President Gaetz Appoints Senator Grimsley to Statewide Council on Human Trafficking

Jul 28 • 671 Views • View Comments

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Tallahassee — Florida Senate President Don Gaetz (R-Niceville) today appointed State Senator Denise Grimsley (R-Sebring), Chair of the Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee, as the Senate representative for the Statewide Council on Human Trafficking. The appointment begins immediately and expires on June 30, 2016.

“Senator Grimsley is a passionate advocate for Florida’s children and was a key supporter of bipartisan, bicameral child welfare legislation that builds on Florida’s $1.3 billion commitment to child welfare through targeted policies that improve child safety,” said President Gaetz. “She will be an asset to the Statewide Council on Human Trafficking as they work with law enforcement and social service entities to both rid our state of this plague and to ensure victims receive the treatment necessary to restore their humanity and lead full and fruitful lives.”

The Statewide Council on Human Trafficking was created by House Bill 7141, part of the joint agenda, Work Plan 2014, authored by President Gaetz and Speaker Will Weatherford (R-Wesley Chapel). The Council is housed within the Department of Legal Affairs and serves to enhance the development and coordination of law enforcement and social services responses to human trafficking.

The Council will develop recommendations for comprehensive programs and services for victims of human trafficking to include recommendations for certification criteria for safe houses and safe foster homes and make recommendations for apprehending and prosecuting traffickers and enhancing coordination of responses. The Council will work with Florida’s Department of Children and Families (DCF) to create and maintain an inventory of human trafficking programs and services in each county, including awareness programs and victim assistance services, which can be used to determine how to maximize existing resources and address unmet needs and emerging trends.

House Bill HB 7141, signed into law by Governor Scott on June 17, builds on the Florida Safe Harbor Act of 2012 through policy changes that will ensure Florida’s laws better protect victims of human trafficking.

The new law changes statutory requirements for safe houses to establish standards for residential treatment of sexually exploited children and authorizes safe foster homes. The law also creates a certification program for safe houses and safe foster homes at DCF, and requires certification in order for these facilities to accept state funds specifically allocated to care for sexually exploited children. Additionally, the law requires DCF to create or adopt initial screening and assessment instruments for use in identifying and serving sexually exploited children, and allows a child to be placed in a safe house if the assessment instrument determines that is the most appropriate setting and a safe house is available.

Florida Safe Harbor Act of 2012

The Florida Safe Harbor Act of 2012 allows sexually exploited children to be treated as dependent children rather than delinquent children. The act amended Florida law to make child prostitution abuse of a child, rather than a criminal act by the child, and allows children who are victims of sexual exploitation to be adjudicated dependent. Law enforcement officers are required to deliver a minor taken into custody to the DCF when there is probable cause to believe he or she has been sexually exploited. Safe houses and short-term safe houses were created by the Safe Harbor Act, and DCF is authorized to place sexually exploited children in these facilities.

Human Trafficking in Florida

The DCF verified 182 victims of commercial sex trafficking in Fiscal Year 2012-13. Of these, nine victims were exploited by their caregiver, and 27 victims were removed from their caregivers. DCF also identified an additional 185 children who may be at risk of becoming commercial sexual exploitation victims.

The U.S. Department of State estimates that as many as 27 million victims are being trafficked worldwide at any given time. The Department also estimates there were approximately 40,000 victims being trafficked in the United States in 2012.Florida is estimated to have the third highest rate of human trafficking in the United States, following New York and California.

CONTACT: Katie Betta, (850) 487-5229


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