Addressing the Needs of Victims of Human Trafficking: Challenges, Barriers, and Promising Practices. Innovations and Promising Practices to Serving Victims


To address the many challenges and barriers to providing services to victims of human trafficking, many service providers have developed innovative strategies and promising practices for their agencies and their clients.

Collaboration. The importance of collaboration in meeting the needs of victims of human trafficking cannot be overstated. Law enforcement and service providers stress the importance of working together to meet the diverse and complex needs of this population. The establishment of coalitions and task forces, such as the ORR-funded Rescue and Restore coalitions, is viewed as one strategy that has resulted in the increased availability of services for all victims.

We have partnered with Goodwill and other similar organizations to obtain vouchers for our clients. They are able to use these to shop for necessities. It provides them with what they need as well as gives them some level of independence.

Service Provider

Several service providers report establishing formal memoranda of understanding (MOUs) with domestic violence shelters to ensure not only placement of their clients but placement in a facility with a staff trained on human trafficking and sensitive to the needs of victims. These MOUs are also important because some domestic violence shelters will not (or cannot) accept victims if they are not victims of domestic violence, defined as involving a boyfriend or spouse. But with MOUs, exceptions to this definition have been made with some agencies. Service providers also report success in reaching out to domestic violence shelters that traditionally serve battered immigrant women.

In several communities across the country, collaboration among local law enforcement, juvenile and family court judges, child protection services, and youth shelters and programs has proven to be a promising and necessary practice for identifying and meeting the needs of domestic minor victims of sex trafficking.

Consistent Case Managers. Given the complexity of victims needs and the comprehensiveness of the services provided, service providers, law enforcement, and victims report that having a consistent case manager all the way from identification to case closure is a promising practice.(7) While not possible in all cases due to staff turnover and the lack of funding for case managers for domestic victims, having this consistency benefits the victim, service providers, and law enforcement (including prosecutors). A central case manager with knowledge of all aspects of the victims situation can ultimately save time and resources.

Victims need to be assigned a case manager from point of identification throughout the criminal justice process. This person does not need to be a victim witness coordinator from law enforcement (although they could) but the person needs to be consistent.

Law Enforcement

Mobile Services. In some communities, home visits that provide medical and mental health care, and basic case management, is an innovation helping to meet the needs of victims. This approach is especially valued by agencies serving clients in large geographically dispersed areas, as well as rural areas. In both of these cases, clients can find it difficult to get to their appointments. Some service providers mention using in-home visits as a way to introduce clients to services; it is almost a trial period before transitioning them to in-office treatment.

Additionally, linking clients to existing mobile health clinics is a common practice for many agencies, including shelters working with domestic victims.

Use of Pro Bono Services. Several agencies report using pro bono services, particularly for legal services. This often involves providing training to attorneys on the issue of human trafficking and providing access in order to interview clients. While this results in a larger pool of affordable and appropriate service providers for clients, it does require significant training and monitoring according to providers. One example of where this approach has worked well is Project Liberty, highlighted in the box below.

Project Liberty
In Atlanta, Tapestri, Inc., a non-profit organization dedicated to ending violence and oppression in refugee and immigrant communities, and using culturally competent and appropriate methods, has established Project Liberty. This is a program where a pool of immigration attorneys (public and private) receive annual training from Tapestri on human trafficking as part of their professional development. In exchange, the attorneys provide pro-bono services to Tapestris trafficking clients. Tapestri has recently replicated this model with psychologists to provide mental health services for its clients.

For more information on this model, please call 404.299.2185 or email Tapestri at

Volunteer Programs. Some agencies establish programs where their clients can do volunteer work. Because many victims are unable to do regular work until they receive their work authorizations, service providers need to find ways to use this waiting period to help engage their clients in the community and workplaces, when appropriate. Several providers have in place volunteer programs where clients gain valuable on-the-job training that can then result in quick placement in a job with the same or similar agencies.

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