Study of HHS Programs Serving Human Trafficking Victims. What are promising approaches to service delivery?

12/15/2009

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.

Offering a one-stop shop for services

While offering multiple services in a single location was not a common practice, providers in those agencies (primarily refugee service agencies and domestic violence and sexual assault programs) that offered such services viewed it as a real asset. They reported better communication and coordination of services and less confusion for victims. Many of these programs were able to provide case management, job training, English as a Second Language classes, mental health services, and medical exams at the same location. Offering on-site counseling and mental health services was considered one of the greatest benefits for victims. Providers reported that having a counselor on site increased the likelihood that a client would seek out these services and attend sessions.

The one-stop shop approach places the client at the center and we wrap services around them. No need to navigate the complex service systems. Our staff work together on the same case but in different capacities. Our services are coordinated and not duplicated.

Service provider

Mobile services

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

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

Trauma-informed and trauma-specific services[14]

One of the most common elements across all forms of human trafficking was the experience of trauma by the victim. While the level of trauma and the victims reaction to the trauma may vary, trauma was present in all cases. According to service providers, when victims had access to trauma-informed or trauma-specific services, they recovered from the trafficking experience more quickly and were better able to work on other aspects of their lives, such as obtaining an education or seeking employment. This was because these trauma services were welcoming and appropriate to the special needs of trauma survivors. Similarly, providing alternatives to traditional therapies for victims was reported to improve client recovery time and outcomes. These alternatives included offering organized religious or spiritual activities, acupuncture, meditation, and using music/art therapy.

Project Liberty

In Atlanta, Tapestri, Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending violence and oppression in refugee and immigrant communities, and using culturally competent and appropriate methods, has established Project Liberty. In this program, 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, call 404.299.2185 or e-mail Tapestri at http://www.tapestri.org/

Use of pro bono services

Several agencies reported using pro bono services, particularly for legal services. This often involved providing training to attorneys on the issue of human trafficking and allowing them to interview clients. While this resulted in a larger pool of affordable and appropriate service providers for clients, it did require significant training and monitoring according to providers. One example of where this approach has worked well was Project Liberty in Atlanta. Atlanta was also obtaining pro bono services to assist clients in seeking mental health services. In exchange for training on human trafficking, one service provider had enlisted help from a group of psychologists to train staff to ask questions that enabled them to better assess mental health needs without directly asking if the client needed mental health services. Questions were asked about trauma symptoms and then the client was given a recommendation for someone who could help them, for instance, with nightmares they were experiencing or headaches they were having. This helped avoid the stigma, especially in some cultures, associated with mental health services.

Volunteer programs

Some agencies established programs in which their clients could do volunteer work. Because many international victims were unable to do regular work until they received their work authorizations, service providers needed 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 in which clients gain valuable on-the-job training that can then result in quick placement in a job with the same or similar agencies.

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 officer

Consistent case managers

Given the complexity of victims needs and the comprehensiveness of the services provided, service providers, law enforcement, and victims reported that having a consistent case manager from identification through case closure was a promising practice. While such consistency was not possible in all cases due to staff turnover and the lack of funding for case managers for domestic victims, when it was available it benefited the victim, service providers, and law enforcement, including prosecutors. A central case manager with knowledge of all aspects of a victims situation can ultimately save time and resources.

Collaboration

The importance of collaboration in meeting the needs of victims of human trafficking cannot be overstated. Law enforcement and service providers stressed 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, was viewed as one strategy that has resulted in increased availability of services for all victims.

We have partnered with Goodwill and 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 reported establishing formal memoranda of understanding (MOUs) with domestic violence shelters to ensure not only placement of their clients but also placement in a facility with staff trained on human trafficking and sensitive to the needs of victims. These MOUs were also important because some domestic violence shelters would not (or could not) accept victims if they were 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 reported success in reaching out to domestic violence shelters that traditionally serve immigrant battered women.

Local Practice to Aid Domestic Children and Youth Victims

One promising practice in Boston that has helped provide services to domestic child victims is the use of child abuse statutes and filing of a 51A. This allows law enforcement, department of social services, therapists, and medical providers to share client information. Also, treating cases as child abuse provides access to services rather than locking the child up for a crime. In Boston, the goal is to avoid charging children with prostitution or solicitation because once charged, it makes it more difficult to get others to view the minor as a victim.

Service Provider

For domestic victims of sex trafficking, it was reported that collaboration among law enforcement, juvenile and family court judges, child protection services, and youth shelters and programs was a promising and necessary practice for identifying and meeting the needs of these child victims.

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