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OCFS Marks Human Trafficking Awareness Month

The New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) is continuing anti-trafficking efforts to mark Human Trafficking Awareness Month (January 2014).

A person is a victim of human trafficking when they are forced, tricked, or coerced into performing commercial sex acts or working in exploitive jobs. A victim of trafficking can be from any foreign country or from anywhere in the United States, and can be any age, sex, or ethnicity.

Facts about human trafficking:
• The most recent statistics from the U.S. Department of Justice indicate that as many as 300,000 minors are at risk of being trafficked nationwide.
• Most trafficking victims are missing from their families when exploitation occurs.
• The youth at the highest risk of becoming victims have histories of abuse and neglect, are LGBTQ, or are runaways or homeless.
• One in eight endangered runaways reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children in 2012 were likely sex trafficking victims, according to the center.
• In 2009, 56 percent of child victims of trafficking certified in the U.S. were labor trafficking victims, according to the U.S. Dept. of Justice.

OCFS has been working on the issue of human trafficking with the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA) and the Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) since the passage of New York State’s Anti-Trafficking Law in 2007. Efforts have included training and raising awareness among a variety of audiences, including SUNY Albany students, family court judges, the National Association of Foster Care Managers, domestic violence staff, runaway and homeless youth staff, child welfare staff and other stakeholders.

In addition, through a partnership with the International Organization for Adolescents (IOFA) and the implementation of a pilot project entitled ChildRight: New York, OCFS is dedicated to creating and providing needed resources to build an effective statewide response to child sexual exploitation and trafficking. This project is focused upon training caseworkers, as well as law enforcement, members of the judiciary, school officials, and others, to appropriately identify and meet the unique needs of child victims of commercial sexual exploitation and human trafficking. OCFS serves as a member of the State Interagency Task Force on Human Trafficking, as well as the local Capital Region Human Trafficking Taskforce.

The work is paying off, according to OCFS partners in Monroe County:
• 33 youth have been identified as commercially sexually exploited (CSE) through the Safe Harbour initiative and an additional 29 have been identified as having ten or more major indicators for trafficking after assessment (Tier 3). The Safe Harbour program has provided direct support, including case management and case coordination to 15 CSE.
• A three-tier system of identifying minors who are victims of human trafficking allows authorities to capture more victims regardless of what stage they may be in when working with service providers, law enforcement, and other child protective entities. The system also looks at red flags and risk factors that make a young person vulnerable and at a greater risk of being trafficked.
• More than 85 community awareness events, street outreach, and trainings have reached 1,019 youth, 1,324 adults and more than 75 agencies.
• Seven monthly Monroe County Safe Harbour Task Force meetings have included partners from local law enforcement; child welfare representatives from OCFS, CPS and foster care; probation; local and federal district attorneys; homeland security; regional trafficking advocacy agencies; mental health, GLBT and RHY providers; and other community service agencies. This task force provides expertise, guidance and assists in addressing barriers CSE youth encounter.
• A resource guide was developed of mental health providers in Monroe County with experience and willingness to work with trafficked youth, including bi-lingual services and other areas of specialization.
• A resource guide was created for family members of CSE youth that includes how to file a missing persons report, how to access FACT, and other resources.

The OCFS website contains a number of resources, including a brochure produced with the help of Youth in Progress.

If you have information regarding human trafficking which is not an emergency, would like more information about human trafficking or would like to learn about how you can help, call the toll-free National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) Hotline at 1-888-3737-888. The NHTRC Hotline is a program of Polaris Project, a non-profit, non-governmental organization working exclusively on the issue of human trafficking and funded in part by the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Division, Office of Refugee Resettlement, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. If it is an emergency, call 911.