January 27, 2023
Dallas CASA provides staff and volunteer training to recognize the signs of child sex trafficking and advocate for survivors
On December 30, 2022, President Biden issued a proclamation declaring January 2023 as Human Trafficking Prevention Month. Each year in this country, more than 100,000 children are reported as victims of sexual exploitation, or trafficking, as it is also known. The actual number is higher; tens of thousands of children are exploited without anyone noticing or reporting it. As many as 4 out of 5 victims have spent time in foster care.
It’s easy to understand what makes children in foster care so vulnerable—frequent shuffling from place to place with little warning and no say, often little sense of belonging and, as young people in foster care get older, more unsupervised time during which offenders can draw them into trafficking. As Withelma “T” Ortiz Walker Pettigrew, a young woman who experienced child sex trafficking put it, “ Young people normalize the idea of being used for financial gain because they’re already going through that in foster care.”
“These traffickers are cunning and they look for the most vulnerable, which is all too often kids in foster care,” said Chad Frymire, Director of Public Policy at Dallas CASA. “They go to shelters and residential treatment centers. They brainwash these kids to feel like the trafficker loves them, but the trafficker is making money off them. It’s sick and disgusting, and we want our community to come together and fight this horrendous crime.”
Care and concern from a trusted figure can prevent a child’s exploitation. National CASA/GAL, together with its network of state organizations and local programs, is working to prepare CASA and GAL volunteers to prevent trafficking and to fight for children who have already been victimized.
Over the past four years, Dallas CASA has developed, launched and expanded upon a training program to educate volunteers on how to recognize and advocate on behalf of trafficked and exploited children. Funded by grants from Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s office and the National CASA/GAL among other donors, the program was co-created by Dallas CASA and Saving Innocence, a California-based organization focused on combating child sex trafficking.
It includes an online training session and optional in-person component, and features information from groups such as law enforcement and Child Protective Services on how victims are recruited and manipulated. In 2022, Texas CASA funded the creation of a facilitator guide which will enable CASA/GAL member programs to deliver the training to other network members in a “train-the-trainer” approach to expanding its reach. Twenty interested CASA program staff from throughout Texas gathered in Austin on January 24 for the first of these trainings. The aim is to scale the training nationally this year.
Learn more about National CASA/GAL’s priority focus on preventing child sex trafficking here.