Let It Be Us Podcast: Conversation About Foster Care & Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) with Susan McConnell, DSW(c), MBA and Carina H. Santa Maria, MSW, LCSW
- Foster Care
- February 11, 2023
Commercially Sexually Exploited Children (CSEC) includes children and young people in foster care that are in extreme risk. While poorly defined legally, the impact upon this population is immense. Two Child Welfare Agency Executive Directors involved in research and programming to serve this population speak on our podcast about their experience and potential opportunities. Hear from Susan McConnell, Executive Director of Let It Be Us and Carina Santa Maria, Executive Director of Shelter, Inc. McConnell is involved in program design and implementation perspective as a Doctorate in Social Work candidate at the University of Southern California. Santa Maria is an adjunct professor at Dominican University’s School of Social Work, where she teaches a graduate level human trafficking course. In addition, she has spent 10+ years working in the anti-trafficking field, specifically with survivors and program implementation and evaluation.
Featured in the Podcast:
Carina Santa Maria, MSW, LCSW
Carina H. Santa Maria, MSW, LCSW, was appointed Executive Director and member of the Board of Directors of Shelter, Inc, in June 2018. She was previously Director of Field Education with Dominican University’s School of Social Work where she managed and coordinated internship experiences for master level social work students while maintaining relations with community organizations to address of the needs of clients needing social work intervention. While at Dominican, she also served as an adjunct instructor, teaching various graduate level social work classes, including a graduate level human trafficking course. Prior to her work at Dominican University, she was a Community Youth Counselor for Memorial Health Care Systems and partnered with the Broward Sheriff’s Office and their Juvenile Diversion program. She has also served as the Vice President of Education and Outreach at the Broward Human Trafficking Coalition, and as a residential counselor at Youth Villages in Memphis, TN. In addition, Carina has volunteered with Kristi House – Project GOLD and served as the Education Director for Traffick Free, a volunteer driver organization in the Chicago that combats human trafficking. Carina is also a founding member of a local, Arlington Heights community group called Voices of Community, Acceptance, and Love (VOCAL), whose mission is to bridge differences to create a supportive, connected community that celebrates diversity and practices tolerance and acceptance. She was recently award the NASW Illinois Chapter’s Emerging Young Leader Award as well as Delta Zeta National Sorority’s 35 women under 35.
She graduated with her bachelor’s degree in psychology and criminology from the University of Tampa in 2007. In 2011, she received her master’s degree in social work from Dominican University. She resides in Arlington Heights, IL with her husband and two sons.
Susan McConnell, DSW(c), MBA
Susan McConnell founded Let It Be Us to direct her experience toward the child welfare sector designing innovative solutions through technology. She is a Doctoral candidate from the University of Southern California’s Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work and has an MBA and BS in Management, Human Resources, and Recruitment from DePaul University. She is also a graduate of Cornell University’s Women in Leadership Program and Northwestern University’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Program.
Susan is the Vice-Chair of the Illinois Statewide Foster Care Advisory Council where she was appointed by the Illinois Director of the Department of Children and Family Services in 2017. Susan was on the team that established the Heart Gallery of Illinois, the State’s photo listing of children awaiting adoption, which is a child-specific recruitment tool that gives a child a significantly increased chance of adoption. In turn, Susan and her team have designed the Illinois Waiting Children’s Gallery, a gallery of children in need of foster care and adoptive placements. Susan also designed the Let It Be Us Placement Support Program, which places children who are in emergent need and those who are challenging to place in the safest homes, keeping them out of shelters, and their Foster and Adoptive Parent Recruitment Program, which annually recruits hundreds of potential foster and adoptive parents for children in Illinois foster care. Susan and her husband are the parents of four children, three of whom came to their family through adoption. Susan has 30 years of experience in open adoption.
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