College of Health and Human Services | Sept. 23, 2013 | Spotlight

Cal State L.A. dedicates bench in memory of child abuse victims

Conference sheds light on issues concerning children, families in L.A. County

Pictured: (l-r) Judge Nash, Professor Friend and President Covino.
Pictured: (l-r) L.A. County Juvenile Court Judge Michael Nash, CSULA Professor Colleen Friend, and CSULA President William A. Covino. Picture from ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Pictured: (l-r) Cal State L.A.’s Professor Ed Klein; Dean Beatrice Yorker; certificate program students Deisy Say, Dalia Diaz, and Ashley Arevalo; Professor Colleen Friend; and President William A. Covino.

Touched by the devastating consequences of child neglect and abuse, Cal State L.A. students in the University’s Child Maltreatment and Family Violence Certificate Program raised funds to purchase a bronze bench, sculpted with a boy and girl seated reading a book, in memory of those young lives taken too soon.

With a heart for at-risk youths, certificate program students are trained through the University’s Child Abuse and Family Violence Institute (CAFVI) to advocate and intervene on behalf of children.

During a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Thursday, Sept. 12, the CAFVI dedicated the “Children’s Memorial Bench,” which is located at the courtyard in front of the Department of Communication Disorders (King Hall B119) on the CSULA campus.

“The idea for the memorial bench originated from CSULA Emerita Professor Patricia Savich, who previously oversaw the certificate program and institute. She encouraged the students to establish a memorial on campus,” said Colleen Friend, director of the CAFVI.

In 2010, Child Protective Service agencies received an estimated 3.3 million reports nationwide alleging abuse and neglect of children. Among those, approximately 1,500 die each year as a result of maltreatment.

“This monument,” Friend says, “is a good reminder that children deserve our best evidence-based efforts to protect them and enable them to reach their full potential. Our students learn this in both the classroom and their juvenile court-based internships.”

More than 40 invited guests gathered at the ribbon-cutting event, including CSULA President William A. Covino and the Honorable Michael Nash, the presiding judge of the Los Angeles County Juvenile Court.

The ceremony was part of the 15th Annual New Beginnings Partnership Conference for Children and Families in Los Angeles County, developed to present the latest research and practices in juvenile justice and child welfare.

Organized by CSULA and the L.A. County Juvenile Court, the conference featured workshops led by experts and practitioners covering such topics as child witnesses, foster care, gang violence, child abuse, sexual exploitation, and more. The poster session, coordinated by CSULA Professors Friend and Mitchell Eisen, included the research of students, professors and agency-based practitioners from throughout California.

More than 600 judges, lawyers, child welfare workers and others associated with the court systems were in attendance.

“As a result of this conference, I am more committed than ever to work together with community and agency partners,” said Dean Beatrice Yorker of the College of Health and Human Services (HHS) at CSULA, “to build a trauma-informed system of care; to provide education and training to ensure that no more children die as a result of abuse and neglect; to expand the bridge to higher education for children and youth served by dependency, welfare and court systems; and to heal the injuries and illnesses caused or exacerbated by violence, trauma and neglect.”

The conference was reinstituted this year as a special tribute to the memory of late CSULA Professor Hershel Swinger, who taught at CSULA for 30 years and was instrumental in organizing the conference from 1996 to 2009. In addition, Swinger served as director of Project Fatherhood, a parenting and support service group at Children’s Institute International that encourages men to become more active in the rearing of their children.

Along with the institute and its strong partnership with the L.A. County Juvenile Court, another key component of CSULA’s effort to mitigate the incidence of child abuse and neglect is the University’s Center on Child Welfare (CCW), which is housed under the School of Social Work.

The center works in close collaboration with the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) and other local universities to provide county social workers with the latest, cutting-edge information and skill-enhancing training experiences, such as simulation-based activities, coaching, and interdisciplinary educational events.

“By providing an array of practical, research-based information to county social workers who serve the front-lines of protecting children and families each day in Los Angeles County, the New Beginnings Partnership Conference is yet another example of the continued commitment by both CSULA and the Juvenile Court to support all professionals dedicated to the safety, permanency and well-being of children and families in Los Angeles County,” said Harkmore Lee, director of CCW.