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State Officials Host Press Conference to Announce Results of Human Trafficking Study and Program Services for Survivors

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

January 22, 2014

 

DJJ Contact:                   Meghan Speakes Collins                     

                                    meghan.speakes@djj.state.fl.us                                  

                                    (850) 544-5387                      

 

DCF Contact:                 Alexis Lambert

                                   alexis_lambert@dcf.state.fl.us

                                   (850) 413-0771

 

DOH Contact:                 Sheri Hutchinson

                                    sheri.hutchinson@flhealth.gov

                                    (850) 245-4111

 

West Palm Beach, Fla. – Today, the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), Department of Children and Families (DCF) and Department of Health (DOH) hosted a press conference to raise awareness and update the public on the state's efforts to combat human trafficking in Florida.

 

DJJ Secretary Walters shared results from a recently completed study reporting on a multi-county pilot project which implemented a screening tool to identify victims of commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC). The identification pilot project is the first in the nation to attempt to identify juvenile victims immediately upon arrest and utilized a screening tool developed by Shared Hope International in collaboration with survivors and advocates. It is important to note that in the past 3 ½ years only 3% of suspected human trafficking victims entered the Florida juvenile justice system on prostitution charges. Most enter on battery or theft charges. Less than 1% of those screened during the pilot project entered with prostitution charges.

 

Prevalence rates related to this issue are essentially unknown. The DJJ study aims to partially fill the gap on the lack of research on just how many potential victims and verified victims of commercial sexual exploitation actually enter the Florida juvenile justice system. 

  

"Knowledge of which youth are entering the DJJ system as CSEC victims is critical," said DJJ Secretary Wansley Walters. "It enables DJJ to save children from the cruel individuals trafficking them and connect victims with the resources they need to recover from the trauma experienced and move forward."

 

Twelve percent of the youth screened during the project were verified as CSEC victims. The analysis also uncovered striking differences between verified CSEC victims and non-verified youth. CSEC victims are more likely to have alcohol and drug abuse, twice as likely to have 3 or more prior DCF placements, and almost 3 times more likely to have more than 5 instances of running away.

 

“Human trafficking has lived in the shadows for far too long, but Florida not only is talking about it but studying it and leading the way to finding the best treatments and solutions,” said DCF Interim Secretary Esther Jacobo. “We must bring this issue to light so we can all see it, fight it and bring those who perpetrate this horrific crime to justice.”

 

Kimberly Grabert, Statewide Human Trafficking Prevention Director for the Department of Children and Families spoke about the steps her agency is taking to provide services for these young victims. DCF has tapped Citrus Health Network, Inc. to provide the CHANCE Specialized Therapeutic Foster Care program, which offers services specially designed to meet the needs of young victims of commercial sexual exploitation.

  

Upon entering the CHANCE program, the child receives intensive wraparound services, including individualized clinical treatment for mental and physical health, peer monitoring and group therapy. Each child is assigned a family therapist, a targeted case manager, and a life coach. The program provides an exclusive home for the child with specially trained foster parents who become an integral part of the child's treatment team. The CHANCE Community Response Team provides continuing care after they leave the intensive home environment. The University of South Florida (USF) began collecting data in November 2013 and will provide reports regularly and at the end of the first year to measure results.

 

"At this time, research is virtually non-existent regarding effective treatment for survivors of commercial sexual exploitation. We hope to fill that gap by creating at least a baseline for what constitutes effective and appropriate treatment and outcomes," said Dr. Kimberly McGrath, Clinical Coordinator of Foster Care for Citrus Health Network. 

 

All three agencies participate in the state's Interagency Human Trafficking Workgroup. The Workgroup, chaired by DJJ Secretary Walters, is comprised of 14 agencies partnering to address human trafficking in Florida from a cross agency, multidisciplinary perspective. Dr. John Armstrong, Secretary of Health and State Surgeon General said, "Human trafficking is a horrible and preventable tragedy. For the vulnerable, for their families and loved ones, and for every Floridian, we must move from awareness to unified action to end this scourge that tries to hide in our communities."

 

Representative Dave Kerner added, “I commend the efforts of these agencies represented here today on the important work they are doing to eliminate human trafficking from our communities, while also addressing the complex needs of survivors.  My colleagues in the Legislature and I stand with you and offer our support for your efforts. Our collective work to end the victimization of Florida’s vulnerable populations cannot and will not be finished until we have ended the tragedies associated with human trafficking."

 

 

 

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