Bringing Human Trafficking into Focus

Some people say the award-winning movie, 12 Years A Slave is hard to watch – or even talk about. I think the same can be said about human trafficking. Sometimes it is the most painful of topics that need to be brought into focus.


That’s just what we did at the Administration for Children and Families’ Region III Office (ACF-R3) in March 2014. ACF-R3 teamed up with Leah Meyer of Polaris Project (the National Human Trafficking Resource Center funded by ACF) and Dr. Hanni Stoklosa, an emergency room physician at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital which is a teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School. Together, they opened our eyes to human trafficking that may be in the shadows of where we work and live.


Over the last six years, Polaris Project received nearly 1400 hotline calls about potential trafficking cases in the ACF-R3 area. Human trafficking can happen just about anywhere from massage parlors to construction sites. In some instances, it might even reach our doors as peddling or “sales crews” (who are often foster care or homeless youth) ask us if we want to buy magazines or cleaning products. If something like that should happen, please call the national hotline at 1-888-373-7888. Polaris Project will report tips to law enforcement and provide service referrals to victims.


It’s especially important that health professionals learn and talk about human trafficking. Hanni shared one retrospective study out of Los Angeles which showed that half of trafficking victims visited a health care professional while being trafficking. Half of those people saw the healthcare provider in private. Sadly, none of the healthcare providers knew that a trafficking victim was standing right in front of them. ACF-R3 is partnering with the Christian Medical and Dental Association (CMDA) and the Mid-Atlantic Prevent Abuse and Neglect Through Dental Awareness (PANDA) to raise greater awareness among healthcare providers through more outreach. As Hanni said, the vision is to “create a trauma-informed, well-coordinated healthcare response for all victims of trafficking.”


The following ACF-R3 representatives participated in the training:


  1. Juanita DeVine, Regional Program Manager (RPM), Office of Child Support Enforcement
  2. Eileen Friedman, RPM, Office of Family Assistance
  3. Kim Huhn-Murphy, the Trafficking Lead for the Children’s Bureau, Region III
  4. Darlene Tart, Special Initatives Coordinator; and
  5. Essey Workie, Regional Administrator


Our colleagues from the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health, Human Services and Resources and Services Administration and the Justice Department joined ACF-R3 in this training.