PHILADELPHIA -- Three University of Pennsylvania leaders will be recognized for their commitment to child advocacy this Wednesday, April 13. President Amy Gutmann will receive The Judge Lois G. Forer Child Advocacy Award, and Richard Gelles, dean of the School of Social Policy and Practice, and Ira Harkavy, director of the Netter Center for Community Partnerships, will be recognized as Distinguished Advocates for Children by Philadelphia’s Support Center for Child Advocates.
“We are thrilled to have the opportunity to honor Dr. Amy Gutmann for her dedication to civic responsibility within the Philadelphia community and commitment to social, educational and economic progress for young people,“ Child Advocates Executive Director Frank Cervone, a nationally recognized child advocate and 1979 Penn graduate, said. “By honoring Dr. Gutmann, we invite others to stand with us to change the story for our children and our city.
Philadelphia’s Support Center for Child Advocates is hosting the awards ceremony at the Crystal Tea Room in Philadelphia at 5 p.m. April 13. Founded in 1977, Child Advocates is the nation’s oldest and largest program dedicated exclusively to providing pro bono legal services for children in crisis.
In addition to the Judge Forer Award, Child Advocates will also recognize nine Distinguished Advocates for Children from the Philadelphia area. In addition to Penn’s Gelles and Harkavy, others being recognized include Anne Aaronson, Christopher Dunne, Dolores Miller, James Steigerwald, Leslie Sudock, and Marge and Mike Thackery.
As Penn's President since 2004, Gutmann has advocated for increasing access for the most talented students regardless of socioeconomic background. Under her tenure, undergraduate financial aid has been increased by more than 100 percent during one of the country’s most difficult economic periods, and Penn has replaced loans with grants for all undergraduate students with financial need, enabling students to graduate from Penn debt-free. In addition, Penn is a model for active community engagement, responsible urban development, and environmental sustainability.
“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 said. “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 is the author of The Book of David, which placed the safety of children at the forefront of child welfare interventions, and he has advanced human service work with his insightful approach to the policy-practice connection. In addition to his deanship at Penn, he holds the Joanne and Raymond Welsh Chair of Child Welfare and Family Violence. He is co-faculty director of the Field Center for Children’s Policy, Practice and Research, and he was the founding director of the Ortner-Unity Program on Family Violence.
“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 said. “For every incident of child abuse or neglect that gets reported, it’s estimated that two others go unreported. And behind those numbers, there are children who need our help.”
Harkavy has served as director of the Barbara and Edward Netter Center for Community Partnerships at Penn since 1992. Dedicated to the vitality of the city and the engagement of the community, Harkavy has helped to develop service-learning courses and participatory action research projects that involve creating university-assisted community schools in West Philadelphia. A national leader on education and civic responsibility, his work with The Netter Center has been influential in changing the lives and securing the future of young people through nurturance and care of their community.
“I am deeply honored to be named a Distinguished Advocate for Children for the work my colleagues and I at Penn’s Netter Center do to help improve the lives of children and their families in West Philadelphia,” Harkavy said. “I can truly think of no more important work at this time in our country’s history than contributing to the healthy development of young people who live in poverty and face severe obstacles to success.”
The Forer Award is named for The Honorable Lois G. Forer, a lawyer and Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge who was committed to children. In 1960, Lois Forer was a member of the White House Conference on Children and Youth and served as the first attorney-in-charge of the Office for Juveniles at the Family Court of Philadelphia. In 1970, Judge Forer wrote No One Will Listen, an acclaimed critical analysis of the American Justice System. She authored eight other books on the justice system.
Past Forer honorees include former First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, philanthropist Lynne Honickman, and former Governor Edward G. Rendell.