January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month

December 30, 2013

In December of 2011, President Barack Obama proclaimed January as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, re-emphasizing America's commitment to ending human trafficking. Government agencies and leading organizations both in the U.S. and abroad are joining together throughout the month to raise awareness of human trafficking.

Studies have shown youth who are involved in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems, whether currently or in the past, are vulnerable to becoming a victim of child sex trafficking. The most recent sweep of the FBI’s Operation Cross Country indicated 60 percent of child sex trafficking victims were children from foster care or group homes. In another study, nearly 50 percent of trafficking victims had a history of prior arrests or detentions, and over 80 percent of female victims had a history of running away.

The NCJFCJ recognizes the judiciary’s role and is committed to preventing these youth from further victimization. In February of 2013, the NCJFCJ’s Board of Trustees passed a resolution calling for judicial action to address this growing problem. In July, a three-part session on domestic child sex trafficking was held at the NCJFCJ’s 76th Annual Conference in Seattle, Washington. Then in October, the NCJFCJ convened a community roundtable discussion to discuss the appropriate role of the courts in addressing the needs of these victims. This meeting expanded the community of allies working to address domestic child sex trafficking to include judges and initiated a dialogue among judges, advocates, and service providers in the field, and leaders in the federal government.

The current goal of the NCJFCJ is to develop a judicial curriculum and tools to educate judges, raise awareness around domestic child sex trafficking, and assist in screening and identifying victims who are already involved with juvenile and family court systems.

Throughout the month of January, the NCJFCJ will highlight activities and efforts being made by our federal partners, as well as innovative practices of courts and jurisdictions to improve lives of youth who are trafficking victims across the country.

Court/Jurisdiction Highlight

Los Angeles County Juvenile Court – Succeeding Through Achievement and Resilience (STAR) Court

(Excerpt from Ending the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children:  A Call for Multi-System Collaboration in California, California Child Welfare Council)  

Los Angeles County developed the Succeeding Through Achievement and Resilience (STAR) Court, a specialty court for commercially sexually exploited (CSE) youth. The STAR Court is housed in a juvenile delinquency court in Watts, a neighborhood in L.A. with the highest rates of prostitution and prostitution-related arrests. The STAR Court is developing new and effective approaches to meeting the needs of CSE youth. The Court’s goals include re-enrollment in school, participation in counseling to address multi-layered trauma, and safe transition back to the family or community.  

The STAR Court team is comprised of a commissioner, a district attorney, public defender, panel attorney, probation officers, and advocates from Saving Innocence and the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST-LA). Two dedicated probation officers have a caseload of twenty-five youth each. The STAR Court meets weekly the day before cases are heard to discuss progress and strategies for each case, thereby minimizing disputes and avoiding the adversarial process of more typical delinquency proceedings.  

State of Washington Model Protocol

(Excerpt from Project Respect:  Washington State Model Protocol For Commercially Sexually Exploited Children)

In 2011, the Center for Children & Youth Justice (CCYJ), in partnership with YouthCare, received a two-year grant from the Children’s Justice Interdisciplinary Task Force to develop a Washington State Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking Protocol for responding to cases of commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC), to provide technical assistance and training to communities in adapting the model protocol to localities throughout Washington state, and to establish structures for ensuring continuing improvements to the protocol.

A victim-centered response protocol for law enforcement, the courts, victim advocacy organizations, youth service agencies, and other first responders will aid in identifying CSEC and those at risk of CSEC, in treating them as crime victims rather than criminals, and in providing these children the services they need.

The mission of the CSEC model protocol is to foster collaboration and coordination among agencies to improve the capacity to identify CSEC and provide safety and services for them and their families/caregivers, as appropriate, as they work to end their exploitation, and to hold their exploiters accountable. Those involved in this effort will use best practices and will rely on data and evidence to drive system improvements.

State of Connecticut Department of Children and Families Protocol

(Excerpt from Ending the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children:  A Call for Multi-System Collaboration in California, California Child Welfare Council

Connecticut’s child welfare agency is one of the forerunners of the movement towards prevention and early intervention. The Connecticut Department of Children and Families (CDCF) now screens every child who enters its system for CSE, and has developed practice guidelines for dealing with victims of CSE. CDCF has trained abuse hotline staff to accept reports of CSE and is tracking this population in its child welfare data system. CDCF has established protocols to coordinate care for youth suspected of being victims of CSE.

Children’s Advocacy Center of Suffolk County, MA - Support to End Exploitation Now (SEEN)

(Excerpt from SEEN website)

The Support to End Exploitation Now (SEEN) is a ground-breaking partnership among more than 35 public and private agencies who believe that only genuine collaboration can yield positive outcomes for exploited youth.  

SEEN is changing the system. We have forged solid and unprecedented partnerships between prosecutors and defense attorneys, social workers and probation officers, street workers, and police. The Suffolk County District Attorney’s office has made a public commitment to treat exploited youth as victims - not as offenders - with the goal of pursuing the adults who exploit these young girls. We have created a community-wide response model that is built upon mutual understanding and trust, and the belief that youth empowerment and offender accountability are not mutually exclusive.

My Life My Choice at Justice Resource Institute

(Excerpt from the website)

Founded in 2002, My Life My Choice (MLMC) is a groundbreaking, nationally-recognized initiative designed to stem the tide of commercial sexual exploitation of adolescent girls. MLMC offers a unique continuum of survivor-led services spanning provider training, prevention groups for vulnerable adolescent girls, survivor mentoring to young victims of commercial sexual exploitation, and advocacy and leadership development. MLMC has successfully trained over 5,500 youth providers in Massachusetts and nationally, has provided prevention groups to 1,500 girls, and mentored over 180 girls in the metro-Boston area. Our curriculum is used in more than 20 states.

MLMC is currently the only organization in Massachusetts employing a survivor-led model proven effective in helping girls leave harmful situations and build new lives for themselves. Survivor first-hand accounts of victimization have informed all group and training curricula and offer a powerful voice of authenticity to girls entrapped in a life of abuse - allowing MLMC to have a significant impact on a hard-to-reach population. We employ survivors as group leaders, trainers, and mentors. Through victim-centered programs, education and outreach, and advocacy, MLMC is working to change the landscape  - empowering adolescent girls to find a positive life path and help end the commercial sexual exploitation of children.

Pima County Juvenile Court, AZ

The Pima County Juvenile Court has formed a Human Trafficking Workgroup, a collaboration of local and federal agencies, committed to raising awareness on these issues and continuing to educate the public on cases that occur in Arizona. Through this collaboration, all agencies are becoming more knowledgeable on the points in the system where victims can be identified and how the community as a whole can better assist them.