January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention month, which provides an opportunity to shine a light on this prevalent problem and the response that the Cumberland County Children’s Advocacy Center (CCCAC) at Spurwink is providing for youth that experience this form of victimization. Sex trafficking or commercial sexual exploitation occurs when a sex act is provided in exchange for money, food, shelter, drugs, protection, or anything of value for the child. The most common age that youth are first exploited in this manner is between 11-13. Many youth are not willing or able to share their experiences due to manipulation and control that their exploiter has over them, making it especially difficult to identify these youth. Nationally it is recognized that a multi-disciplinary team approach is most effective in meeting the needs of these complex youth. The CCCAC, with grant support, hired a coordinator who identifies and convenes a team of providers including law enforcement, child protective services, clinicians, correctional officers, and medical providers to discuss and triage the needs of the youth who are confirmed to be or are at high risk of exploitation.
Currently the CCCAC has 35 active cases, all in Cumberland County. We have seen an increase in exploitation during the pandemic. This programming is a pilot for the State and we are working with CAC’s statewide to provide this necessary service.
Additionally, the CCCAC is excited to be engaged in a needs assessment with key stakeholders to examine the continuum of care for these youth in Cumberland County and identify service gaps, especially in housing options. We are also excited to have the opportunity to participate in a grant funded training on effective intervention for exploited youth that will be provided by Rachel Lloyd, founder of Girls Educational and Mentoring Services (GEMS) in January.