Child trafficking is a community issue, and no organization or sector can effectively combat it alone. To prevent the trafficking of children, community members first need to admit the problem exists and then commit to educating other community members about it. Responding to child trafficking also means equipping leaders with the resources to have an authentic dialogue about the issue in their neighborhoods, jurisdictions, constituencies, or school districts and giving these leaders the tools to work toward solutions. That dialogue must include addressing the demand side of trafficking, such as support for community-led efforts to reduce victimization of youth, in addition to direct interventions to reduce trafficking.
Historically, law enforcement agencies and probation departments were the primary systems addressing the complex needs of survivors of child sex trafficking. Through sting operations, crackdowns on gangs, and curfew sweeps, a law enforcement agency would be the first agency to interact with a sex trafficking victim. Today, child welfare systems and programs serving runaway and homeless youth are elevating their responses to child trafficking and thus are invaluable frontline partners to schools. Other important partners are trafficking prevention organizations, domestic violence agencies, child advocacy or assessment centers, parent groups, and university researchers. It is strongly recommended that each community and tribal jurisdiction develop cross-system mechanisms and infrastructure for collaboration among public agencies and other stakeholders, while building upon the structures, processes, and relationships already in place.
By involving a cross-section of organizations and stakeholders, schools will create safer campuses and increase the chances for academic, social, and psychological student success. These same partners should work collaboratively to develop a comprehensive prevention and awareness program targeted at students and parents and to establish protocols for responding to suspicions of trafficking and providing services to victims.
Several examples of cross-sector collaborations have emerged in recent years. In San Diego, California, for example, the district attorney’s office and county school superintendent partnered to develop a public–private collaborative focused on making human trafficking education and prevention training available to public schools.40 Trainers at the district level teach human trafficking awareness to personnel in schools throughout the county, and some schools deliver a trafficking prevention curriculum to students in designated grade levels. Foundations and businesses in the collaborative underwrite the costs of the curriculum.
In Florida, the first state to mandate that all students in K–12 receive trafficking prevention education, schools are working to fold prevention messages into the health curricula they already use. The Florida Department of Education and Florida Department of Health partnered to conduct a trafficking awareness survey of school health personnel and develop annual trainings for school nurses. The Florida Department of Education produces trainings, presentations, and resources for other school staff, parents and caregivers, and students, often in coordination with antitrafficking nonprofit organizations.
- San Diego County Office of Education. (2019, February 4). SDCOE partners on new human trafficking prevention programs. https://www.sdcoe.net/news/Pages/SDCOE-partners-on-New-Human-Trafficking-Prevention-Programs.aspx