What if our best option is Juvenile Detention as beginning point for Treatment?

Treatment models for children who have been traumatized usually do not include incarceration.  However, that is exactly what has been happening to many of these children.  Texas’ reports from several agencies, tells the story.  Today we focus on the Juvenile Probation Commissions report to the Texas legislature.  http://www.tjjd.texas.gov/publications/reports/RPTOTH201103.pdf

TJPC Alternatives Report 2011

Getting “upstream” on the river full of victims we must begin to put the pieces together on the vulnerabilities of children to sexual exploitation.  Here are three major factors to consider:

* Studies indicate that 25% of girls and 17% of boys will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday in the United States. (Stewards of Children)

* It is reported that 70% or more of the children who have been rescued from CSEC have been victims of sexual abuse.  (Shared Hope)

* One population that is extremely vulnerable are the growing number of runaway and homeless children.  The National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway and Throwaway Children (NISMART) found that one out of every three runaway youth will be lured into prostitution within 48 hours of leaving home. (p2)

What are the factors that contribute to children victims becoming detainees?

The Texas report names 3 primary areas.  Number 1 on their list is:identification barriers with five barriers to these children being appropriately identified.  The graphic below lists them with the easiest to address as the lack of knowledge and training on the issues of CSEC.

TJPC ID barriers

The report goes on to identify legal barriers and services barriers in a similar pattern diagram (see pages 3 & 4).  The report is very telling of systemic issues and failures to identify these children.

Research indicates that the vast majority of juveniles engaging in prostitution are rarely identified as victims of sex trafficking. For those juveniles who are arrested for prostitution or identified as domestic victims of sex trafficking, limited resources are currently available within the community. What services are available depends on how the juvenile comes to the attention of authorities. (5)

This Texas study identifies the vast chasms between agencies assignments within the state.  These include: Child Protective Services who work with the children of abuse; law enforcement agencies who arrest children for criminal offenses; Juvenile Detention system; and Juvenile Probation system.  Each holds their portion of systemic failure to identify and provide treatment options outside of incarceration.

While the report looks at alternative models in other states, Texas’ legislative initiatives have continued to focus on penalties and statutes for perpetrators.  There is a great need to incorporate the systemic changes necessary to implement a fundamental change as to how these children are dealt with from prevention to restoration.

“Residential facilities need to be situated along a continuum of care that begins with prevention education and outreach to at-risk populations, teachers and school counselors, health and human services professionals, juvenile justice and child welfare systems personnel, parents and communities at large.” (17) Source: Report to the Department of Health and Human Services, 2007

To the best of our knowledge, there is no statewide plan at this time to facilitate the dissemination of information on CSEC.  Some very small elements of CSEC are being included in the mandated training for law enforcement professionals but there is no cohesive plan to bridge to all those mentioned in the continuum of care from the DHHS 2007 report.

We have along way to go in getting this issue dealt with in a comprehensive manner.  Groups that work on abuse prevention especially sexual abuse prevention like www.stopitnow.orgwww.d2l.org, and others should be a part of an overall strategy to get “upstream” in the exploitation of children.

There is a 2010 Department of Justice “national strategy” for addressing some of these issues.  Unfortunately, there is a void between the information and the application of the strategy.  http://www.projectsafechildhood.gov

Considerable information is available about putting together a plan for communities and states.  A plan for Florida to address some of the issues for girls is available at: http://www.justiceforallgirls.org/advocacy/Bluprnt0109.pdf

Sold for Sex: The Link between Street Gangs and Trafficking in Persons by Laura J. Lederer (p. 19) The Protection Project Journal of Human Rights and Civil Society, Issue 4, Fall 2011 details such options:  http://www.globalcenturion.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/Sold-for-Sex-The-Link-between-Street-Gangs-and-Trafficking-in-Persons-1.pdf

Communities should develop specialized outreach, education, and training programs to address gang-related trafficking. Prevention programs are an essential part of combating street gangs involved in human trafficking. New modules on street gangs can be added to anti-trafficking training courses and components on trafficking in persons must be added to street gang training. New educational curricula need to be developed for each classic concentric circle of concern: (a) the individual at risk, (b) family, (c) friends, (d) schools, (e) religious institutions, and (f) communities. Each community should establish sector-specific training courses for parents, teachers, social workers, health providers, law enforcement officials, religious leaders, and others who may be first to encounter street gangs involved in human trafficking. Basic education about the problem is important; even more critical is a protocol for how to identify the problem and how to take immediate and effective action.

Very few options exist in the United States for children that have been trafficked into commercial sexual exploitation (CSEC).  It is estimated less than 300 beds are currently available in residential aftercare for victims.  The estimated cost of housing a child in a comprehensive care facility is about $5,600 per child per month. This is a very difficult position for states facing budget crises.

While there are a number of reports on the various related issues here is one to study by http://ecpatusa.org ECPAT.