This year’s Annual Summit on November 2nd was an inspiring intersection of celebration and thought-provoking discussion. Attendees gathered to celebrate Angel Award recipient Wendy Garen, president and CEO of The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation, and also learned about a pervasive crime targeting foster youth: the Commercial Sexual
Exploitation of Children (CSEC).
Formerly referred to as “child prostitution,” the term CSEC represents a national shift within law enforcement and judicial agencies, identifying children as victims rather than perpetrators of a crime. St. Anne’s President and CEO Tony Walker shared a tragic statistic: up to 80% of victims of CSEC are current or former foster youth. Already vulnerable because of a lack of family ties and stability, many children in the child welfare system are being targeted, systematically abused and forced into modern-day slavery. Some residents at St. Anne’s have either been victims of CSEC or are being actively recruited. Walker shared St. Anne’s frontline efforts—from comprehensive all-staff training to a close partnership with the local LAPD division—in order to combat CSEC.
Before the moderated panel discussion, former St. Anne’s resident Cheyenne Mata shared her inspiring triumph over the odds and thanked Wendy Garen for her relentless advocacy on behalf of foster youth. 2015 Angel Award recipient and W. M. Keck Foundation Program Director, Dorothy Fleisher, Ph.D. presented the Angel Award to Wendy Garen and the Parsons Foundation. Fleisher commended the Parsons Foundation for being a “quiet leader” in the philanthropic field and praised her friend Garen for asking “the most penetrating questions and pushing us to meaningfully engage in strengthening the community.” Garen humbly accepted the award and spoke about the Foundation’s esteem for St. Anne’s leadership in the field of child welfare. She also explained her passion for making a difference for children in the child welfare system, reminding the audience, “they are in effect our children, the community’s children.”
Val Zavala, veteran journalist and vice president of Public Affairs at KCET led an in-depth discussion with the Summit panelists: Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey, Superior Court Judge Catherine Pratt and LAPD Assistant Chief Beatrice Girmala.
Chief Girmala shared her department’s efforts in training officers to identify the signs of CSEC victimization. Judge Pratt discussed her leadership in the STAR (Succeeding Through Achievement and Resilience) Court, a collaborative, victim- centered court that provides services to minors who have been commercially sexually exploited and are on probation for prostitution or related charges. District Attorney Lacey discussed her office’s efforts in helping victims gain a pathway to getting CSEC-related criminal records cleared. All panelists agreed that St. Anne’s comprehensive services are crucial to helping victims of CSEC, providing a safe place to live and a path to a different, better future.
CIRCLE OF COMMITMENT
The Marisa Antonini Foundation
Occidental Entertainment Group Holdings
Payden & Rygel
Don and Carol Pfaff
CIRCLE OF CARING
Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich
Blessed Sacrament Church
Marsh & McLennan Companies
Maureen and Bryan Stockton
Hathaway Sycamores Child and Family
John N. Heil
Terri and Eric Holoman
Walton Construction Services