Florida is third in the nation for highest volume of calls to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center. The state also ranks second in the country for highest transient population and fourth for the number of children in the foster care system. These already at-risk populations can become targets for traffickers and others seeking to exploit children. Today, January 11th, is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day. Florida prevails as a national leader in the strength of its sex trafficking policies. The 2012 Florida Safe Harbor Act mandated that sex-trafficked children must be provided with therapeutic services and treated as dependents, rather than needled as delinquents or criminals by being involuntarily confined in the juvenile justice system. Passage of this law was a critical first step to protect the rights of survivors, but without dedicated funding to support the law, provision of those services lacked resources, continuity and sequencing.
In response, Dr. Lawanda Ravoira, CEO of the Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center and Roy Miller, President of The Children’s Campaign, created and established the Open Doors Outreach Network in Florida. The groundbreaking program, which was carefully developed over the course of two years, is unique in its survivor-centered practices. Open Doors connects survivors of trafficking with a team of professionals that includes a survivor-mentor, regional advocates and a clinician who work with local community-based organizations from which the survivor is identified to provide services. The Open Doors team is on call 24/7/365 to provide support to victims to advocate on their behalf and to ensure survivors receive services suited to their unique needs. The team provides trauma-informed care management, court advocacy, educational testing, therapy, emergency assistance and referrals. As the hallmark of the program, survivor-mentors serve as first responders for crisis intervention and assistance. Through this relationship, survivors are more likely to engage in their recovery plan, including counseling and therapy, and are less likely to run away. The regional advocates develop strengths and needs assessments and evaluates regional strengths and areas for development in order to implement regional action plans that are targeted to survivors.
Open Doors seeks to shift the public perception of human trafficking away from victim-blaming, stigmatization and discrimination to supporting the individual needs of survivors through the pillars of support, validation and relational mentorship. Since the pilot launch in June, the Open Doors Outreach Network has served over 100 survivors in the state of Florida.
The Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center is a pilot region in the initiative, which is funded by Voices for Florida: a non-profit that engages with the community to drive economic and social change across the state. In April, Open Doors also received a federal Victims of Crime Act grant to fund the program and in October, the grant was expanded to include six regions and 19 counties across Florida. To learn more visit www.voicesforflorida.org.
Today, on National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, Open Doors is partnering with Voices for Florida, Florida Baptist Children’s Homes, One Purse, The Porch Light and Into the Jordan ministries to host Traffic Stop 2018 in Tallahassee. The powerful event includes a Unity March and Rally at the Capitol featuring a press conference with Secretary Mike Carrol of the Florida Department of Children and Families on, “The State of Trafficking in Florida.” By engaging the local community, Traffic Stop will initiate dialogue and connections with policy makers, elected officials, survivors, advocates and others to work towards implementing effective changes in human trafficking policy to reduce the high rates of trafficking in the state of Florida. Read more about the event here.