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FY 2016 HHS Excerpts from the Attorney General's Annual Report on U.S. Government Activities to Combat Trafficking

HHS contributes to the Department of Justice Attorney General’s Annual Reports to Congress and Assessment of U.S. Government Activities to Combat Trafficking in Persons. This report provides recommendations to federal agencies and updates from each agency on anti-trafficking efforts.

HHS excerpts from the FY 2016 Report are available below. Read the full FY 2016 Attorney General's Report.

Table of Contents

Benefits and Services Given Domestically to Trafficking Victims

Training, Outreach, and Public Awareness Efforts


Benefits and Services Given Domestically to Trafficking Victims

HHS provides assistance to victims of human trafficking in the United States as authorized by the TVPA (and its subsequent reauthorizations), the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act of 2014, and the JVTA.

Capacity and Leadership on Trafficking in Persons

The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) serves as the lead HHS agency to combat human trafficking and to assist trafficking victims by administering anti-trafficking programs through grants and contracts and collaborating with federal, state, tribal, and local governmental and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).

Three priority goals of HHS’s anti-trafficking efforts are to:

  • Establish a cohesive national human trafficking victim service delivery system that will serve victims of all forms of human trafficking, be guided by core standards of care, and include coverage for non-urban communities significantly impacted by human trafficking. The national delivery system will better leverage existing services available for foreign national and domestic victims of human trafficking, better leverage public-private partnerships, and strengthen coordination with other federal and state government funding mechanisms for trafficking victim services.
  • Develop a culture of data-informed anti-trafficking programming and policy-making, the incorporation of evaluation and standardized data collection in all anti-trafficking grant-making, and an increased number of quality reports and publications contributed to the anti-trafficking field.
  • Integrate anti-trafficking efforts into existing and new HHS prevention strategies, and addressing the demand for human trafficking. Efforts include stakeholder engagement and the creation of online training for health and human service providers that will also be accessible to all HHS employees.

In addition to the benefits resulting from the priority goals mentioned above, HHS is committed to increasing coordination and collaboration to inform anti-trafficking activities, policies, and guidance across health and human service systems, including refugee resettlement, runaway and homeless youth, domestic violence, child welfare, and community health and human services partners.

Benefits and Services for Foreign National Victims of Human Trafficking

The TVPA designated HHS as the federal agency responsible for helping foreign trafficking victims become eligible to receive benefits and services so they can rebuild their lives safely and attain self-sufficiency in the United States. HHS performs the following service-related activities under the TVPA:

  • Issues certifications to non-U.S. citizen, non-Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) adult human trafficking victims who are willing to assist in the investigation and prosecution of a trafficking crime and have received Continued Presence, have received a T nonimmigrant visa, or made a bona fide application for a T visa that was not denied
  • Issues Eligibility Letters to non-U.S. citizen, non-LPR child human trafficking victims (i.e., persons under the age of 18)
  • Provides services and case management to foreign victims of trafficking through a network of service providers across the United States
  • Builds capacity and competency nationally through training and technical assistance and operation of the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, a national hotline and information resource (see Part IV.A.5 below) 

Certifications and Letters of Eligibility

Section 107(b)(1)(E) of the TVPA, as amended, provides that the Secretary of HHS, after consultation with the Secretary of Homeland Security, may certify an adult, foreign national victim of a severe form of trafficking who: (1) is willing to assist in every reasonable way in the investigation and prosecution of severe forms of human trafficking, or who is unable to cooperate due to physical or psychological trauma; and (2) has made a bona fide application for a visa under Section 101(a)(15)(T) of the INA that has not been denied; or is a person whose continued presence in the United States the Attorney General and the Secretary of Homeland Security are ensuring in order to facilitate prosecutions. 22 U.S.C. 7105(b)(1)(E). On March 28, 2001, the HHS Secretary delegated the authority to conduct human trafficking victim Certification activities to the Assistant Secretary for Children and Families (ACF).

This delegation also gave ACF the authority to issue Eligibility letters to foreign national minor victims of trafficking. For foreign national victims of severe forms of human trafficking who are under age 18, the statute requires coordination and consultation with DOJ, DHS, and NGOs prior to making a determination of eligibility for benefits and services. Further, it provides a safety net for minor victims of potential trafficking in persons by authorizing the Secretary of HHS to issue “Interim Assistance” letters for up to 120 days while HHS consults with DOJ, DHS, and NGOs.

Upon issuance of a letter by HHS, adult and minor victims have access to federally funded benefits and services to the same extent as refugees, such as financial assistance, medical care, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, employment assistance, and housing. U.S. citizens and LPRs do not require letters of certification or eligibility because they are eligible for benefits and services by virtue of their citizenship status.

In FY 2016, HHS issued 444 Certification Letters to adults and 332 Eligibility Letters to children (see the chart below). Some historical number in the chart have been adjusted for accuracy.

 
Fiscal year number of eligibility letters issued to children number of certification letters issued to adults total letters issued
2001 4 196 200
2002 19 77 96
2003 6 144 150
2004 18 141 159
2005 32 194 226
2006 20 209 229
2007 32 268 300
2008 32 287 319
2009 50 329 379
2010 92 449 541
2011 100 463 563
2012 103 367 470
2013 114 406 520
2014 217 530 747
2015 239 622 861
2016 332 444 776
TOTAL 1,410 5,126 6,536


Sixty-five percent of the adult victims who received Certification Letters in FY 2016 were female (289) and 35 percent were male (155) compared to 67 percent and 33 percent respectively in FY 2015. Seventy-three percent of all victims certified in FY 2016 were victims of labor trafficking, approximately 18 percent were sex trafficking victims, and nine percent were victims of both labor and sex trafficking (325 cases of labor trafficking, 78 cases of sex trafficking, 41 cases of both labor and sex trafficking). Males made up the majority of labor trafficking victims (60 percent of labor trafficking victims), while victims of sex trafficking were disproportionately female (94 percent of sex trafficking victims). Similarly, 93 percent of victims of both labor and sex trafficking were female.

Forty-one percent of the child victims (137) who received Eligibility Letters in FY 2016 were female (compared with 35 percent in FY 2015) and 59 percent (195) were male (compared with 65 percent in FY 2015). More than 73 percent (243) of child victims who received Eligibility Letters were labor trafficking victims (down from 78 percent in 2015), 22 percent (74) were sex trafficking victims (compared with 19 percent in FY 2015), and nearly five percent (15) were victims of both labor and sex trafficking, up from three percent in FY 2015.

In FY 2016, HHS provided Certification and Eligibility letters to victims or their representatives in 35 states and the District of Columbia. Certified and eligible victims came from approximately 60 countries across the Americas, Asia, Africa, and Europe.

Top six countries of origin of adult victims who received Certification Letters in FY 2016
country of origin number of adult victims who received certification letters percentage of total
Philippines 115 26%
Mexico 108 24%
Guatemala 34 8%
Honduras 29 7%
India 14 3%
Thailand 13 3%
Top six countries of origin of child victims who received Eligibility Letters in FY 2016
country of origin number of child victims who received eligibility letters percentage of total
Honduras 101 30%
Guatemala 92 28%
El Salvador 75 23%
Mexico 46 14%

Certification and victim identification are not the same. HHS grantees work with trafficking victims at every stage of the victim identification process, from initial contact with suspected victims to helping certified victims rebuild their lives through time-limited, federally funded benefits and services in order to achieve self-sufficiency. Factors such as language, safety concerns, and psychological and physical trauma present barriers to victims coming forward. Once they do, these individuals rely on social service providers, attorneys, and law enforcement agents to help them navigate through the immigration and Certification processes. Other foreign-born victims may elect to return to their country of origin without seeking any benefits in the United States. HHS provides victims identified by its nongovernmental partners with an array of services that will assist them in the pursuit of Certification should they choose to cooperate with law enforcement (exempting minors, who are not required to cooperate to receive services), and receive the benefits authorized by the TVPA once certified.

Grants for Case Management Services

Through grants and contracts, HHS has supported the creation of a network of service organizations available to assist foreign national victims of human trafficking. In FY 2016, HHS, through ACF, continued its grant-funded efforts under the Trafficking Victim Assistance Program (TVAP) to provide comprehensive case management and support services to foreign adult and child human trafficking victims, their dependent foreign children, and certain family members. In FY 2016, three grant recipients began providing full coverage for per-capita case management services in the specified ACF Regions under the TVAP program:

  • U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI) (ACF Regions 1, 2, 5, 7, 8, 9, and 10)
  • U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) (ACF Regions 3 and 6)
  • Tapestri, Inc. (ACF Region 4)

Each TVAP grantee can also sub-award with service providers outside of the ACF Region(s) in which it has responsibility to provide full coverage. For example, USCCB networked with certain service providers in Regions 1, 2, 4, and 9 and USCRI did the same in Regions 3 and 6.

These grants help victims gain access to shelter and job training, and provide a mechanism for victims to receive vital emergency services prior to receiving certification. USCCB, USCRI, and Tapestri provided these services to eligible individuals through sub-awards throughout the country and in U.S. territories. During FY 2016, the three grantees sub-awarded funds to 152 agencies with the capacity to serve victims in 231 cities in 42 states.

In FY 2016, 1,424 individual clients received case management services through the three TVAP grants. This number included 452 clients who received services prior to certification (pre-certified), 406 clients who received services after certification, and 421 family members (spouse, children, or other dependents) who received services. The total number includes 145 clients who received services both before and after certification. Eighty-two percent of all clients served by all grantees were adults and 18 percent were children, while 812 clients identified as female and 591 clients identified as male.

TVAP grantees delivered training and technical assistance to sub-award program staff on service provision, case management, trauma-informed and victim-centered care, program management, and immigration relief and protection available for victims of trafficking. They also provided outreach and additional training to other entities and organizations on human trafficking, and HHS Certification and victim services. Through their combined efforts, 1,731 participants received training, and grantees delivered technical assistance on 4,580 occasions to individuals in nearly all the states in their regions. They also provided training or technical assistance to individuals in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands.

Examples of the work of HHS TVAP grantees and their sub-recipients include the following:

  • One service provider created a holistic response to human trafficking in its community by providing trauma-informed client care through leveraged in-house therapeutic/mental health support and legal services. With funding, the program also provided comprehensive case management for survivors and assistance in meeting basic needs such as food, medical care, and housing.
  • A USCRI sub-recipient provided case management assistance to a female client trafficked from her home country as a minor into the United States where she was subjected to both sex and labor trafficking. After giving birth to her trafficker’s child, she escaped the situation on her own. After the client received social services, her case manager helped her find an immigration attorney who assisted her in obtaining T nonimmigrant status and helped her report to ICE Special Investigators. The case manager also helped the victim navigate the family court and relocate to safe housing, obtain food assistance, and apply for financial aid so she could obtain much-needed medical care. After healing physically, the client pursued employment opportunities after obtaining her Employment Authorization Document. She no longer suffers under extreme isolation, and has connected with her community, attends church, and is learning English.

Foreign Child Trafficking Victims

Interim Assistance and Eligibility for Benefits

Section 462 of the Homeland Security Act of 2002, Pub. L. No. 107-296 (6 U.S.C. § 279(g)(2)), defines an unaccompanied alien child as a child who is without lawful immigration status and does not have a parent or legal guardian in the United States who is available to provide him or her physical custody and care. The TVPRA 2008 gave the HHS Secretary new authority (delegated to the ACF Assistant Secretary on March 31, 2009) to provide interim assistance to non-U.S. citizen, non-LPR minors (under age 18) who may have been subjected to a severe form of human trafficking.

The HHS Secretary has “exclusive authority” under the TVPA to determine whether a foreign child in the United States is eligible for interim assistance (i.e., the same benefits available to refugee children) when there is credible information that the child may have been subjected to a severe form of human trafficking. See 22 U.S.C. 7105(b)(1)(G). Under this provision, HHS provides notification to DOJ and DHS of the interim assistance determination and seeks their review of the trafficking indicators before making a final determination of eligibility for government benefits. Interim assistance can last up to 120 days. During this interim period, HHS, after consultation with the Attorney General, the DHS Secretary, and NGOs with expertise on victims of trafficking, is required to determine eligibility for long-term assistance for child victims of trafficking. Federal, state, and local officials are required to report cases of minors who may have experienced trafficking to HHS within 24 hours for OTIP to make interim assistance and long-term eligibility determinations for minors to receive services and benefits to the same extent as refugees.

The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR)/Division of Unaccompanied Children’s Operations (DUCO), located within ACF, is responsible for providing care to children referred by immigration authorities, primarily through a network of state-licensed ORR/DUCO-funded care providers. If a child is identified as a potential victim of trafficking while in ORR/DUCO care, the care provider will notify OTIP to determine whether the minor appears to be eligible for benefits as a victim of trafficking. Overall, the majority of potential trafficking referrals for foreign national minors come from these care providers.

If a foreign national minor is currently in the United States, is identified as a victim of trafficking, and receives an Eligibility Letter, the child is eligible to apply for HHS’ Unaccompanied Refugee Minors (URM) program, an ORR-funded foster care program that operates in 24 states. The URM program establishes legal responsibility under state law for such children to ensure that they receive the full range of assistance, care, and services currently available to foster children in the state. A legal authority is designated to act in place of the child’s unavailable parent(s), and safe reunification of children with their parents or other appropriate adult relatives is pursued.

The URM program offers a variety of care levels to meet children’s individual needs: licensed foster care homes, therapeutic foster care homes, semi-independent living programs, and residential treatment centers. Other services provided include medical care, independent living skills training, educational support, English language training, career or college counseling and training, mental health services, access to legal services for immigration status adjustment assistance, recreational opportunities, support for social integration, and activities that support cultural and religious preservation. The URM program served 122 minor victims of trafficking in FY 2016, including 27 children identified and placed by ORR into URM during the same fiscal year.

In FY 2016, ORR/DUCO care provider programs continued to receive training and technical assistance on screening children for human trafficking indicators. ORR/DUCO provided numerous trainings through onsite presentations for newly approved care providers as well as webinar trainings to the existing national network of care providers. These trainings focused on assessing UAC individual service plans to ensure that proper screening for trafficking is clearly documented in children’s case records. Additionally, programs received revised operating procedures with improved assessment tools to include a document that more clearly defined trafficking with a list of indicators designed to assist in appropriately identifying victims of trafficking.

Child Protection Team

HHS OTIP child protection specialists and senior reviewers facilitate the issuance of all Interim Assistance and Eligibility Letters for identified foreign child-trafficking victims. The specialists also provide training and technical assistance to ORR/DUCO staff and shelter providers, community-based programs, child welfare agencies, and federal and local law enforcement through emails, case, staffing, conference calls, webinars, and in person trainings. They provide guidance on special considerations for human trafficking victims, including interview techniques, the identification of potential indicators of trafficking in adherence with the TVPA, and support for understanding the process to refer a case of potential trafficking for foreign national minors.

In FY 2016, these specialists provided in person trainings to UAC care facility staff, DUCO federal field specialists, and case coordinators in Corpus Christi and Los Fresnos, Texas. The trainings covered the federal definition of human trafficking, overcoming barriers to identifying child victims, identifying trafficking indicators, notifying HHS of a potential victim of human trafficking, and accessing benefits and services for victims. The goals of these training events were to improve the identification and referral of potential minor victims of trafficking and encourage the necessary follow-on support to help victims obtain services and government benefits.

HHS continued to collaborate and cooperate with federal partners to facilitate prompt identification of and assistance to potential child trafficking victims and to seek consultation to make final eligibility determinations. In FY 2016, the child protection specialists conducted a meeting with DHS representatives on HHS programs, child trafficking reporting requirements, case processing and consultation requirements in adherence with the TVPA, and ongoing collaboration efforts to address foreign child victims of trafficking. HHS provided technical assistance to federal victim assistance coordinators and agents on a case-by-case basis when they encountered potential foreign nation minor human trafficking victims in their localities.

Benefits and Services for U.S. Citizens and Lawful Permanent Resident Victims of Human Trafficking

The TVPA designated HHS, along with DOJ and in consultation with DOL, to establish specialized programs and use existing programs to assist U.S. citizens and LPRs who are victims of severe forms of trafficking. See 22 § U.S.C. 7105(f).

In FY 2016, HHS continued to strengthen integration and coordination of anti-trafficking activities with existing programs and services that may intersect with domestic victims of human trafficking, including the child welfare system, runaway and homeless youth programs, family-violence prevention services, and, with the ANA, programs and services supporting Native Americans.

Demonstration Grants for Domestic Victims of Severe Forms of Human Trafficking

The Family and Youth Services Bureau (FYSB) and OTIP play a strategic role in HHS’ anti-trafficking efforts by strengthening partnerships among community-based programs. In FY 2016, FYSB concluded three grant awards from its first demonstration cohort and continued three grant awards from its second demonstration cohort. In FY 2016, OTIP integrated lessons from FYSB’s demonstration grant program and awarded 13cooperative agreements for a 36-month project period to address the needs of domestic victims of human trafficking. These projects support the development, expansion, and strengthening of coordinated case management and comprehensive direct victim assistance to U.S. citizens and LPRs in the United States and decrease vulnerability to sex and labor trafficking among high-risk populations. From May 2015 through July 2017, DVHT Demonstration Projects served 154 youth and young adult victims of sex and labor trafficking. Projects also expanded partnerships and collaborations efforts with law enforcements, child welfare agencies, and Native American groups. Through this program, ACF supported grantee efforts to:

  • Assess and build capacity to better identify and serve domestic victims of severe forms of human trafficking
  • Foster collaborations and partnerships to enhance community response to human trafficking
  • Promote effective, culturally appropriate, trauma-informed, and victim-centered services to ensure and improve the short and long term health, safety, healing, and overall well-being of victims of severe forms of trafficking
  • Develop networks to expand access to services
  • Identify services needs for domestic victims of severe forms of human trafficking and improve access to services and benefits for which they are eligible
Grants to Address Trafficking within the Child Welfare Population

Children’s Bureau continued its discretionary grant program to nine organizations to develop the child welfare system’s response to human trafficking through infrastructure building and a multisystem approach with local law enforcement, juvenile justice, court systems, runaway and homeless youth programs, Children’s Justice Act grantees, child advocacy centers, and other identified service providers. All nine sites convened in August for their Annual Grantee Meeting, which provided an opportunity for networking and peer learning. Following the meeting, a number of grantees presented on their work and interim findings at the 20th National Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect.

Supporting Native Americans

ACF ANA continued to support the Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center (MIWRC) under the Social and Economic Development Strategies funding opportunity for anti-trafficking program activities, including providing a culturally grounded support group for young American Indian men ages 16–21 who are at high risk for involvement in commercial sexual exploitation. The grant ended in FY 2016 and contributed to MIWRC’s vision to build inter-generational hope and health for American Indian families.

Interagency Coordination and Collaboration on Benefits and Services to Victims

HHS co-chaired the SPOG Victims Services Committee with DOJ and DHS. Highlights from FY 2016 included the release and posting of a FY 2015 status report on the Federal Strategic Action Plan on Services for Victims of Human Trafficking in the United States, 2013–2017 (Federal Strategic Action Plan). Of the more than 250 action items in the Federal Strategic Action Plan, 99 were complete or ongoing by the end of FY 2015 with another 135 in process, 28 delayed, and 11 due in later years. The SPOG Victims Services Committee met quarterly to facilitate inter-agency collaboration on issues such as housing, survivor engagement, and trafficking specific funding opportunities. The co-chairs met bi-weekly to coordinate the SPOG Victims Services Committee meetings and discuss interagency efforts to meet the goal of ensuring comprehensive services are available to victims of severe forms of trafficking.

National Human Trafficking Resource Center

The ability to identify and provide emergency assistance to potential trafficking victims is central to anti-trafficking efforts. In September 2013, HHS awarded a three-year cooperative agreement to Polaris Project, an anti-trafficking NGO, to operate the NHTRC. The NHTRC operates a toll-free, confidential anti-trafficking hotline that provides information and referral to potential trafficking victims, survivors, and people wanting to report suspected cases of trafficking in more than 200 languages. Staffed by a cadre of trained advocates, the hotline received more than 54,000 incoming signals (including calls, emails, and online tips) in FY 2016. The NHTRC web portal is an online forum for information, resources, and training tools designed to build the capacity of the anti-trafficking field. In addition, the NHTRC offered training and technical assistance and provided general trafficking information in response to close to 4,000 inquiries.

Federal, state, and local agencies have included the NHTRC toll-free number in public awareness and outreach campaigns focused on increasing the identification of foreign and domestic trafficking victims. Through coordinated efforts in FY 2016, the NHTRC was instrumental in a total of 2,120 potential human trafficking cases reported to law enforcement, which included members of DOJ BJA Human Trafficking Task Forces, DOJ’s HTPU, the FBI Civil Rights Division, ICE HSI, ACTeam law enforcement partners, the FBI Innocence Lost Task Forces, and NCMEC, as well as state and local law enforcement and task forces. The NHTRC also reported cases to the DOL Wage and Hour Division, DOL Office of the Inspector General, DOS Diplomatic Security Services, DOS Office of the Inspector General, and DoD Office of the Inspector General, in accordance with specialized reporting protocols established between the NHTRC and these agencies.

In FY 2016, the NHTRC received 51,167 calls. (The total number of calls to the NHTRC hotline excludes calls seeking assistance outside of the U.S. and U.S. territories. In previous years, these were included. This total includes non-substantive calls (e.g. hang-ups, wrong numbers, missed calls) and “unrelated” calls that fall outside the scope of NHTRC services.) Sixty-one percent of the calls were substantive in nature. During this same period, the NHTRC web portal received 418,248 unique page views. The most visited NHTRC pages were Hotline Statistics (116,680 page views), Human Trafficking (50,485 page views), and The Victims (44,473 page views). The highest visitor rates for all pages were from California, Texas, and Michigan.

 
Types of calls to the nhtrc (partial list) number of calls
Crisis Calls 2,712
Tips regarding possible human trafficking 7,397
Requests for victim services referrals 3,626
Requests for general human trafficking information 3,922
Requests for training and technical assistance 510

 

In FY 2016, the NHTRC received reports of 7,405 unique cases of potential trafficking. A total of 1,045 of these cases referenced situations of potential labor trafficking, 5,400 cases referred to potential sex trafficking, 272 cases involved both potential sex and labor trafficking situations, and in 688 cases, the type of trafficking was classified as other or not specified by the individual contacting the NHTRC. Cases referencing potential trafficking situations included the trafficking of foreign nationals, U.S. citizens, and LPRs; adults and children; and males, females, and transgender males and females. The NHTRC received 4,608 calls directly from victims and survivors of human trafficking, constituting 15% of the total substantive call volume.

During FY 2016, the NHTRC received calls, emails, or online reports from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories, requesting assistance in the United States and U.S. territories. The top five states with the highest call volume in FY 2016 were (in order by highest volume): California, Texas, Florida, Ohio, and New York, which together comprised nearly 44% of the calls where the caller’s state was known. The hotline has also received calls from more than 40 foreign countries.

The NHTRC fielded nearly 95% of substantive calls in English, 4.5% in Spanish, and less than 1% in more than 30 other languages. The top 10 caller languages other than English and Spanish were (in order by highest volume): Mandarin Chinese, Tagalog, Korean, Persian/Farsi, Vietnamese, Arabic, Rumanian, Russian, French, and Portuguese. In 4% of substantive calls, the NHTRC Call Specialists communicated with callers in languages other than English through a private tele-interpreting service, Certified Languages International. Spanish-speaking callers spoke directly with bilingual NHTRC Call Specialists.

In FY 2016, the NHTRC determined that 459 calls were from callers who learned about the NHTRC hotline number from the “Know Your Rights” pamphlet issued by DOS. Twenty-four percent of these calls involved reports of potential human trafficking, crisis situations, or requests for victim services referrals. The “Know Your Rights” brochure yielded the fourth highest volume of substantive calls that identified how callers learned about the hotline (11%) after “Prior Knowledge” (13%), “Referral” (17%), and “Internet-Web Search” (18%).

In FY 2016, 44% of the total substantive calls placed to the NHTRC required follow-up after the call had ended. One of the most important and complex forms of follow-up, and one of the NHTRC’s central functions, is to facilitate timely reports and referrals to appropriate law enforcement and social and legal services entities.

In 3,419 cases, the NHTRC provided individuals in need with referrals for diverse social services for victims of human trafficking. As in previous fiscal years, the most common referral requests included emergency and transitional shelter, comprehensive case management, legal services, mental health, and transportation assistance. The NHTRC also recorded 27,344 visits to the public online National Human Trafficking Referral Directory (https://traffickingresourcecenter.org/training-resources/referral-dir...), which provides referrals to local social and legal services and opportunities to get involved in the anti-trafficking movement across the country.

The NHTRC also receives tips and inquiries through email and an online reporting form accessed from the NHTRC web portal. In FY 2016, the NHTRC received 2,052 emails, which included tips regarding potential trafficking (14%), requests for general information (33%), requests for training and technical assistance (9%), and requests for victim services referrals (4%). The NHTRC also received 2,356 submissions through the web portal’s tip reporting system, 45% of which referenced potential cases of human trafficking.

By the end of FY 2016, the NHTRC had received information regarding the outcomes of 995 cases of potential human trafficking. Investigations were opened in at least 668 cases; in at least 91 cases potential victims of human trafficking were located, removed from the situation, or provided with services; and in at least 42 cases, potential traffickers were located, arrested, charged with a crime, or convicted. (The NHTRC often learns of case outcomes several months after the case has been reported, and in many cases outcomes are received during the following fiscal year.)

The following are examples of cases that resulted in the successful recovery of victims and the investigation or arrest of the potential traffickers, as well as testimonials from potential victims and anti-trafficking partners:

The NHTRC received an email from a potential victim of labor trafficking, who contacted the NHTRC for assistance leaving her situation: “I would like to sincerely thank you for all your help. When I called you, I had no hope. You guys gave me a lot of hope. When you sent people to help me, I felt safe and you changed my life. Everything changed, everything is better. I am so glad that victims have help here in [the] U.S. Thank you so much!”

*****

The NHTRC received a call stating that a potential labor trafficking victim who was kidnapped in Uganda years ago, and ended up under the control of a family in Dubai. The potential traffickers took the potential victim with them for vacation in the United States. The potential victim used a phone to call her sister for help and described serious abuse. The potential victim’s sister reached out to local law enforcement, who contacted the NHTRC. NHTRC staff reached out to the appropriate emergency law enforcement contacts and coordinated an immediate response. Law enforcement responded and successfully extracted the potential victim, who immediately began working with a federal law enforcement victim specialist.

*****

A male potential victim of labor trafficking was suffering severe physical abuse from the employers with whom he lived. After suffering from beatings and starvation, the potential victim fled with just a small bag and, exhausted, fell asleep on the subway. When he awoke, he found himself in an unfamiliar part of the city and wandered into a police precinct. Local law enforcement contacted the NHTRC, which alerted a local service provider of the victim’s needs. The victim had an urgent need for a shelter stay—he had very little money, no documentation, and no community ties that could provide him with secure housing. The NHTRC worked with its partners at Wyndham Hotels to arrange a clean, comfortable place for the potential victim to stay for the night, while the local service provider found a shelter facility and arranged for placement that would ensure his long-term security.

Training, Outreach, and Public Awareness Efforts

HHS and Interagency Collaborations

HHS co-chaired the SPOG Public Awareness & Outreach Committee with DOS and DHS. The committee coordinated federal messaging by developing a social media toolkit for National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month and committed to target efforts for several highly vulnerable populations.

In 2016, USDA and HHS collaborated to address the needs of human trafficking survivors in rural and tribal areas as part of the Federal Strategic Action Plan. In June, July, and August 2016, HHS collaborated with USDA’s StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity initiative and HHS trafficking program grantees to host a series of listening sessions as part of a pilot project to understand the challenges facing rural and tribal communities when meeting the needs of human trafficking survivors. Outreach sessions took place in Marksville, Louisiana; Bismarck and New Town, North Dakota; and Denver and Greeley, Colorado.

These outreach sessions focused on:

  • Understanding the challenges facing rural-based service providers in assisting survivors of human trafficking and those at risk of trafficking
  • Recognizing best practices in supportive services for trafficking survivors
  • Helping identify potential changes in policies, training and technical assistance, outreach, or other areas to better assist rural communities to effectively meet the needs of victims of human trafficking

HHS identified several specific challenges facing human trafficking survivors in rural and tribal areas from these listening sessions: access to emergency shelter and affordable housing for youth and adults; increased crime, including substance abuse and jurisdictional limitations of law enforcement; demand reduction; and the need for law enforcement training and resources.

HHS is working with partners throughout the government to address these concerns by identifying resources, establishing interagency partnerships, and funding new initiatives. Efforts include inclusion of human trafficking in projects eligible for grant funding in ANA’s Social and Economic Development Strategies and Native Youth Initiative for Leadership, Empowerment, and Development grant opportunities.

HHS Intra-agency Collaborations

HHS’ Office on Women’s Health and regional staff, in partnership with ACF OTIP, continued to pilot the SOAR to Health and Wellness training, which builds on years of engagement with diverse stakeholders, technical working group members, and federal partners stemming from the 2008 HHS Symposium on the Health Needs of Human Trafficking Victims. HHS enhanced and expanded the training and its accompanying resources in FY 2016 for different audiences and the training content was piloted through both in-person and online delivery for behavioral health professionals, including behavioral health providers, public health professionals, health care providers, social service providers, and emergency preparedness professionals. In FY 2016, 774 individuals attended the 10 virtual and seven in-person training sessions, surpassing the goal of 700 attendees. Training registrants came from 45 states and four U.S. territories.

Through the NHTRC and the Rescue & Restore Regional Program grantees, HHS expanded training opportunities throughout the country in collaboration with HHS regional offices. During FY 2016, the NHTRC conducted 46 trainings/presentations and 100 remote consultations by phone or email, reaching a total audience of 2,686 people. The most frequently requested topics across all audiences were local infrastructure and referrals, introduction to the NHTRC, human trafficking statistics, introduction to human trafficking, capacity building, and outreach/building public awareness.

In addition to these training efforts, the NHTRC also engaged in online training and public awareness efforts, including the creation of two new online trainings: Human Trafficking Awareness for Mental Health Professionals and Serving Human Trafficking Victims: An Introduction for Domestic Violence Organizations. The NHTRC also revised two online trainings: Human Trafficking 101 and Recognizing and Responding to Human Trafficking in a Healthcare Context. Additionally, the NHTRC sent six bimonthly newsletters on trafficking issues to its listserv of more than 19,300 members

The NHTRC worked with members of its Training and Technical Assistance Advisory Board to provide guidance and feedback on the production of these resources. Members of the board included Rescue & Restore grantees and TVAP grantees, as well as representatives from DOL, the U.S. Department of Education, the National Center for Homeless Education, and members of the national SOAR Technical Working Groups.

In FY 2016, HHS awarded a contract for the National Human Trafficking Training and Technical Assistance Center (NHTTAC) to deliver training and technical assistance to inform and enhance the public health response to human trafficking by building capacity to reduce the vulnerability of those most at risk of human trafficking, increasing victim identification and access to trauma-informed services for all survivors, and strengthening the short, medium, and long-term well-being of trafficking survivors. HHS renamed the National Human Trafficking Resource Center to the National Human Trafficking Hotline at the end of FY 2016 to enable the hotline to focus on strengthening of hotline response functions and concentrate training and technical assistance through the newly-established NHTTAC.

Through the NHTTAC contract, HHS will continue to educate health care, behavioral health, and social service professionals on how to identify, treat, and respond appropriately to potential victims of human trafficking by enhancing the SOAR to Health and Wellness training; fulfill requests for tailored training and technical assistance with skilled trainers with subject-matter expertise; provide professional development opportunities for individuals and multidisciplinary teams to attend regional or national conferences; and increase survivor representation through both scholarship and fellowship opportunities. In addition to the presentations and trainings by child protection specialists previously described, in FY 2016, HHS offered training and technical assistance to state officials, law enforcement and criminal justice administrators, social service providers, ethnic organizations, students and academics, policy makers, and legal assistance organizations, among others.

HHS provided 14 briefings for international visitors sponsored by DOS’ International Visitor Leadership Program. Law enforcement officers, prosecutors, judges, nongovernmental leaders, and representatives from governmental ministries from 23 countries received briefings from HHS’ anti-trafficking program staff on efforts to combat human trafficking and assist victims in the United States.

Children’s Bureau staff continued their participation in the Federal Agency Task Force on Missing and Exploited Children in FY 2016.

Campaign to Rescue and Restore Victims of Human Trafficking

The Rescue & Restore Victims of Human Trafficking campaign entered its thirteenth year in FY 2016 through the continuing efforts of Rescue & Restore coalitions consisting of volunteers and dedicated social service providers, local governmental officials, health care professionals, leaders of faith-based and ethnic organizations, and law enforcement personnel. The coalitions’ goal is to increase the number of trafficking victims who are identified, assisted in leaving the circumstances of their servitude, and connected to qualified service agencies and to the HHS Certification process so that they can receive the benefits and services for which they may be eligible. Along with identifying and assisting victims, coalition members can use the Rescue & Restore campaign messages to educate the public about human trafficking. In 2016, the Rescue & Restore Victims of Human Trafficking campaign was renamed as the Look Beneath the Surface campaign, which will be launched in stages. The campaign will retain the same goals as the original Rescue & Restore Victims of Human Trafficking campaign and will help fill gaps in the nation’s awareness of human trafficking prevention and intervention, informed by HHS stakeholders and survivors of human trafficking.

In FY 2016, HHS distributed over 692,700 pieces of original, branded Rescue & Restore Victims of Human Trafficking public awareness campaign materials publicizing the NHTRC. These materials included posters, brochures, fact sheets, and cards with tips on identifying victims in eight languages: English, Spanish, Chinese, Indonesian, Korean, Russian, Thai, and Vietnamese.

In FY 2016, HHS’s Rescue & Restore Victims of Human Trafficking Regional Program continued to promote local responsibility for anti-trafficking efforts. The Rescue & Restore Regional Program employed an intermediary model to conduct public awareness, outreach, and identification activities for victims of trafficking. Program grants reinforced and were strengthened by other HHS activities, including the Trafficking Victim Assistance Program, the national public awareness campaign, the NHTRC, and voluntary Rescue & Restore coalitions.

In FY 2016, Regional Program grantees made initial contact with 3,720 victims or suspected victims. Thirty-seven victims were referred to law enforcement for possible case investigations and 39 received HHS Certification. Additionally, 10 foreign victims with whom Rescue & Restore Regional grantees interacted in previous years received HHS Certification during FY 2016

Examples of the work of ACF’s Rescue & Restore Regional Program grantees and their sub-recipients include the following:

  • On May 7, 2016, United Against Human Trafficking (UAHT) co-hosted an event, called the Red Lantern Project, with Red Sand Project that acknowledged the many human trafficking victims and survivors in Houston, Texas. It drew more than 200 people. The night included a series of short films that required the audience to identify instances of trafficking hidden in plain sight. A local survivor also shared her story of unknowingly being swept up in Houston’s sex trafficking trade. UAHT has reached 3,545 people through public awareness efforts since receiving its award in August 2014.
  • In June 2016, the White House Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable recognized Colorado Legal Services (CLS) for a CLS case in which nearly 60 trafficked restaurant workers received restitution. A CLS client also successfully appealed a denial of benefits for which he was eligible as a T visa holder with the assistance of the legal aid community.
  • Opening Doors, Inc. (ODI) manages the Sacramento Rescue & Restore Victims of Human Trafficking Coalition, working with its legal forum, public awareness and education, social services, and survivor network to promote awareness of human trafficking in the region. ODI has elevated its survivor network to be included as part of the coalition. It is led by survivor graduates who provide feedback on the Coalition’s outreach methods and services.

Rescue & Restore Regional Program Grants funded in FY 2016

Metropolitan Family Services, Chicago, Illinois
International Institute of St. Louis, St. Louis, Missouri
Nationalities Service Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Sanctuary for Families, New York, New York
Office of Criminal Justice Services, Columbus, Ohio
United Against Human Trafficking, Houston, Texas
Colorado Legal Services, Denver, Colorado
Bilateral Safety Corridor Coalition, National City, California
Center for Family Services, Camden, New Jersey
International Rescue Committee – Seattle
International Rescue Committee – Miami
Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission, Fresno, California
Mosaic Family Services, Dallas, Texas
Opening Doors, Sacramento, California
UMOS, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Catholic Charities of Louisville, Louisville, Kentucky
Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking, Los Angeles, California
Pinal County, Florence, Arizona

ACF – Family and Youth Services Bureau: Runaway and Homeless Youth Program

In FY 2016, FYSB provided training to more than 200 Street Outreach Program and Transitional Living Program grantees on human trafficking collaboration strategies and the impact of the JVTA on runaway and homeless youth programs. FYSB also hosted a National Briefing Call in partnership with Polaris to better understand the anti-trafficking work of runaway and homeless youth programs. During the call, runaway and homeless youth grantees shared best practices and discussed their challenges while serving runaway and homeless youth victims of human trafficking. The National Runaway Safeline (NRS) and FYSB hosted a webinar to discuss the importance of runaway prevention in the fight against human trafficking. Maureen Baha, NRS’ Executive Director, shared NRS data, the latest trends related to runaway youth, and how organizations can implement NRS’ evidence-based prevention curriculum “Let’s Talk Runaway Prevention.”

FYSB collaborated with the Children’s Bureau to co-host a “Peer Exchange Meeting” with their respective human trafficking projects. Grantees shared their practices and lessons learned from the field and developed strategies to enhance collaboration efforts between runaway and homeless youth programs and child welfare agencies. FYSB also collaborated with the Children’s Bureau to host a virtual panel discussion titled “Inclusion of Survivor-Informed Services” to discuss how survivor-informed services are being integrated into runaway and homeless youth and child welfare settings. More than 800 people joined the discussion.

RHYTTAC delivered online training in FY 2016 to more than 300 runaway and homeless youth programs to enhance their skills, knowledge, and expertise on the intersection of runaway and homeless youth and labor trafficking.

In FY 2016, the National Runaway and Homeless Youth Grantee Training offered human trafficking workshops and training on human trafficking. Training topics included: human trafficking screening tools, sex and labor trafficking among runaway and homeless youth, systems of care for runaway and homeless youth who are victims of human trafficking, and trauma-informed approaches to serving runaway and homeless youth victims of human trafficking. HHS SAMHSA defines a trauma-informed approach as a program, organization, or system that (1) realizes the widespread impact of trauma and understands potential paths for recovery; (2) recognizes the signs and symptoms of trauma in clients, families, staff, and others involved with the system; (3) responds by fully integrating knowledge about trauma into policies, procedures, and practices; and (4) seeks to actively resist re-traumatization.

ACF – Family and Youth Services Bureau: Family Violence Prevention & Services

In FY 2016, the Family Violence Prevention and Services Program, which administers the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act, provided training and technical assistance on human trafficking through several of its culturally specific special issue and national resource centers. Examples of this work include:

  • The Asian Pacific Institute on Gender-Based Violence (API-GBV) presented a webinar titled “Culture of Family-Controlled Trafficking,” which raised understanding and awareness about the complex dynamics, pervasiveness, and resulting trauma of family-controlled trafficking. Approximately 500 people participated in the online training.
  • API-GBV published a report titled Intersections of Human Trafficking, Domestic Violence, and Sexual Assault that summarized findings from the National Advocacy Roundtable and Listening Sessions hosted by the Family Violence Prevention and Services Program and co-facilitated by API-GBV. The roundtable brought together advocates from tribal, local, state, and national organizations working on behalf of domestic and sexual violence and trafficking survivors to expand on the intersections of their work. The 2016 report is available at https://www.api-gbv.org/resources/trafficking-intersections-report/.

ACF – Children’s Bureau

In FY 2016, the Children’s Bureau continued to implement the Child Welfare Capacity Building Collaborative. The Collaborative is a partnership among three centers: the Center for States, Center for Tribes, and Center for Courts. This structure consolidates services previously organized by topical area and geographic region in an attempt to increase coordination, leverage resources, and provide more strategic service provision. The Center for States provides ongoing support to existing constituency (or peer-to-peer networking) groups with responsibility for implementing the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act’s anti-trafficking provisions (launched in July 2016). The Center and its partners also develop resources aimed at helping state and territorial child welfare agencies meet the law’s requirements. The Center for States held the Child Welfare Virtual Expo: Building Capacity to Address Sex Trafficking and Normalcy to increase states’ capacities to address requirements related to the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act. The expo drew over 1,050 registrants. The Center for States also facilitates a Preventing Sex Trafficking Constituency Group, which acts as a peer-learning network and currently has over 300 members. In addition, the Center for States produced a three-part virtual learning experience titled “Child Welfare Response to Child and Youth Sex Trafficking.” This resource acts as a training course for child welfare agencies focused on building capacity to implement provisions of the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act, as well as define, report, and address the needs of sex trafficking victims.

In FY 2016, the Children’s Bureau provided information on human trafficking through the Child Welfare Information Gateway (CWIG). CWIG’s website (https://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/systemwide/trafficking) highlights numerous publications and resources and connects concerned individuals to organizations addressing the issue. CWIG produced a podcast titled “Interagency Collaboration to Address Human Trafficking,” which highlights the work of one of the Children’s Bureau’s child welfare trafficking grantees.

In addition, the Children’s Bureau hosted the 20th National Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect in August 2016. The conference featured a number of sessions, including a plenary-style master session, regarding the trafficking of minors. Examples of these sessions include “Examining Trafficking from Various Perspectives: What’s Working, What’s Not, and What’s Next?”; “Human Trafficking: Coordinating Community Supports and Estimating Prevalence”; “Combating Trafficking Among Child Welfare-Involved Youth”; and “Identifying and Serving Commercially Sexually Exploited Children and Young Adults in Child Welfare: Building the Evidence for Community Collaboration.”

ACF – Administration for Native Americans

ANA hosted one of the HHS-USDA listening sessions at the ACF–Native American Grantee Meeting in FY 2016. In addition, during ACF annual consultations in June, information on human trafficking was shared by OTIP and discussed. OTIP provided updates to the ACF Tribal Advisory Committee, a committee comprised of tribal leaders from across the country.

ANA joined Love146, an organization devoted to child trafficking and exploitation prevention, at the United Nations Indian Tribal Youth Conference and piloted draft outreach materials geared toward Native American youth. Throughout FY 2016, ANA collaborated with OTIP to refine a Native youth toolkit informed by such pilots titled “Combating Trafficking: Native Youth Toolkit on Human Trafficking.”

ACF – Office of Regional Operations

The ACF Office of Regional Operations (ORO) and the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health (OASH) have 10 regional offices that engaged stakeholders throughout FY 2016. Examples of trafficking-related activities include the following:

  • Region 1 participated in a briefing on research conducted by Boston University to gain a better understanding of the lives of women in Boston, Massachusetts who fall victim to sex trafficking by studying women who had sought services through a survivor program.
  • Region 3 hosted an in-person SOAR to Health and Wellness training for health care and public health professionals in partnership with the D.C. Department of Public Health.
  • Region 4 hosted an in-person SOAR to Health and Wellness training in Raleigh, North Carolina, in partnership with the North Carolina Human Trafficking Commission and the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. Regional leaders are populating a matrix table regarding state-based human trafficking data needs and activity to inform next steps in this area.
  • Region 5 hosted two in-person SOAR to Health and Wellness trainings for health care professionals and social service providers in Chicago, Illinois. On July 19, 2016, HHS, HUD, and the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) launched the first program of its kind in the country to address housing issues for survivors of human trafficking, the Human Trafficking Housing Choice Voucher Pilot. Local social service agencies will identify potential participants and refer them to CHA.
  • Region 6 hosted an in-person SOAR to Health and Wellness training, which featured health care and social service providers working with at-risk populations along the bilateral corridor, in partnership with the University of Texas at El Paso. More than 100 social workers, social work graduate students, nurses, and behavioral health and public health professionals attended the training.
  • Region 7 attended the quarterly Nebraska Governor’s Human Trafficking Task Force Meeting, in Lincoln on April 23, 2016, and provided trafficking updates for the 24 members in attendance.
  • Region 8 co-hosted two listening sessions in Greeley, Colorado, for 65 local law enforcement officers, service providers, survivors, and concerned citizens to discuss human trafficking in rural locations.
  • Region 9 hosted two in-person SOAR to Health and Wellness trainings for health care and public health professionals in Oakland, California.
  • Region 10 collaborated with DOJ and FBI to conduct site visits with Western Washington tribes on human trafficking and victim service outreach.

ACF made presentations at the Front Range Anti-Trafficking Coalition meeting in Colorado; Washington Advisory Committee on Trafficking (WashACT) meeting; King County CSEC Task Force meeting, “A Call to Action to End Child Sex Exploitation in King County,” in Washington State; the San Francisco Collaborative Against Human Trafficking meeting; and the Colorado Human Trafficking Council meeting.

Office of Communications and Office on Trafficking in Persons

In FY 2016, the ACF Office of Communications continued to strengthen online and social media activity to increase awareness about human trafficking by publishing 24 blog posts on the Family Room Blog and Twitter and Facebook posts. ACF also continued to fund the development of the new Look Beneath the Surface public awareness campaign, which will feature a video, new public-service announcements for radio and websites, and a refresh of posters and other materials for release in FY 2017.

HHS/Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services (SAMHSA)

SAMHSA worked to implement the Federal Strategic Action Plan by reviewing and refining objectives where SAMHSA’s work aligns with the plan. SAMHSA also participated in the SPOG Public Awareness & Outreach and Victims Services committees. 

Additionally, SAMHSA engaged in outreach to its grantees under the National Center for Child Traumatic Stress for input on updating materials for the ACF Look Beneath the Surface campaign. Grantees of the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN), a SAMHSA-funded collaboration of 86 recipient organizations, offered free webinar and in-person training on topics related to child trafficking and trauma. SAMHSA issued new National Child Traumatic Stress Initiative grant awards in FY 2016 that include grantee work on serving the needs of child victims of commercial sexual exploitation. 

HHS/Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) 

In FY 2016, HRSA participated in the SPOG Public Awareness & Outreach and Victims Services committees and supported national awareness activities, including January’s National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month and Look Beneath the Surface campaign.

Additionally, HRSA provided comments on SOAR training to ACF for in-person training starting in August 2016. HRSA shared SOAR materials with grantee stakeholder groups through newsletters and amplified social media messages from ACF.

Last Reviewed: August 9, 2019

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