Study of HHS Programs Serving Human Trafficking Victims. What impact are we having on victims and how do we document success?

12/15/2009

According to service providers and law enforcement working with victims of human trafficking, the outcomes for victims and the timeline for achieving these outcomes vary. Service providers reported working with each victim to set achievable goals as part of his or her service plan. These goals were periodically reviewed with the client and adjustments made as necessary. Based on information provided regarding victim goals, several common short- and more long-term outcomes could be identified. These included:

  • Establishing a sense of safety for self and others (i.e., family members)
  • Building trust with service providers and law enforcement
  • Developing healthy coping strategies to help deal with stress
  • Working through trauma
  • Building self-esteem and self-worth
  • Obtaining (and maintaining) employment
  • Obtaining (and maintaining) permanent housing
  • Connecting to a community; establishing a sense of belonging
  • Obtaining lawful permanent resident status (or other status allowing victim to lawfully reside in the United States, even if temporarily)
  • Becoming self-sufficient
  • Becoming an advocate for self and others
  • Reuniting with family (in country of origin or in the United States).
We know we have been successful when we move a person from victim to survivor.

Victim service provider

While many of the respondents were able to share stories and provide anecdotal evidence of the positive impact their efforts were having on victims (e.g., due to outreach and identification activities, providing direct services, making referrals, and conducting investigations), very few were able to produce documentation in the form of formal assessments or rigorous (internal or external) evaluation results that supported these claims. However, there is performance measurement data required under some federally funded programs. This includes the HHS-funded per capita program, the Office for Victims of Crime comprehensive services program, and the anti-trafficking task force initiative.[15] While respondents reported collecting and reporting these data as a requirement of their funding, very few indicated they are using the data to assess their own performance. Respondents indicated that a lack of resources, limited capacity, and a lack of technical expertise were key reasons for not using the data and for the absence of engaging in formal (or informal) evaluations of their efforts. For some, while they recognized the importance of such evidence, their focus and priority was assisting victims.

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