January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Local News

January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month, and the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) is partnering with The Power Project to train group home and residential care facility staff across Illinois on how to identify, intervene and prevent human trafficking among their youth in treatment. Nearly 1,000 congregate care staff in 37 facilities across the state completed Commercial Sexual Exploitation 101 training in 2022. Often, victims of human trafficking do not seek help because they are fearful, ashamed of their situation, distrust law enforcement or become dependent on the perpetrator. The Illinois Safe Children Act assures that children who are coerced into human trafficking/prostitution are innocent and immune from criminal prosecution and will be placed in the child welfare system with DCFS instead of the criminal justice system.

DCFS partners with three agencies to provide support and services to youth who have been trafficked or are at risk of being trafficked. Chicago’s ReClaim13 provides mentors, a group home for girls aged 10-17 and a transitional living program (TLP) setting for victims of sex trafficking between the ages of 18-25; Hoyleton’s HALO (Healing and Loving Oneself) program provides services and support to youth in southern Illinois who have been victims of sex trafficking or are at risk of becoming victims; and Selah Freedom provides prevention services to youth in care across the state.

Know the Signs. A trafficked child might:

• Have an adult control them by speaking for them.

• Seem out of place given the time of day or night.

• Look disheveled or dressed in clothes that they could not afford to buy.

• Show signs of physical abuse such as bruising or red marks.

• Not possess any form of identification.

• Perform inappropriate work for their age and not be compensated.

Anyone who believes a child might be trafficked, or in danger of being trafficked, should immediately call 911 and the DCFS Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-25-ABUSE (1-800-252-2873).

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