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FY 2017 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 2017 Report are available below. Read the full FY 2017 Attorney General's Report.

Table of Contents

Benefits or Other Services under 22 U.S.C. 7015(b) and (f)

Training of U.S. Government Personnel and State and Local Officials

HHS Activities to Meet the Needs of Minor Victims of Domestic Trafficking


Benefits or Other Services under 22 U.S.C. 7015(b) and (f)

Under 22 U.S.C. §§ 7105(b)(1) and (b)(2)), various federal agencies must extend specified benefits to human trafficking victims and are authorized to provide grants to facilitate such assistance. Under 22 U.S.C. 7105(f), the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Attorney General, in consultation with the Secretary of Labor, must establish a program to aid U.S. citizens and aliens lawfully admitted for permanent residence who are victims of severe forms of trafficking. This section describes the activities of federal agencies to meet these mandates.

Department of Health and Human Services

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) performs several service-related activities under the TVPA, including:

  • Issuing 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 (a temporary immigration status provided to individuals who are identified as human trafficking victims. It permits victims to “remain in the United States to facilitate the investigation and prosecution of those responsible for such crime[s].” 22 U.S.C. § 7105(c)(3)(A)(i).); have received a T nonimmigrant visa (a form of immigration relief that may be available to “those who are or have been victims of human trafficking, protects victims of human trafficking and allows victims to remain in the United States to assist in an investigation or prosecution of human trafficking.”); or made a bona fide application for a T visa that was not denied
  • Issuing Eligibility Letters to non-U.S. citizen, non-LPR child human trafficking victims (i.e., persons under the age of 18)
  • Providing services and case management to domestic and foreign victims of trafficking through a network of service providers across the United States
  • Building capacity and competency nationally through the National Human Trafficking Training and Technical Assistance Center and operation of the National Human Trafficking Hotline

Benefits and Services for Foreign National Victims of Human Trafficking

Certifications and Letters of Eligibility

The TVPA 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 Immigration and Naturalization Act 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. See 22 U.S.C. § 7105(b)(1)(E).

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 status as citizens or qualified aliens. In FY 2017, HHS issued 446 Certification Letters to adults and 509 Eligibility Letters to children.

Grants for Case Management Services

In FY 2017, HHS, through the Administration for Children and Families (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 2017, three grant recipients began providing full coverage for per-capita case management services in specified ACF Regions under the TVAP program: U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (ACF Regions 1, 2, 5, 7, 8, 9, and 10); U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (ACF Regions 3 and 6); and Tapestri, Inc. (ACF Region 4).

In FY 2017, 1,531 individual clients received case management services through the three TVAP grants.

Foreign Child Trafficking Victims

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 the Department of Homeland Security (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 nongovernmental organizations (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 HHS’ Office on Trafficking in Persons (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 unaccompanied alien 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.

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 15 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 served 141 minor victims of trafficking in FY 2017, including 48 children identified and placed by ORR into URM during the same fiscal year.

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 the Department of Labor (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 2015, The Family and Youth Services Bureau (FYSB), in collaboration with OTIP, funded the second cohort of demonstration projects under the Domestic Victims of Human Trafficking (DVHT) Demonstration Program to provide comprehensive case management, direct services and assistance, and referrals for domestic victims of severe forms of human trafficking. From October 2015 through September 2017, the three grantees under the second cohort of DVHT Demonstration Projects served 159 youth and young adult victims of sex and labor trafficking. Funded projects also expanded partnerships and collaboration efforts with law enforcement, local businesses, housing authorities, child welfare agencies, and Native American groups.

In FY 2017, OTIP continued to fund 13 DVHT program grantees for a 36-month project period to address the needs of domestic victims of human trafficking. In FY 2017, DVHT grantees served 636 domestic victims of human trafficking.

National Human Trafficking Hotline

In September 2017, OTIP awarded a three-year cooperative agreement to Polaris, an anti-trafficking NGO, to operate the National Human Trafficking Hotline (NHTH). The NHTH is a national, toll-free, confidential anti-trafficking hotline (1-888-373-7888) that is available by phone, email, and online tip form to respond to requests from anyone, anywhere in the country, in more than 200 languages, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and every day of the year.

In FY 2017, the NHTH received 62,835 calls. Of the total hotline calls, 51 percent were substantive in nature. (Substantive calls do not include calls that were hang-ups, wrong numbers, disconnected in interactive voice response, and missed calls.) During the same period, NHTH received reports of 8,686 unique cases of potential trafficking. A total of 1,330 of these cases referenced situations of potential labor trafficking, 6,233 cases referred to potential sex trafficking, and 336 cases involved both sex and labor trafficking situations. In 787 cases, the type of trafficking was classified as other or not specified by the individual contacting the NHTH, which typically occurs when a law enforcement agent or service provider contacts the NHTH for resources and referrals but does not disclose details about the trafficking situation. The NHTH received 4,626 calls directly from potential victims and survivors of human trafficking, constituting 15 percent of the total substantive call volume.

A total of 2,794 potential human trafficking cases resulted in a direct report to law enforcement, which included members of DOJ Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) Human Trafficking Task Forces, DOJ’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit (HTPU), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Civil Rights Unit, DHS Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), law enforcement partners within Anti-Trafficking Coordination Teams (ACTeams), the FBI Innocence Lost Task Forces, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), as well as state and local law enforcement and human trafficking task forces. In 8,796 cases, the NHTH provided individuals with referrals for diverse social services for victims of human trafficking. (Launched in 2011, the ACTeam Initiative is an interagency effort by DOJ, DHS, and the Department of Labor to streamline criminal investigations and prosecutions of human trafficking.)

The NHTH also receives tips and inquiries through email and an online reporting form accessed from the NHTH web portal. In FY 2017, the NHTH received 2,398 emails, which included requests for general information (33 percent), tips regarding potential human trafficking cases (19 percent), requests for training and technical assistance (three percent), and requests for victim services referrals (three percent). The NHTH also received 3,705 submissions through the web portal's tip reporting system, 44 percent of which referenced potential cases of human trafficking.

By the end of FY 2017, the NHTH had received information regarding the outcomes of 1,192 cases of potential human trafficking. Investigations were opened in at least 898 cases; in at least 23 cases potential victims of human trafficking were located, removed from the situation, or provided with services; and in at least 30 cases, potential traffickers were located, arrested, charged with a crime, prosecuted, or convicted. (The NHTH 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.)

Training of U.S. Government Personnel and State and Local Officials

Section 7105(c)(4) requires DOS, DHS, HHS, DOL, EEOC, and DOJ to train “[a]ppropriate personnel . . . in identifying victims of severe forms of trafficking and providing for the protection of such victims, including juvenile victims.” The statute further requires the Attorney General and the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Secretary of Labor, to “provide training to State and local officials to improve the identification and protection of such victims.” Information on training conducted by the federal agencies named above and other agencies is provided below.

Department of Health and Human Services

Intra-agency Collaboration

In FY 2017, HHS OWH and OTIP launched the National Human Trafficking Training and Technical Assistance Center (NHTTAC) to deliver training and technical assistance to inform and enhance the health care response to human trafficking by building capacity, reducing the vulnerability of those most at-risk for human trafficking, increasing victim identification, increasing access to trauma-informed services for all survivors, and strengthening the short, medium, and long-term well-being of trafficked persons.  HHS continued to convene members of the SOAR Technical Working Group and recruited subject-matter experts that included health care, behavioral health, public health, and social work professionals in additional to trafficking survivors to further update and enhance the SOAR to Health and Wellness Training using a three-tiered approach to better reach individuals, organizations, and communities.   During FY 2017, HHS conducted 12 trainings through regional partnerships and at national conferences that reached 731 individuals.  The HHS Office on Women’s Health (OWH) and OTIP, acting through the NHTTAC, adapted, enhanced, and delivered the “SOAR to Health and Wellness Training” using a three-tiered approach to better reach individuals, organizations, and communities.  During FY 2017, HHS conducted 12 trainings through regional partnerships and at national conferences that reached 731 individuals. 

In FY 2017, HHS conducted 37 trainings that reached 1,312 individuals.  

Campaign to Rescue and Restore Victims of Human Trafficking

The Rescue & Restore Victims of Human Trafficking campaign entered its 14th year in FY 2017 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 2017, HHS built on the success of the Rescue & Restore Victims of Human Trafficking campaign and launched the Look Beneath the Surface (LBS) campaign through social media in January 2017 for National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. The LBS campaign obtained 2,857,726 impressions on Twitter and Facebook. It also increased average user time spent on the newly mobile-responsive HHS trafficking website by over five minutes. The campaign retains 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 2017, HHS’ 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 TVAP, the national public awareness campaign, the NHTH, and voluntary Rescue & Restore coalitions.

In FY 2017, Regional Program grantees identified 383 foreign victims and 98 domestic victims of human trafficking. Fourteen victims were referred to law enforcement for possible case investigations and 12 victims received HHS Certification.

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

ACF’s Family and Youth Services Bureau hosted a “Peer Exchange Meeting” with DVHT Demonstration Project grantees from the second group of grantees.  The grantees shared promising practices and lessons learned from the field.  Representatives from HUD and DOJ OVC attended the meeting to learn from grantees about housing needs of youth and young adult victims of trafficking.

In FY 2017, the National Runaway and Homeless Youth Grantee Training offered human trafficking workshops and training on human trafficking.  Training topics included screening tools for runaway and homeless youth settings, labor trafficking, and tailored services for runaway and homeless youth victims of human trafficking.

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

In FY 2017, 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 following:

  • The Asian Pacific Institute on Gender-Based Violence published a technical assistance brief titled “Considerations and Recommendations on Trauma-Informed Advocacy for Trafficking Victims.”
  • The National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center presented a webinar on “Coming Together to Address Human Trafficking in Native Communities.”

ACF – Children’s Bureau

In FY 2017, 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 to meet the law’s requirements. 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.

The Children’s Bureau’s Child Welfare Capacity Building Collaborative made efforts to enhance victim identification by hosting six virtual presentations and peer networking events for child welfare agency representatives from all states and territories who are responsible for implementing the anti-trafficking provisions of the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act. These events included “Supporting and Identifying Sex Trafficking Youth,” “Specialized Services & Placement Consideration,” and “Screening and Reporting Sex Trafficking Youth.” The Capacity Building Center for States also developed and released part three of an 18-hour classroom training curriculum for child welfare agencies focusing on screening, identifying, and supporting youth victims of sex trafficking.

The Child Welfare Capacity Building Center for States delivered messages and information to a broad network of child welfare professionals via social media outlets and email blasts to raise awareness about human trafficking and its relationship to child welfare. In conjunction with National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, one key activity included an email blast about sex trafficking that included facts about trafficking and child welfare, as well as resources available to agencies to combat and address related challenges.

In FY 2017, the Children’s Bureau provided information on human trafficking through the Child Welfare Information Gateway. Its website highlights numerous publications and resources and connects concerned individuals to organizations addressing the issue.

One publication produced in FY 2017, titled Human Trafficking and Child Welfare: A Guide for Child Welfare Agencies, explores how child welfare agencies can support child trafficking victims as well as children who are at greater risk for future victimization. It provides background information about the issue, including its scope, relevant federal legislation and initiatives, and strategies that agencies can implement to address the trafficking of children. The publication also provides state and local policy and program examples.

Another publication produced in FY 2017, Human Trafficking and Child Welfare: A Guide for Caseworkers, explores how caseworkers can identify and support children who are victims of human trafficking as well as children who are at greater risk for future victimization. It provides background information about the issue, strategies caseworkers can use to identify and support victims and potential victims, and tools and resources that can assist caseworkers.

ACF – Administration for Native Americans

Throughout FY 2017, the Administration for Native Americans (ANA) continued to collaborate with OTIP to refine a Native youth toolkit titled “Combating Trafficking: Native Youth Toolkit on Human Trafficking,” which was informed by a pilot of draft outreach materials conducted at the United Nations Indian Tribal Youth Conference through a partnership between ANA and Love146, an organization devoted to the prevention of child trafficking and exploitation. 

HHS Regional Office Activities

HHS has ten regional offices that have engaged stakeholders in FY 2017.  The following is an example of their trafficking-related activities:

  • Region 6 hosted the 2017 National Human Trafficking Awareness Month Listening Session: “How Human Trafficking Victims Rebuild their Lives” on January 19, 2017, in the Region 6 Office in Dallas, Texas.  The meeting highlighted how survivors can overcome the trauma of human trafficking and what resources are available to those who have been trafficked.  Attendees included women and girls advocacy organizations, law enforcement agencies, children’s advocacy organizations, health care professionals, and other health and human services organizations.

HHS – Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services

The HHS Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) worked to implement the Federal Strategic Action Plan on Services for Victims of Human Trafficking in the United States (Federal Strategic Action Plan) by reviewing and refining objectives where SAMHSA’s work aligns with the plan. 

Additionally, SAMHSA engaged in outreach to its grantees under the National Center for Child Traumatic Stress for input on updating materials for the ACF LBS campaign.  Grantees of the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, a SAMHSA-funded collaboration of 86 recipient organizations, offered free webinar and in-person training on topics related to child trafficking and trauma.  SAMHSA continued to fund National Child Traumatic Stress Initiative grantees in FY 2017 that included grantee work on serving the needs of child victims of commercial sexual exploitation.  In FY 2017 at the National Child Traumatic Stress Initiative (NCTSI) All-Network Grantee Conference, SAMHSA NCTSI held a strategy session with grantee providers of services to commercially sexually exploited children to gain insights into the next steps for the NCSTI Campaign, including what resources and channels would be most helpful for these children.

HHS – Health Resources and Services Administration

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) 

Beginning in FY17, HRSA’s Office of Women’s Health, in collaboration with the HRSA Bureau of Primary Health Care and the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), entered into a Memorandum of Understanding to support an interagency partnership entitled “Project Catalyst.” ACF’s designated National Health Resource Center on Domestic Violence (NHRC), also called Futures Without Violence, is serving as technical assistance partner to Project Catalyst. Four state-level leadership teams, comprised of Primary Care Associations (PCAs), State Departments of Health (SDH), and State Domestic Violence Coalitions (SDVCs) are engaged in collaborative training and operationalization of screening, counseling and universal education for IPV and human trafficking in HRSA-supported health centers. Evaluation efforts will support the implementation and refinement, as needed, of provider materials to support a comprehensive, culturally competent response to IPV and human trafficking in primary care settings. Other planned outcomes include measurement of systems-level policy transformation as well as outcomes of clinical intervention at the local level, and the development of a national implementation plan to further scale this effort.

HHS Activities to Meet the Needs of Minor Victims of Domestic Trafficking

HHS’ DVHT Program grantees served 159 adult, youth, and young adult victims of sex and labor trafficking from October 2015 through September 2017. Funded projects also expanded partnerships and collaboration efforts with, local businesses, housing authorities, child welfare agencies, Native American groups, and law enforcement. In FY 2017, OTIP continued to fund 13 DVHT program grantees for a 36-month project period to provide direct services and referrals to domestic victims of human trafficking.  Minor victims of domestic trafficking were assisted through the National Human Trafficking Hotline.  HHS also assists minor victims of domestic trafficking through many other systems of care, including the child welfare system, runaway and homeless youth programs, Federally Qualified Health Centers, and other health and human service programs.

Last Reviewed: August 9, 2019

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