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For Immediate Release
March 7, 2012

Senate Foster Youth Caucus Panel to Focus on Sexual Trafficking of Girls in Foster Care

WASHINGTON – A Senate Foster Youth Caucus speakers’ series started by Senators Chuck Grassley and Mary Landrieu continues tomorrow morning with a discussion on the sexual trafficking of girls in the foster care system.

Landrieu and Grassley will host the March 8 event, and panelists will include survivors of sexual exploitation and abuse, a placement service specialist, a legal advocate for foster youth, a prevention specialist, and a child and family services agency leader.

The event is scheduled from 2 to 4 p.m. (ET) in SVC-209 of the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center.

The senators created the Caucus to educate policy makers about issues facing older children in the foster care system and in the early years after those young people age out of the system.  The Caucus is committed to providing a platform for those who grew up in the foster care system to describe their experiences, identify problems and suggest solutions.

Here is more information about the panel speakers.

Tanee Hobson is a Survivor Mentor and Group Facilitator with My Life My Choice.  A survivor of sexual exploitation who had been in Massachusetts Department of Children and Families custody since the age of two, Hobson is a former client of My Life My Choice who uses her life experience to help reach other exploited and high risk girls.  Hobson is a frequent presenter at public speaking events, and has represented My Life My Choice in panels at the Germaine Lawrence School and Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley's hearing for human trafficking legislation.  Currently studying Human Services at Northern Essex Community College, Hobson plans to continue working with exploited girls in the future and become a national leader in the movement to end the commercial sexual exploitation of children.

Withlema “T” Ortiz is a survivor leader and advocate.  She entered the foster care system as an infant and endured more than 14 different placements while in foster care.  During those years, Ortiz also survived being subject to commercial sexual exploitation.  Ortiz now uses her lived experiences to teach, lead, and educate on needed reforms to the child welfare, juvenile justice and mental health systems.  Ortiz has lectured at Alameda County and Georgetown Law.  She has testified before members of Congress and shared her story on a national level as one of Glamour magazine’s 2011 Women of the Year.  Ortiz currently serves on Casey’s National Foster Care Youth and Alumni Policy Council and is a Young Woman Leader with the Human Rights Project for Girls.  She is also a mentor to other girls who have been similarly forced into the modern day form of slavery.

Michelle Guymon is currently the Director of Placement Administrative Services with Los Angeles County Probation Department.  Guymon graduated from California State University, San Bernardino where she received her master’s degree in social work.  Various positions and/or assignments throughout Guymon’s tenure include Deputy Probation Officer Treatment and Counselor at Dorothy Kirby Center, Mental Health Consultant for Probation, and Director of Camp Kenyon Scudder, an all-female probation camp, which serves about 300 girls a year.  Guymon is a frequent presenter and trainer regarding child abuse issues and strategies for working with youth in the probation system.  She is an advocate for children at risk and is currently a member of the Inter-Agency Council on Child Abuse and Neglect Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking Committee, as well as a Probation Department representative with the Innocence Lost Los Angeles Task Force.  Most recently, Guymon has been designated as the Project Manager for the newly created Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking program within the Los Angeles County Probation Department.

Teresa Lowry has worked for more than 25 years on behalf of abused, neglected, and vulnerable children.  She began her career investigating the physical and sexual abuse of children for the Nevada Division of Child and Family Services.  After graduating law school she maintained her focus on ensuring justice for children and joined the Special Victims Unit in the Criminal Prosecution Division of the Clark County District Attorney’s Office.  There she secured convictions for murder, sexual assault, child abuse, pandering, kidnapping, use of a minor in the production of pornography, and statutory sexual seduction.  She then was promoted to Chief of the Juvenile Division where she worked collaboratively with the juvenile court judge, probation and the public defender’s office to create a specialized court responding to sexually exploited girls victimized through human trafficking.  She is currently the Chair of the Policy Governing Board of the Children’s Advocacy Center which oversees the multidisciplinary protocols to respond to sexual abuse.  Five years ago, in order to respond to the need for a new way to treat child victims of human trafficking, she and other juvenile justice partners and university researchers established the nonprofit Protecting Sexually Exploited Children–Nevada, PSEC-NV.  The mission is to create programs and services for high risk youth as well as a safe house for sexually exploited teens.  As the current administrator over the Family Support Division, Lowry acts as sponsor for employment opportunities and mentor for former foster youth.

Lisa Goldblatt Grace is the Co-founder and Director of My Life My Choice.  Since 2002, My Life My Choice has offered the only comprehensive prevention curriculum aimed at reaching girls most vulnerable to commercial sexual exploitation. Further, My Life My Choice offers a unique continuum of services including prevention groups, training, survivor mentoring, and program consultation.  Goldblatt Grace has been working with vulnerable young people in a variety of capacities for more than 20 years.  Her professional experience includes running a long-term shelter for homeless teen parents, developing a diversion program for violent youth offenders, and working in outpatient mental health, health promotion, and residential treatment settings.  Goldblatt Grace has served as a consultant to the Massachusetts Administrative Office of the Trial Court’s “Redesigning the Court’s Response to Prostitution” project and as a primary researcher on the 2007 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services study of programs serving human trafficking victims.  In addition, Goldblatt Grace has written in a variety of publications regarding commercial sexual exploitation and offered training on the subject nationally. She is an Adjunct Faculty member at the Boston University School of Social Work and a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker, and she holds masters degrees in both social work and public health.

Joyce Capelle has been the Chief Executive Officer of Crittenton Services of Children and Families in Southern California since 1998.  Prior to joining the agency in 1997, she worked as an administrator in public education and in hospital management for a total of more than 35 years in the human services field.  She holds a Master’s degree in Public Administration with a Public Policy focus from California State University, Long Beach and a Juris Doctorate degree from Pacific West College of Law.  She has also served on a number of local, state and national committees on child and family welfare issues. Capelle currently serves on the Board of Directors for the California Alliance for Child and Family Services.