Through trainings, publications, and resolutions, the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) works year round to improve the judiciary’s understanding of and response to domestic child sex trafficking (DCST). This January, the NCJFCJ recognizes National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month as an opportunity to call attention to the issue of DCST and the judiciary’s efforts to improve outcomes for child victims. Children who are involved in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems, whether presently or in the past, are vulnerable to being targeted by traffickers. Judges have an important role in preventing victimization and intervening to change the trajectory for children at risk. Around the country, judges are recognizing this role and taking action.
Since 2014, the NCJFCJ, with partners Rights4Girls and the Office on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, has hosted six National Judicial Institutes on Domestic Child Sex Trafficking and educated more than 150 judges from 35 states, the District of Columbia, various tribal nations, and Puerto Rico on DCST. The Institute takes an interactive and in-depth approach to educating judges to be better able to identify victims and children at risk of DCST; determine treatment and services needed to assist child survivors; and exercise judicial leadership within the court and community to improve outcomes. Registration for the next Institute is open and will take place on February 12-14, 2018 in Asheville, NC.
In addition to the national trainings, the NCJFCJ contracts with states to provide “mini” judicial institutes on domestic child sex trafficking. In 2016, more than 210 judges were educated in Wisconsin and Ohio at these state trainings. In early 2017, the NCJFCJ reached both judges and juvenile justice professionals with the presentation Domestic Child Sex Trafficking: Challenges and Emerging Judicial Strategies at the National Conference on Juvenile Justice. Later that same year, the NCJFCJ educated 80 judges, attorneys, and court staff in Washington, D.C. on DCST and the specialty court response. The NCJFCJ is currently working with multiple states to hold mini adaptations of the national institute in 2018.
In addition to providing in-person trainings, the NCJFCJ released two publications in 2015 to assist judges and Native communities in responding to trafficking: Missing Children, State Care, and Child Sex Trafficking: Engaging the Judiciary in Building a Collaborative Response and Creating a Human Trafficking Strategic Plan to Protect and Heal Native Children and Youth. In 2016, the NCJFCJ released the Enhanced Resource Guidelines, which now includes important information for judicial officers to help address the needs of victims of sex trafficking. A new publication addressing judicial perspectives on child sex trafficking cases is due to be released in February 2018.
In 2016, the NCJFCJ also updated its resolution regarding DCST, which highlights the power of judges to help prevent child sex trafficking. Over the past two years, the NCJFCJ has passed a number of resolutions that take into account a child’s welfare if he or she has been a victim of trafficking – i.e., trauma-informed courts, shackling, adolescent brain development, juvenile probation, oversight of children in group facilities, oversight of youth confinement facilities, solitary confinement for youth, and the needs of homeless youth.
Most recently, the NCJFCJ also addressed the needs of populations at risk for DCST through judicial tools including a bench card, a partnership with the National Juvenile Defender Center and the State Justice Institute, which provides guidance on working with youth or other juvenile court participants that identify as LGBTQ-GNC. The NCJFCJ also updated the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) Judicial Benchbook, to encourage judicial leaders compliance and guidance to ICWA, which leads to the child safely being returned home or placed in a secure and legally permanent home.
On January 11, the NCJFCJ will continue its effort to bring awareness in the prevention of trafficking by participating in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s annual Blue Campaign by wearing blue in solidarity with survivors of trafficking.
During the month of January, and all year long, the NCJFCJ looks forward to educating judges and other professionals about DCST. Our commitment to improving outcomes for trafficking victims through judicial education is long-term. We hope you will join us in these efforts!