The Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) and its community-based care providers recognize January as Human Trafficking Awareness Month. Florida received 1,892 reports of human trafficking – a 54 percent increase from the previous year. The increase in reported allegations of human trafficking was due in large part to increased training and the recently launched Human Trafficking Screening Tool (HTST) developed as a collaborative effort between DCF, the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) and Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office.
“The increase in reports of human trafficking is evidence that the coordinated effort across state agencies to train professionals is increasing awareness and bringing more of these cases to light,” DCF Secretary Mike Carroll said. “Florida must continue to create and implement a continuum of services that addresses all aspects of a survivor’s life including physical, social, emotional and spiritual health.”
More Floridians are recognizing the signs of human trafficking and reporting it to authorities. In addition to improved reporting tools, the Statewide Council on Human Trafficking – Secretary Mike Carroll is the Vice-Chair – has implemented specialized training for first responders and other child welfare professionals to recognize the signs of human trafficking and report it.
In March 2015, DCF and DJJ launched the human trafficking screening tool used by DJJ Juvenile Assessment Center Assessors, DCF and sheriff’s offices’ child protective investigators, and community-based care lead agencies to report incidents of suspected human trafficking. In the first year of implementation, 3,500 screenings were completed with 1,289 (37 percent) of screenings resulting in calls to the Florida Abuse Hotline. The top five counties to generate potentially trafficked youth under this screening process included Broward, Miami-Dade, Duval, Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties.
Local, statewide and national partnerships, including state agencies, service providers, law enforcement, prosecutors, the judicial system and concerned citizens, are driving the fight against human trafficking in Florida.
“Florida must continue the hard work begun on behalf of those who are often the state’s most vulnerable citizens. We cannot falter in our fight of this heinous crime,” said DJJ Secretary Christina K. Daly. “Every day that we work to increase awareness of human trafficking is another potential victim saved through our combined efforts.”
DCF tracks human trafficking by three primary categories: sexual exploitation by a non-caregiver, such as an adult entertainment club or escort service; sexual exploitation by a parent, guardian or caregiver; and labor trafficking, also referred to as slavery or servitude.
Human Trafficking Awareness Month is recognized every January. For more information on how to recognize the signs of human trafficking, as well as how to report it, visit: www.myflfamilies.com/service-programs/human-trafficking.