Standardizing Care for Clients Impacted by Human Trafficking

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Released January 9, 2023 Link to full article and resources

January is National Human Trafficking Prevention Month Visit disclaimer page, an opportunity to raise awareness on how we can all prevent and respond to human trafficking. Our theme for Human Trafficking Prevention Month 2023 is Partner to Prevent, highlighting the importance of partnerships and collaboration in strengthening anti-trafficking efforts. When we #Partner2Prevent, we can stop human trafficking before it happens and provide access to critical services for survivors. As a public health issue that impacts individuals, families, and communities, human trafficking weakens our collective well-being. Preventing human trafficking cannot be accomplished alone; rather, we must build partnerships across all sectors of society to improve the lives of those we serve.

Human trafficking relates to and is influenced by underlying social and economic conditions that put people at risk for exploitation, including housing instability, unmet behavioral health needs and substance use, prior abuse and neglect, and disrupted support systems. For example, a 2018 study of New York agencies Visit disclaimer page that support minors impacted by human trafficking found that 50% of clients were at some point involved with child welfare or juvenile justice systems. A 2018 study by Polaris Visit disclaimer page informed by a survey of people who had experienced human trafficking shows 64% of respondents reported being homeless or experiencing housing instability when they were recruited into their trafficking situation. Traffickers take advantage of vulnerabilities created by underlying root causes like poverty and social disconnection to exploit children and adults who may be experiencing other forms of interpersonal and community violence.

Because people at risk for, currently experiencing, and who have experienced human trafficking often have diverse and complex needs, social service providers in various settings are well-positioned to identify and support clients through their work. From those supporting disaster management or housing and economic mobility services to those serving clients in the child welfare system or with substance use disorders, social service providers play critical roles in preventing human trafficking and supporting individuals impacted by it.

A new partnership Visit disclaimer page between the DOJ Office of Victims of Crime (OVC) Visit disclaimer page and the HHS Office on Trafficking in Persons (OTIP) will develop standards of care (SOC) for service providers supporting clients who have experienced human trafficking. Organizations that provide trafficking-related services often vary in terms of experience, philosophies, models of practice, and budget. Standardizing care will help ensure organizations promote quality and consistent service delivery and that clients receive the support they need to recover from their trafficking experience.

This joint initiative will utilize a data-driven, evidence-based, and multidisciplinary approach to SOC development, incorporating research and best practices from related fields. The project will intentionally build on existing SOC models and frameworks, such as the OVC Model Standards for Serving Victims and Survivors of Crime Visit disclaimer page and the HHS Core Competencies for Human Trafficking Response in Health Care and Behavioral Health Systems. OVC and OTIP will also implement ongoing evaluation activities, encouraging continuous quality improvement and information sharing to enhance trafficking-specific service delivery.

Freedom Network USA (FNUSA), the OVC award recipient, will work closely with a technical working group (TWG) whose members include subject matter experts with lived experience and OVC and OTIP service provider grantees with experience serving diverse populations disproportionately affected by human trafficking, such as communities of color, 2SLGBTQIA+ individuals, and people with disabilities. The TWG will ensure organizations integrate diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility principles throughout the initiative, while also following a person-centered, trauma-informed, and culturally and linguistically appropriate approach to strengthen the effectiveness of service delivery.

Over the next 36 months, OVC and OTIP will work with FNUSA to develop concrete guidance on providing uniform, comprehensive services to clients who have experienced human trafficking. This includes standardizing outreach and identification, screening and referral, service delivery, privacy and confidentiality, and other elements of service responses. The initiative will conclude with a finalized SOC framework made available to other stakeholders in the anti-trafficking field who provide direct services. Learn more about OVC and OTIP’s SOC partnership. Visit disclaimer page

To stay up to date on National Human Trafficking Prevention Month, additional resources, and ways to participate, visit OTIP’s website, follow OTIP on LinkedIn Visit disclaimer page, subscribe to OTIP’s newsletter Visit disclaimer page, and view the interagency calendar of events. Everyone, regardless of their personal and/or professional background, can help prevent human trafficking by recognizing the signs Visit disclaimer page and paying attention to the people around them. Visit the National Human Trafficking Hotline Visit disclaimer page to learn more about human trafficking and how to get help if you or someone you know has experienced human trafficking and needs support.

ACF Issues:

Human Trafficking

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