CDHS awarded grant to combat human trafficking

Denver (Oct. 23, 2017)—The Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS) announced today that it has been awarded $1,413,747 in funding from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs to combat human trafficking and provide vital services to trafficking victims.  

The grant will help CDHS and the Colorado Department of Public Safety (CDPS) develop a joint, comprehensive strategy to combat human trafficking in Colorado and provide services to work with the child victims and survivors, starting them on a path to recovery.

In 2015, Colorado had 93 reported cases of human trafficking, making it one of the states with the highest prevalence of trafficking that year. There are several reasons why Colorado is a significant transit route for human trafficking. It has a busy international airport and a convergence of major interstate highways. It also has  large populations of vulnerable adults, children and youth.

Colorado has made strides in addressing human trafficking in recent years, with new legislation and initiatives intended to target traffickers and provide more victims a pathway to safety. However, these efforts are largely isolated, with most task forces concentrated along the Front Range. The grant project will allow CDHS, in conjunction with CDPS, to develop a large-scale, comprehensive strategy to prevent human trafficking and care for its victims.

“Colorado has been on the forefront of the national anti-trafficking effort,” said Sara Nadelman, CDHS Division of Child Welfare human trafficking specialist and grant project manager. “With this funding, we will be able to support the creation of new initiatives, involving local survivors, in parts of Colorado that do not currently have active anti-trafficking collaborations to prevent and respond to human trafficking."

Through this project, CDHS will partner with the CDPS Office for Victims Programs to implement a multitude of strategies to:

  • Reduce a child or youth’s exposure to trafficking;

  • Provide assistance to children or youth victims who experience human trafficking;

  • Help more children receive services in their communities and homes, rather than in detention, secure settings or congregate care;

  • Improve abilities to track data over multiple systems

  • Increase support for families and foster parents of children returning home after a trafficking or high-risk experience;

  • Increase engagement with state and local efforts to develop a plan to ensure that increased prevention and care work continues moving forward; and

  • Increase awareness of human trafficking issues in Colorado among child welfare, law enforcement, healthcare, legal, advocacy and victim services agencies, as well as providers and the public at large.

“By working together across agencies and across jurisdictions, we can make significant progress towards addressing the needs of children and youth, who are some of the most vulnerable to human trafficking,” said Maria Trujillo, Colorado Human Trafficking Council program manager within the CDPS Office for Victims Programs. 

The funding will also support the creation of several local positions to support anti-trafficking efforts and connect children and families who have experienced trafficking with the services best suited to address their specific trauma and unique needs.

In January 2017, House Bill 16-1224 took effect, expanding Colorado’s statutory definition of “child abuse and neglect” to include “child sex trafficking,” giving law enforcement and child welfare services additional tools to combat child sex trafficking in Colorado, and victims a pathway to safety. Since that time, child welfare agencies have received 139 calls or reports concerning child sex trafficking.

Everyone plays a role in preventing child abuse. Anyone concerned about the safety and well-being of a child should call the Colorado Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline 1-844-CO-4-KIDS (1-844-264-5437) to get help. Visit co4kids.org to learn more about the signs of child abuse and neglect, including signs that may be associated with child sex trafficking, and get involved to help the children and young people in your community.

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