Every year, millions of children become human trafficking victims. But, when they’re taken in by law enforcement, it’s not an uncommon practice to place these victims within the criminal justice system. And, to combat that practice, Florida’s child welfare agency is preparing to implement a new law by next year that will help the trafficking victims.
The plan is to get enough safe houses built across the state for child victims of human trafficking, who are brought in by law enforcement officers. Before the “Florida Safe Harbor Act,” it wasn’t uncommon for law enforcement to arrest the victims and take them to detention centers. The state’s Department of Children and Families is tasked with the plan’s implementation, and the department’s Gilda Ferradaz says it’s in the beginning stages.
“For now, the short-term safe house that we’re in the process of establishing only has six beds," said Ferradaz. "So, a big part of what we’re doing is trying to identify other placement options, such as group homes, and provide training for staff that will be specifically geared toward dealing with this population.”
The department also created six workgroups to look into legal and funding issues, training for law enforcement, and setting up facilities and treatment programs. The law takes effect January 1st.