By Bill Bentley, Family and Youth Services Bureau Associate Commissioner
As January comes to a close, I want to take a moment to share some of the work of the Family and Youth Services Bureau (FYSB) to commemorate National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.
On January 29, FYSB hosted a phone panel and discussion to speak with our grantee partners on the newly released Federal Strategic Action Plan on Services for Victims of Human Trafficking in the United States. Service providers in the fields of runaway and homeless youth and domestic violence from across the country joined us for the call, which addressed:
I was particularly pleased that our grantees were able to hear directly from our leadership in the Administration for Children and Families (ACF). Assistant Secretary Mark Greenberg opened the call with a word on how the Strategic Action Plan fits into a strong Administration commitment to serve trafficking victims, including the allocation of new funding for services for domestic victims of human trafficking. Katherine Chon, ACF Senior Advisor on Human Trafficking, spoke about the vision behind the Strategic Action Plan, providing details to grantees on the role they will play as stakeholders central to its success.
Our grantee partners also had the opportunity to listen to the FYSB program directors who support their valuable work serving victims on the frontlines. Dr. Marylouise Kelley, Director of the Family Violence Prevention and Services Program, highlighted the similarities between the fields of domestic violence and human trafficking, noting how important it is that services in each field are trauma-informed, and survivor-led.
Dr. Kelley also acknowledged that while domestic violence programs are eager to build their capacity to better serve trafficking victims, many have already been doing—and leading— this work for years. Finally, Dr. Resa Matthew, Director of the Runaway and Homeless Youth Program, emphasized the extreme vulnerability of homeless youth to be exploited by traffickers, lending urgency to the good work of RHY grantees, many of which have been at the forefront of national efforts to support trafficked youth; YouthCare in Seattle and Operation Safehouse in Riverside, California are just two examples.
To conclude the phone panel, ACF and FYSB staff answered questions from grantees about the Strategic Action Plan. I was heartened by the level of interest and enthusiasm expressed by our grantee partners in stepping up to support the plan, but by no means was I surprised; trafficking victims have been served by our programs for years. It is truly satisfying to now be able to provide better coordination from us at the Federal level.
To learn more about the role of the Family and Youth Services Bureau and its grantees in the Strategic Action Plan, view this fact sheet.
To learn more about the ongoing work of the Administration for Children and Families to support services for victims of human trafficking, visit the ACF webpage.
William H. Bentley is Associate Commissioner of the Family and Youth Services Bureau (FYSB), where he oversees programs that work to prevent teen pregnancy, youth homelessness and family violence. Bentley has more than four decades’ experience advocating for youth and families and promoting volunteerism and public service.