HHS Anti-Trafficking Efforts Highlighted in 2020 National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking

October 27, 2020

The White House released the National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking Visit disclaimer page on October 19, 2020. The Action Plan calls upon agencies across the U.S. government to commit to actions that strengthen prevention of human trafficking, protect victims through intervention and support, and hold traffickers accountable through prosecution and investigative efforts. The Action Plan calls upon the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to implement the following priority actions:

  • United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) certified 412 foreign national adult victims of human trafficking, of which 69 percent experienced labor trafficking, 22 percent experienced sex trafficking, 8 percent experienced sex and labor trafficking, and 1 percent were unknown. Similarly, HHS certified 466 foreign national child victims of human trafficking, of which 67 percent experienced labor trafficking, 27 percent experienced sex trafficking; and 6 percent experienced sex and labor trafficking.
  • HHS certification enables foreign nationals who are human trafficking victims to be eligible to apply for Federal and state benefits and services under certain circumstances. United States Department of State Annual Trafficking in Persons Report, 2019, available at https://www.state.gov/reports/2019-trafficking-in-persons-report/ Visit disclaimer page , page 486-87. See HHS, Trafficking Victims Assistance Program, FY 2019, available at /sites/default/files/otip/tvap_infographic_fy_....
  • HHS’s Office on Trafficking in Persons (OTIP), Children’s Bureau (CB), and Family and Youth Services Bureau (FYSB) also provide community-coordinated responses to human trafficking of youth through grants, programs, training, resources, and partnerships. HHS programs will provide training and technical assistance for health and human service professionals working with populations at high risk for human trafficking who are intersecting with health care systems, child welfare, runaway and homeless, domestic violence, adolescent pregnancy prevention, unaccompanied children, and community programs for American Indians, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders, and other indigenous peoples of North America.
  • In partnership with HHS’s Administration for Native Americans, HHS OTIP convened an American Indian, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander-specific class of the Human Trafficking Leadership Academy in which 12 fellows, comprised of survivor leaders and allied professionals, attended monthly leadership development seminars over a 6-month period. The fellows developed recommendations to inform new research, policies, and programs on how culture can be a protective factor for preventing human trafficking among youth who are American Indian, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, or Pacific Islander in the United States and its territories.
  • HHS’s Administration for Children and Families (ACF) will release and implement the ACF National Human Trafficking Prevention Action Plan, outlining a framework for action and agency collaborations to increase the scale and quality of human trafficking prevention efforts across the United States. Utilizing a collective impact strategy grounded in HHS’s principles of violence prevention, ACF will coordinate with government, non-government, and private sector partners to reduce human trafficking in the United States.
  • The Senior Policy Operating Group (SPOG) recently formed a Demand Reduction Working Group to examine the role of demand reduction in preventing human trafficking or otherwise achieving the purposes of the TVPA and the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act.
  • DOS, DOL, DHS, HHS, Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration (ITA), United States Department of the Treasury (Treasury), DOD, and USAID will work collectively to develop initiatives to provide information about forced labor in product supply chains and highlight existing Federal resources (e.g., the Comply Chain application, Responsible Sourcing Tool, DOS’s Trafficking in Persons Report, and DOL’s List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor) to key private sector partners. These initiatives would involve proactive outreach to convene industry leaders and include presentations and webinars. Facilitated discussions will include both general information sessions and deeper discussions to address specific challenges and opportunities in the various industries.
  • The SPOG will convene an interagency working group to develop or update screening forms and protocols as relevant for all Federal officials who have the potential to encounter a human trafficking victim in the course of their regular duties that do not otherwise pertain to human trafficking. Within a year, and subject to the availability of appropriations, each Federal agency will have updated all forms and protocols unless these forms and protocols were recently updated or the funding or validation required to complete this action would unduly impact the agency’s operations. Recently enacted provisions of law direct DHS and DOJ to issue a victim screening protocol for use in all Federal operations targeting human trafficking. Subject to the availability of funding, this working group will also develop timelines and plans to validate the screening tools in an effort to accurately identify all forms of human trafficking.
  • Minors suspected of having experienced human trafficking will be referred to HHS within 24 hours, as required by law, for further assessment, referral to social services, and determination of eligibility for benefits and services.
  • All unaccompanied alien children will periodically be screened for human trafficking, and HHS will ensure that they are not placed in situations where they are vulnerable to trafficking. The intake assessment for sponsors of unaccompanied alien children will be updated appropriately within 1 year. HHS will enhance training on identification and prevention of human trafficking for grantees and staff that serve unaccompanied alien children and ensure that regular welfare checks are conducted with unaccompanied alien children in Federal long-term foster care placement.
  • HHS will develop training on indicators of human trafficking available to relevant Federal, state, tribal, and territorial human service professionals, such as social security, unemployment, and Medicaid program professionals. HHS will update its training on identifying indicators of human trafficking and responding for Federal child welfare officials working with the unaccompanied alien children program. Additionally, HHS programs serving runaway and homeless youth, youth at-risk, and domestic violence programs will receive an updated training on human trafficking indicators and screening processes.
  • DOJ and HHS will provide Federal law enforcement agencies, such as those in DHS and DOJ, with already existing training on vicarious trauma for dealing with the experience of working on emotionally challenging human trafficking cases. HHS FYSB will make its training on the trauma-informed approach available to any United States law enforcement agency.
  • HHS will distribute information and sample resources on legislatively mandated posting requirements of the National Human Trafficking Hotline in all Federal buildings. HHS will also distribute information about human trafficking identification and services through its network of stakeholders including early childhood education programs, runaway and homeless youth, family violence, adolescent pregnancy prevention, child welfare, and other relevant health and human service programs.
  • HHS will ensure that the National Human Trafficking Hotline is able to make referrals to mental health organizations and health care providers with the appropriate expertise to work with human trafficking victims, to include those who have cultural competency for working with indigenous peoples of North America and the Pacific, foreign nationals, individuals with limited English proficiency, LGBT+ individuals, men and boys, and formerly incarcerated individuals.
  • HHS’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) acknowledges the importance of training of mental health professionals to provide evidence-based treatment to address the short and long term trauma experienced by trafficking survivors and their families. HHS’s FYSB will incorporate resources on trauma into their training on human trafficking for service providers working with runaway youth, high-risk youth, and domestic violence victims. HHS’s Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) will provide programmatic and technical assistance on trauma-informed models to support survivors of human trafficking in settings of care, including the Community Health Center Program and the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program. HRSA, in partnership with other Federal agencies, will advance innovative health care delivery models at the state, local, tribal and territorial levels that support survivors of human trafficking.
  • The SPOG Victim Services Committee will continue to share best practices in housing for human trafficking survivors by leveraging meetings and listening sessions initiated in Fiscal Year 2020 focused on identifying challenges and promising solutions. This will include disseminating recommendations to address the great need for housing for male victims of both sex trafficking and labor trafficking; placement for minor victims outside of their state of residence when it is in their best interests; and strategies and technology related to locating available shelter beds and other forms of emergency housing.
  • HUD, HHS, General Services Administration (GSA), and DOJ will convene periodically to discuss viable options for providing temporary shelter to human trafficking victims – including through the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act of 1987 when local resources are overwhelmed. HHS and DOJ will strengthen safe housing options for survivors of human trafficking. This directive operationalizes Executive Order 13903 on Combating Human Trafficking and Online Child Exploitation.
  • HHS will adapt resources on 2-generation/whole family approaches to strengthen economic self-sufficiency through early childhood development, postsecondary and employment pathways, social capital, and economic assets.
  • HUD, HHS, and DOL regional offices, in consultation with OVC, will explore developing a pilot collaboration, in partnership with Federally funded service providers, to overcome current challenges in connecting survivors of all forms of human trafficking to sustainable housing and meaningful employment, including consideration of self-employment or social enterprise opportunities.
  • HHS OTIP will offer technical assistance to bolster peer-to-peer support models for human trafficking survivors.
  • DOJ, DHS, and HHS will pursue increasing the capacity of social media companies and internet service providers to identify and locate potential victims of child trafficking and will pursue facilitating the sharing of information on potential child trafficking victims between the technology industry, state, local, tribal and territorial child welfare agencies, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), and law enforcement at all levels.
  • DOJ and DHS, in consultation with HHS, will pursue legislation needed to support this initiative.
  • DOJ and HHS, in consultation with the USMS, will also collaborate to expand Operation HOPE nationally to identify children missing from foster care, screen recovered children for potential trafficking, connect victims to appropriate care, and prosecute offenders as appropriate.
  • Operation HOPE has brought together Federal, state, and local authorities for joint regional efforts led by HHS OIG Office of Investigations. Its aim is to locate and recover children missing from foster care programs. Early iterations of this program have led to the recovery of 42 children missing from care. HHS, DOJ, and USMS, will work to expand this operation to other regions, to include incorporating it into other investigative efforts, and develop human trafficking prosecutions as appropriate.
  • Because traffickers frequently use electronic platforms and devices to conduct their illicit activities, including recruiting and maintaining victims, DOJ, DHS, and HHS will work with the social media and technology industry to identify potential barriers to their voluntary reporting of suspected human trafficking on their platforms, as well as possible solutions.
  • DOJ, DHS, and HHS will also work with the social media and technology industry, NGOs, and academia on the development of innovative technical tools to interdict human trafficking, including demand, and how to promote adoption of those tools by relevant stakeholders. The National Advisory Committee on the Sex Trafficking of Children and Youth in the United States is a potential forum, among others, for engaging with industry partners on these issues.
  • The SPOG Research and Data Committee will convene Federal agencies to determine what additional research is needed to understand the impact of human trafficking on underserved or vulnerable groups of victims, such as men and boys, LGBT+ individuals, American Indians, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders, racial and ethnic minorities, individuals with disabilities, and youth in the child welfare system. From agency-funded research and analysis, recommendations will be provided on how human trafficking programs can better support and collaborate with these specific groups and how to bolster effective prevention and intervention efforts. Such research would be beneficial for enhancing training and outreach, developing policies, programs, and partnerships, and allocating resources. In addition, relevant Federal agencies will continue to take steps to address the factors that increase vulnerabilities to human trafficking.
  • The United States Government has engaged with survivor experts in various ways throughout the years. For example, DOJ, HHS, DHS, and DOS have mechanisms to integrate survivor consultant expertise into policies and programs. All PITF agencies will examine their efforts to incorporate survivor input into their work. In developing and implementing Federal anti-trafficking policies and programs, each Federal agency will receive and consider incorporating survivor input. Some Federal entities’ programs are informed by survivors through training and technical assistance centers, robust consultant pools or recommendations from formal advisory bodies. Other agencies should develop a plan to begin working with survivors who have subject-matter expertise and relevant skills. Such plans should be trauma-informed, and build on survivors’ knowledge and skills while also making a positive contribution toward further empowerment.
  • The SPOG Public Awareness and Outreach Committee will convene Federal agencies to create a comprehensive inventory and description of Federal human trafficking prevention and protection outreach efforts, awareness campaigns, and toolkits and any evaluations of their effectiveness. This will lead to recommendations on adapting these efforts and materials going forward to be more inclusive, victim-centered, and survivor-informed. This review will be updated annually after completion.
  • Enhanced partnerships with DOL, DHS, HHS and other agencies may provide new avenues for increased identification, refined measurement practices, and better understanding of recruitment patterns. For example, DOJ, HHS, DHS, and DOS have mechanisms to integrate survivor consultant expertise into policies and programs and agencies to raise awareness among these various sectors, as well as faith-based organizations. HHS will provide a series of information briefs on how human trafficking impacts health and human service systems, including impact on health sector procurement.
  • Following this review, HHS will follow up with DHS, DOJ, and other agencies to assist these agencies in consolidating outreach efforts and directing callers to the National Human Trafficking Hotline. These consolidation efforts will include recommendations for streamlining United States Government tip line intake channels specific to the importation of goods produced with forced labor and making intake information available in a timely manner within the United States Government to relevant enforcement agencies.