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DHR, University of Maryland School of Social Work To Use a $1.25 Million Federal Grant To Combat Human Trafficking

Oct. 8, 2014 (BALTIMORE, MD)—The Maryland Department of Human Resources and the University of Maryland School of Social Work (UMSSW) will use a new $1.25 million federal grant to increase coordination of services for victims of child sex trafficking in the state.

The a new five-year, $250,000 annual grant from the Children’s Bureau, an office of the Administration For Children’s Families in the Department of Health and Human Services, enables Maryland to build infrastructure capacity between state and local child welfare agencies and victim services providers to ensure that children and adolescents who have been trafficked or are at-risk for being trafficked have access to an array of comprehensive, high-quality services.

“This grant is a vital tool in meeting Governor O’Malley’s call to ensure that the victims of human trafficking are provided the services they need,” said DHR Secretary Ted Dallas. “This grant is the result of a robust partnership across multiple state agencies and community providers. We would not have been successful without state partners like the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention and the Departments of Juvenile Services, Public Safety and Correctional Service, and Health and Mental Hygiene, and community partners like TurnAround, Inc. and Maryland Legal Aid.”

Under the leadership of Governor Martin O’Malley, Maryland has taken a statewide approach to combating human trafficking and serving survivors. The U.S. Department of Justice estimates 14,500-17,500 women and children are trafficked into U.S. annually. Risk factors for being trafficked include a history of neglect or abuse, intimate partner violence, low self-esteem, and poverty. Other at-risk populations include runaway youth, youth exploited through prostitution, and child labor.

“On the streets, at truck stops, and in motels, children and adolescents are victims of commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking. This has implications for adolescent sexual, physical, and mental health outcomes,” said Research Assistant Professor Nadine Finigan-Carr of the University of Maryland School of Social Work. “With the receipt of this grant from the Children’s Bureau, we will be able to systematically improve knowledge, support and coordination of services for child sex trafficking victims here in Maryland, thereby impacting the negative health consequences.”

Under the grant, DHR and UMSSW will work in tandem on:

  • Providing direct services to victims through TurnAround, Inc., the designated assault crisis center for Baltimore City and Baltimore County.
  • Evaluating screening tools used by DHR, the Department of Juvenile Services and other state agencies and providers to identify youth who present with sex trafficking risk factors.
  • Establishing and supporting a Child Sex Trafficking Coalition tasked with building capacity and infrastructure specifically for child sex trafficking victim service providers in partnership with the Maryland Human Trafficking Task Force.
  • Conducting an evaluation of service providers and their operational frameworks.
  • Creating a Child Sex Trafficking Victims Service Coordinator to facilitate, create and implement policies and procedures within DHR to address the issue of child sex trafficking.
  • Providing education, outreach and training activities provided through the Healthy Teen Network and Maryland Legal Aid Bureau.

Although the consequences to victims are often serious and long-term, efforts to prevent, identify and respond to this issue have been hindered due to limited knowledge, support and coordination.

Beginning in 2012 when Governor O’Malley convened the first Governor’s Conference on Combating Human
Trafficking in Maryland, Maryland has partnered with victim service providers and other government agencies to review and strengthen department policy and procedures to better address the needs of child human trafficking victims. As a result of this ongoing work, Maryland is training workers to respond appropriately to all referrals, deploying human trafficking screening tools, identifying additional shelter options and ensuring the needs of this very unique population are met. From July 1, 2013 through Sept. 30, 2014, DHR has investigated 50 referrals for possible human trafficking.

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Filed in: DHS News, In the Press

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