While providers and law enforcement stressed the need for residential facilities for this population as a priority, they also recognized that a residential facility alone would not be enough to effectively serve these girls. There was universal agreement that the residential facility needed to be situated along a continuum of care that began with prevention education and outreach to at-risk populations, teachers and school counselors, health and human services professionals, juvenile justice and child welfare systems personnel, parents, and communities at large. The residential facilities also need to be connected to existing community-based programs, including youth drop-in centers and emergency shelters, given their contact with this population and the importance of these programs as an identification and referral source for the facilities. Finally, providers and law enforcement alike noted the need for long-term aftercare services, including support groups, mentoring, individual counseling, and education. It was believed that once we had in place well-designed and well-funded residential facilities to house these girls, we could begin to work on the other aspects of the continuum.
It was acknowledged, however, that one program alone was unlikely to be able to provide the entire continuum of services needed. Collaboration, specifically among law enforcement, juvenile courts and probation, schools, child protective services, and direct service providers (including runaway and homeless youth shelters), was echoed as an essential ingredient for successfully meeting the needs of these girls. In fact, providers and law enforcement alike in Atlanta, Boston, New York, San Diego, San Francisco, and Washington, DC, attributed their current successes to collaboration, open communication, a common language and shared definition of domestic sex trafficking and minor victims, information sharing, trust, and ultimately a genuine desire to help this most vulnerable population.
|Both Boston and Atlanta have created databases for use by multiple agencies (law enforcement, child protective services, juvenile courts and probation, schools, and other providers) to identify and flag minors at risk for or already victims of sexual exploitation, including sex trafficking, and to track services and activities for each minor across agencies. These systems are designed to promote information sharing, timely response and increased protection of minors, and coordination of services.|
Finally, funding to support new programs or enhancements to existing programs along the continuum was viewed by the field as critical for this movement. In fact, one of the residential programs had to close its doors until new funding became available. Not only were resources scarce, but limitations on funding with respect to who could be served (e.g., age, city/county of residency) and how long services could be provided (e.g., 14 days, 30 days, 90 days) created significant obstacles that limited access to much needed services for this population.