly module.” She said that self-directed learners will succeed in the course.
Like the in-class version, the course is chock full of reading from an assigned text and other materials, as well as additional video content on topics and tools used in policy analysis. These include policy memo-writing and cost-benefit analysis — the same skills honed by the school’s master of public policy (MPP) students.
Covington noted that a great deal of effort is required to ensure the quality of the course. “I work to duplicate the course quality of the face-to-face traditional course,” she said. “Student learning objectives are linked to the lectures that are posted online and to classwork assignments that are embedded in weekly modules.”
Covington’s areas of study include the examination of social and economic inequality associated with the structural makeup of metropolitan areas. At UCLA Luskin, she teaches courses on housing policy, research methods, urbanization, social inequality and urban poverty.
For students more accustomed to a classroom setting, Covington provides a number of optional live sessions. Those classes are recorded and serve as supplementary online content for future presentations of the course.
Among the students who enjoy the face-to-face experience with the convenience of online learning is UCLA senior Bryan Dean, who is juggling an internship this summer with studying for the GRE, the graduate record examination.
“This is not my first online course, but it is my first online course at UCLA.,” said Dean, who hopes to pursue graduate studies in public policy. “I really enjoy the course format with the mixture of in-class meetings and online materials.”
Online content isn’t a new concept at UCLA. All courses have an interactive class web page and built-in aspects of a “blended course.” Students who grew up with smart phones, tablets and the internet are accustomed to finding their course syllabi online as well as turning in assignments online and having access to downloadable supplementary materials, internet links to readings and more.
Covington requires students to participate in an open forum during which the class discusses a topic linked to the focus of the weekly modules. Students are required not only to submit posts, but must comment on other students’ posts, which adds a social and participatory element to the course.
In her in-class introductory session this summer, Covington urged students to stay connected. “The challenge with the online is you don’t get to interface with me as much, so you don’t get to pick my brain as easily about things that you are interested in. But don’t hesitate, send me an email,” she said.
Non-traditional students — those who are typically working full- or part-time jobs while going to school — may find this type of course more appealing. “These courses allow them to pursue their academic goals,” Covington said. “The value of online is that it provides maximum flexibility for students.”
“The stories I tell no way describe the torture I felt
Years of destruction I knew nothing else
Trusted my mind, body, and soul
In the hands of another human being to control”
from the poem “Mind, Body and Soul,” by Ummra Hang, a second-year master of social welfare student at UCLA Luskin
By Stan Paul
Ummra Hang’s reading of her powerful poem was one of many highlights of a UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs conference examining sexually exploited children. The event, held May 6, 2017, brought together students, faculty, policy experts, law enforcement and service agency personnel — as well as survivors of abuse and commercial sexual exploitation — to focus on a complicated and emotionally charged problem.
The conference, which included appearances by several alumni from the Luskin School, highlighted how commercial sexual exploitation is not just happening in other countries. It is believed to involve more than 100,000 young people throughout the United States — especially in densely populated California cities such as San Francisco, San Diego and Los Angeles. The conference also served as the final project for — and was conducted by — Luskin master of social welfare research students in the University Consortium for Child and Families (UCCF) program, the culmination of their year-long research projects and part of a three-quarter course led by professor of social welfare Rosina Becerra. UCCF is a federally funded program and partnership between the County of Los Angeles Department of Children and Families and six masters of social work programs in Los Angeles, including UCLA.
Assisting the students in putting on the conference were Consuelo Bingham Mira, a lecturer in social welfare and coordinator of evaluation and research for the Public Child Welfare (PCW) California Social Welfare Education Counsel (CalSWEC) program and social welfare field faculty Michelle Talley.
Although the problem is difficult to measure, research shows that sexual abuse and exploitation is not limited to young girls. It affects males, females and across the spectrum of genders and sexualities for a variety of reasons, said keynote speaker Alexandra Lutnick, a researcher and expert on human trafficking, the sex industry, substance abuse and criminalization.
“Our lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex — all face high rates of incarceration, family rejection, homelessness and child welfare involvement,” said Lutnick, author of the book “Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking: Beyond Victims and Villains.” “Any one of those on their own puts someone at an increased risk of trading sex. And, when we look at the intersectionality of those, we realize the ways in which gender discrimination, discrimination based on sexual orientation, housing insecurity, institutionalized homophobia and transphobia all conspire to make this group of young people more vulnerable to being involved in selling sex.”
Lutnick explained that a complicated issue such as this refutes prevailing narratives.
“We don’t know how many are involved — it’s a hidden population,” she said. “There’s no registry,” and therefore no ability to gather data about the ages of youth entering the sex trade.
Lutnick discussed the role that physical or emotional neglect plays in bringing youth into the sex trade. With emotional neglect, a young person may not find support from the adults in the immediate family, so he or she may seek that support elsewhere.
“That could be coupling with somebody in an intimate partnership,” Lutnick said. “And then that person is asking, coercing or forcing them to sell sex. It could be looking for validation from people who are paying them for sex.”
Adding to this complex story is the role of child abuse, said Lutnick. “Inevitably that’s going to come up in any conversation about young people being involved in the sex trade. For some this means they’re being abused at home and to get away from the abuse they run away and then we’re back into the narrative of the role of homelessness.”
For others, she said, “their involvement in the sex trade is a continuation of the way in which their parents and guardians have been abusing them for many, many years. And it’s just one of the ways that’s now happening,” she said.
Panelist Gabriella Lewis, a supervising case manager with CAST, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit anti-trafficking organization, said that the problem is more common than most people realize. “Anyone can be a victim and anyone can be a trafficker,” Calderon said. “Safety is constantly an issue with this population.”
Solutions are challenging, Lutnick said, and they remain obstructed by nebulous dichotomies such as victim and villain.
The idea of, “Oh, we just need to rescue the good kids and punish the bad people,” flies in the face of the reality on the streets, Lutnick said. “We can’t arrest our way out of this. We can’t legislate our way out of it and we need to direct attention to the root factors that contribute to young people either deciding to that the sex trade is their best or their worst option or finding themselves in situations where someone is specifically taking advantage of the vulnerabilities that they have.”
There is some positive news in California, Lutnick said. The state Senate passed a bill in the past year that decriminalizes youth involvement in the sex trade — progress that was many years in the making.
“Even though you’ve got a federal definition, they’re regulated at the state level,” Lutnick said. “So unless states change their penal codes, young people are still being arrested.”
Lutnick also had some advice for lawmakers and policymakers.
“When we have these proposed outcomes — lawsuits or legislation — what are the questions we need to ask ourselves?” she asked. “Is it going to result in the hoped-for outcome? What are the potential negative impacts? Does it address key vulnerabilities such as poverty, racism homophobia, transphobia? And, if not, maybe we need to work a little harder to do that deeper level work — that macro level work — to come up with solutions that aren’t going to create harm for anybody.”
Two Luskin graduates — Emily Williams MPP ’98, assistant senior deputy for Human Services, Child Welfare, and Education for Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas; and Sarah Godoy MSW ’15, a policy associate for the National Center for the Youth Law’s Child Trafficking Team — were among the expert panelists. Both were part of the juvenile justice/law enforcement panel that included LAPD detective Dana Harris, who specializes in the investigation of human trafficking, and Maria Griglio, a deputy county counsel representing the Department of Children and Family Services.
Recognizing that young people over the age of 18 involved in prostitution may have been a victim of exploitation long before that, Williams talked about the L.A. County Supervisors’ ongoing efforts to end commercial exploitation of children as well as the expansion and implementation of support services to those who are 18-24 years of age.
“We understand they need to be served just as much as children do,” said Williams, who serves as a policy liaison to a number of service agencies including the Department of Children and Family Services, the Department of Public Social Services, Child Support Services and the Los Angeles County Office of Education.
Panelist Monique Calderon, who was part of the “healing to action” panel, shared her own story of getting into “the life” in the sex industry after graduating from college, and how difficult it was to get out.
Conference organizers were pleased with the results of the daylong discussions.
“The conference exceeded my expectations,” UCLA Luskin social welfare field faculty member Michelle Talley MSW ’98 said after the event. “Every panelist enhanced the conference as each one imparted their knowledge and expertise about human trafficking and engaged the audience.”
Every student who participated went above and beyond to ensure the success of the conference, she said. “The conference was a start of an invigorating discussion of sex trafficking of youth in hopes to end trafficking as we know it today,” Talley said.
“This successful conference is just one of the examples of the many activities that the students are able to do in our MSW program,” added Becerra, who also acknowledged generous support for the conference by members of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas, Sheila Kuehl and Hilda Solis, as well as by private donors.
By George Foulsham
Eric Garcetti, the 42nd mayor of Los Angeles, has been named the 2017 Commencement speaker for the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.
Garcetti will speak during the Luskin ceremony at 9 a.m. on June 16 at Royce Hall on the UCLA campus.
“Mayor Eric Garcetti’s pathbreaking efforts on behalf of transportation infrastructure, livable Los Angeles communities and forward-thinking governance has had transformative impact on the City of Los Angeles and, indeed, the entire region,” said Gary Segura, dean of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. “Beyond his passionate work on the expansion of the region’s transportation network, he has used the office of the mayor to advance focused efforts toward reducing homelessness, enhancing environmental sustainability, and creating a safer and more just Los Angeles.
“This form of governance is a perfect reflection of the Luskin School’s intellectual commitment to human well-being at all levels,” Segura added. “It is our privilege to welcome him as our 2017 Commencement Speaker.”
Garcetti was first elected mayor of L.A. in 2013 and won re-election in this year’s municipal election. According to the mayor’s website, his “back to basics” agenda is focused on job creation and solving everyday problems for L.A. residents.
Garcetti was elected four times by his peers to serve as president of the Los Angeles City Council from 2006 to 2012. From 2001 until taking office as mayor, he served as the councilmember representing the 13th District, which includes Hollywood, Echo Park, Silver Lake and Atwater Village.
Garcetti was raised in the San Fernando Valley and earned his B.A. and M.A. from Columbia University. He is the son of former L.A. County District Attorney Gil Garcetti.
Eric Garcetti studied as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford and the London School of Economics and has taught at Occidental College and USC. A fourth-generation Angeleno, he and his wife, Amy Elaine Wakeland, have a young daughter. He is a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy Reserve and is an avid jazz pianist and photographer.