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Human Trafficking is Modern Day Slavery

Photo of young Hispanic man working in a kitchen with information on an anti-Human Trafficking campaign "Look Beneath the SurfacBy Carlis V. Williams, Regional Administrator, Region IV (Atlanta)

Human Trafficking is modern day slavery. Yes, modern day slavery. What is human trafficking? Two basic forms are:

  • Labor Trafficking: Using force, fraud or coercion to recruit, harbor, transport, obtain or employ a person for labor or services in involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage or slavery. Victims can be found in domestic situations as nannies or maids, sweatshop factories, janitorial jobs, construction sites, farm work, restaurants and panhandling.
  • Sex Trafficking: Involving commercial sex acts induced by force, fraud or coercion, or in which the person performing the act is under age 18. Victims can be found working in massage parlors, on the streets, in brothels, strip clubs and escort services.

Photo of Carlis Williams.

The International Labour Organization estimates that there are at least 21 million people around the world exploited in conditions of modern slavery.  According to the Justice Department’s recent estimates, more than 40 percent of all human trafficking incidents opened for investigation in the United States involved sexual trafficking of a child.  And the overwhelming majority of these victims – more that 80 percent of them – were identified as U.S. citizens.  

Human trafficking is a national crisis – one that every parent, every teacher, every policymaker, every law enforcement official and every Administration for Children and Families (ACF) stakeholder must work to understand – and must help to address. To this end, ACF in Region IV planned and hosted a forum on human trafficking: Educating our Communities and Enhancing Victim Services, on Jan. 17, at the National Archives at Atlanta.

We partnered with the Department of Homeland Security, Interfaith Children’s Movement, the U.S. Attorney’s Northern District Office of Georgia, Not for Sale, a non-profit organization fighting trafficking, and many others. More than 300 attendees from faith and community based organizations, human services agencies, private foundations, law enforcement agencies, and federal, state and local government and other stakeholders participated.

This forum brought together pertinent speeches, testimonies from former victims and now survivors, panel discussions and break-out sessions designed to educate and train stakeholders. The event promoted strategies to rescue, restore and improve services to the victims of this modern-day human tragedy. We especially enjoyed hearing the keynote address delivered by Katherine Chon, the ACF senior advisor on Trafficking in Persons. She explained ACF policies and priorities designed to truly make a difference in the lives of victims of human trafficking.

In recognition of the critical importance of this issue, President Barack Obama has signed a presidential proclamation designating January as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. In his proclamation the President is making the very clear connection between slavery and human trafficking. Photo of people sitting in chairs listening to conference speaker.

Even though 150 years have elapsed since President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, and it has been 12 years since President Clinton approved, the landmark Trafficking Victims Protection Act – today, in communities across America and the world the curse of slavery still persists. In fact, according to the United Nations, there are up to 27 million people worldwide currently in bondage – more than at any other time in human history.

In large measure this forum allowed the Human Trafficking Prevention stakeholders from Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, South Carolina and Mississippi to form a common bond and a shared vision to press on toward a future defined by:

  • Strengthened protections for children, youth and adults exploited for the commercial sex trade
  • Expanded efforts to identify and serve workers trapped in involuntary servitude
  • Commitment of new resources for dismantling trafficking networks
  • Putting more traffickers behind bars than ever before

I would like to extend an invitation to all ACF stakeholders around the nation to join us in this shared vision for a future that we know is possible – a future without slavery and oppression.

Carlis V. Williams serves as the Southeast Regional Administrator, Region IV, Atlanta, Georgia. The Southeast Region includes eight states: Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, North and South Carolina, Mississippi and Florida. Williams provides executive leadership, coordination and direction for ACF human service programs that include Head Start, Child Welfare, Foster Care, Adoption, Child Care, Developmental Disabilities, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, Child Support, and Runaway and Homeless Youth.

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