Michigan Department of Human Services, partners explain programs that meet needs of human trafficking survivorsContact: Edward Woods III, Office of Communications director 517-373-7394
Dec. 3, 2010
OKEMOS, Mich - Representatives from the Michigan Department of Human Services and its partners gathered together today to bring awareness to the second-largest international crime - human trafficking - and highlight a network of services that meet the physical, emotional and mental health needs of victims, Director Ismael Ahmed said.
"Human trafficking is second only to drug and arms smuggling. It's here in Michigan and it's very real," Ahmed said. "So real that people who work in this field call it ‘modern-day slavery.'
"These are extremely strong words from people who have a strong commitment to meet the physical, emotional and mental health needs of these victims, including children."
The U.S. government estimates that 14,500 to 17,500 young adults and minors are brought into the country each year to be used as unpaid labor or in the sex trade. The U.S. Department of Justice reports that human trafficking has occurred in every state in the nation, including Michigan.
The Michigan Women's Foundation, for example, released a report in August that found that the number of young girls who are sexually exploited has been increasing.
"Human trafficking, also known as modern-day slavery, exists in Michigan," said Bridgette Carr, attorney, law professor and human trafficking clinic director at the University of Michigan. "Victims have been found in small towns and big cities, in hotels, restaurants and hair salons. We must first acknowledge the reality of human trafficking within our state and then work together to identify and rescue victims."
There are currently 361 unaccompanied refugee minors - children who are here without a parent or guardian - in the DHS refugee foster care program. Youth are placed in Michigan by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Settlement. Michigan has the largest program in the country for refugee minors who are here without a parent or guardian.
About 35 of those children currently in the program were victims of human trafficking. DHS has provided services to about 80 child victims of human trafficking over the past three years.
DHS works with its private agency partners to make sure these children are safely placed in foster care. Once in foster care, their psychological and physical needs are assessed and they are provided linguistically and culturally sensitive services, medical care and are enrolled in school.
"Michigan receives many victims because we have an extensive network of partners and services available to help these youth," said Al Horn, director of DHS Refugee Services. "The agencies we work with are excellent, never shying away from a traumatic case."
A strong partnership is vital to help victims, said Jane White, founder of the Michigan Human Trafficking Task Force.
"Most human trafficking victims do not self-identify as victims nor are they aware help is available," White said. "Collaboration must occur between law enforcement and victim services providers in order to prevent, prosecute and rescue victims."
Miss Michigan 2010 Katie Lynn LaRoche has made human trafficking her platform to spread awareness.
"Throughout my year and beyond, I will be working with the Michigan Human Trafficking Task Force, our state legislators and my nonprofit organization, One World One Future, to do everything in my power to help the victims of this crime," said LaRoche, who is a graduate student at Michigan State University.
"By focusing on community awareness, policy and the funding of much-needed shelters and services, I truly believe we can shine a light so bright that this world of darkness will simply cease to exist," she added.