Criminals preying on people target those who are vulnerable. Survivors of human trafficking all share that trait: at one point in their lives, they too were vulnerable: some desperate for safety and freedom, some hopeful for a better life, many isolated and alone.
That's the first thing I learned about fighting human trafficking. The second was that in order to prevail against traffickers, we would need to unite behind victims; show them there is a system that sees them and cares. No one can prevail alone against traffickers.
Never before have so many people and organizations and government agencies come together to provide better survivor services, proving we are truly stronger together.
On Tuesday morning, I attended the White House Forum to Combat Human Trafficking with HHS Deputy Secretary Bill Corr where we released the draft Strategic Action Plan on Services for Victims of Human Trafficking in the United States for public comment. In the first effort to create a coordinated Federal strategy to support survivors of modern-day slavery since Congress passed anti-trafficking legislation in 2000, HHS has been co-chairing a process with the Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security to work with partner members of the President’s Interagency Task Force on Human Trafficking on the Plan.
This week, we turn the draft plan over to our community stakeholders to actively engage in the second phase of this process and inform how we can strengthen the plan before finalizing it in the coming months. We created an online community where you can submit your ideas and comments. Or you can provide feedback via email or mail.
Today, we know more than we did a decade ago. We recognize that human trafficking cuts across nationalities, gender, race, age, and socio-economic class. We are working to ensure that victims of all forms of human trafficking have access to the tools they need to rebuild their lives by increasing coordination across Administration for Children and Families (ACF) programs including the Office of Refugee Resettlement work with foreign national victims of trafficking and the Family and Youth Services Bureau work with domestic victims of trafficking in Runaway and Homeless Youth programs and Family Violence Prevention Services.
Through community partnerships, HHS has been equipping an increasing number of victims, survivors, and communities to effectively respond to human trafficking:
Last September, President Obama commemorated the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation through remarks he gave at the Clinton Global Initiative during which he pledged to do even more to help victims recover and rebuild their lives. We’ll develop a new action plan to improve coordination across the federal government. We’re increasing access to services to help survivors become self-sufficient.
At ACF, our core mission is to build resilient, safe, healthy, and economically secure communities, including those affected by the violent acts of human trafficking and modern-day forms of slavery. Just as the road to emancipation more than a century ago was long and hard-fought (and in many ways, ongoing), the fight against human trafficking today requires sustained commitment and collective action.
We look forward to hearing from you. For more information about HHS efforts in the fight against human trafficking, please visit: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/endtrafficking.
George Sheldon is the Acting Assistant Secretary for the Administration for Children and Families under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Prior to joining ACF, George Sheldon served as the Secretary of the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF).