R6 Partners with Mega Fest 2017 to Support Human Trafficking Awareness

Six members of the Region 6 staff posing in front of conference backdrops
(Left to Right) ACF Children and Families Program Specialist Sharon Butler, ACF Program Coordinator Mae Rowlett, ACF Regional Administrator LaKesha Pope Jackson, HHS Regional Director David Teuscher, OASH Office of Family Planning Regional Program Coordinator Liese Sherwood-Fabre, PhD, and HHS Regional Director’s Office Program Analyst Veronica Moore.

For the second time, ACF partnered with the Nation’s largest faith, film and children/youth and family international event, Mega Fest 2017 from June 28 to July 1. At the invitation of event planners, R6 IORA developed an empowerment Expo Stage Symposium entitled, “Human Trafficking in America.” The symposium featured a panel of three human trafficking professionals facilitated by the ACF Regional Administrator from Dallas, Texas.

Human trafficking, an estimated $32 billion dollar a year industry, is defined, by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, as "the acquisition of people by improper means such as force, fraud or deception, with the aim of exploiting them." Forced labor, sex, slavery, servitude and even forced organ donation are other horrifying aspects of this disturbing and growing activity. Those who are homeless, lack a support system, and desperate for work are most susceptible to being exploited. According to the 2016 National Human Trafficking Hotline statistics Region 6 states of Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Texas reported a total of 939 human trafficking cases. Sadly, although the states continue to work hard to dismantle trafficking networks and to help survivors rebuild their lives, the battle against human trafficking continues.

The primary goal of the symposium was to bring awareness to the growing epidemic of modern day slavery/human trafficking not only in the country but the world. The strategically designed symposium panel served to demonstrate the effectiveness of partnerships and collaborations between the government, faith-community, law enforcement, and service providers.

LaKesha Pope Jackson, Regional Administrator, Administration for Children and Families, Region 6, served as symposium facilitator and in her welcome emphasized the importance and need for bringing awareness to the various ways impoverished populations have fallen victim to human trafficking as well as the vulnerability of homeless youth to human traffickers.

Cara Pierce, Assistant U.S. Attorney/Human Trafficking Coordinator-Northern District of Texas, shared information on the dedicated work of the U.S. Attorney’s Office to make communities safer. Their office prosecutes to the fullest extent of the law those who conduct human trafficking activities. On-going partnerships with federal, state, faith-based, law enforcement and community agencies to reduce crime through enforcement, prevention, and community outreach is valuable.

Dr. Irie Session, Director, Resident Pastor, New Friends New Life (NLNF) Non-Profit agency shared information related to ways the NLNF serves to restore and empower trafficked teen girls and sexually exploited women and their children and examples of ways she has assisted victims to overcome backgrounds of abuse, addiction, and poverty.

Kristen Sunny, Program Director for Human Trafficking Outreach Department with Mosaic Family Services, a non-profit agency that provides outreach and social services to survivors of human trafficking. Kristen shared her passion for aiding those who are unable to help themselves while working as the coordinator and facilitator of the North Texas Coalition against Human Trafficking.

The “After Mega Fest 2017, Conversations with America” report stated, “The public’s hopes, thoughts and views on today’s most pressing issues must be talked about and acted on.” The event summary documented an estimated 120,000 persons in attendance of the four-day event. ACF prepared 100 bags containing information related to identifying trafficking victims, bringing awareness to the community, and common language that is used by those that are trafficking and being trafficked.

Printed information distributed over the course of the four day event was provided by the Office on Trafficking in Persons (OTIP).

Human Trafficking Contacts/Resources for Information and Reporting Suspected Abuse:
National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888
ICE Victim Assistance Program at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE (1-866-347-2423)
24-Hour Trafficking Hotline – 214-823-1911

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