The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), awarded $1.9 million to four local education agencies to partner with expert non-profit organizations and build school-wide capacity to identify and address students’ risk for human trafficking in their communities. This funding is part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s whole-of-government response to human trafficking, as outlined in the National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking.

“We must do whatever we can, for as long as necessary, to end the scourge of human trafficking,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. “These resources will help schools increase awareness about human trafficking and empower more people to come forward and help stop it. By addressing the conditions that allow this horrific practice, we can help the individuals, families, and communities that are affected that most.”

The awards are part of the Human Trafficking Youth Prevention Education (HTYPE) Demonstration Program, where the ACF Office on Trafficking in Persons (OTIP) engages with education organizations to address the ongoing rise in online harassment and abuse and human trafficking among youth.

“To protect youth from human trafficking, we must support them and the people with whom they regularly interact,” added Acting Assistant Secretary for Children and Families Jeff Hild. “Caregivers, school-based professionals, and other youth-serving professionals observe and communicate with youth on a regular basis and have a deep understanding of their needs. They can recognize changes in behaviors and other potential indicators of abuse and violence. Our support for survivors, community-based service providers and school systems will increase opportunities to proactively prevent and address human trafficking among children and youth.”  

The HTYPE program builds skills and establishes a protocol for handling suspected and confirmed cases of trafficking in coordination with community-based providers, child welfare agencies and law enforcement. The program teaches students to recognize and respond to risks, identify recruitment tactics, and know how to access help.

“We have seen how well-prepared schools have been in positions to support students and families impacted by human trafficking,” stated OTIP Director Katherine Chon. “Last year, a network of eight school districts trained more than 9,000 school personnel. Schools identified at least 50 victims of human trafficking and provided prevention education to more than 16,000 students.”

Schools can tailor their safety program and response protocols to ensure they are responsive to the needs of their student population which factor in local trends in human trafficking. The four award recipients reflect the diversity of student populations including by geography, population size, and race, ethnicity, and other factors that heighten risk for human trafficking.

RecipientNonprofit Partner (Subrecipient)LocationAward Amount
Oakland Unified School District*International Rescue Committee and Bay Area Women Against RapeOakland, CA$500,000
Milwaukee Public SchoolsLove146, Inc.Milwaukee, WI$450,000
Education Service Center Region 193Strands Global FoundationEl Paso, TX$474,296
School District 1 in The City and County of DenverLove146, Inc.Denver, CO$500,000

 *Oakland Unified School District is a returning recipient, previously awarded in FY2020.

Yesterday, OTIP Director Katherine Chon participated in a fireside chat with fellows in the Human Trafficking Leadership Academy (HTLA) to discuss concrete strategies to empower youth, caregivers, and professionals to identify potentially dangerous situations and access support when needed. Fellows also discussed how technology companies can strengthen safety and response protocols by consulting with experts with lived experience and cultivating leadership among survivors throughout the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.

This is the eighth time OTIP has invited individuals with lived experience and allied professionals to build leadership skills and collaborate on providing diverse perspectives for research, policy, and programs in critical anti-trafficking areas. This latest group of fellows has been addressing the project question: “What innovative, effective, and safe outreach and engagement strategies should communities, schools, and organizations implement to increase youth (ages 14 to 24) awareness and promote their resilience against online harassment and abuse related to human trafficking?”

OTIP is committed to preventing human trafficking among children and youth by developing and implementing survivor- and expert-informed programs in the spaces where they conduct their daily lives: online and in schools. Focused efforts on digital and school-based initiatives that will meaningfully advance youth safety and well-being also contribute to the work of the White House Task Force on Online Harassment and Abuse.   

Originally published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Click HERE for source. 

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