For National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, we spoke with advocacy leaders from four CASA programs:
- Cori Davila, Fostering Futures Coordinator, CASA of Liberty/Chambers Counties
- Jade Dominguez, Senior Director of Advocacy, CASA of the South Plains
- Metoyer Martin, Program Director, Child Advocates of Fort Bend
- Chad Frymire, Program Director of Projects and Partnerships, Dallas CASA
We asked them to share some of the most important things CASA volunteers should know about child trafficking, and what they can do to help. Check out what they had to say below!
KNOW: It can happen to anyone, anywhere.
Chad Frymire, Dallas CASA: People tend to think human trafficking is an issue outside the U.S. only in poor countries (primarily Asian countries), when in fact, the U.S. is one of the world leaders in human trafficking.
Cori Davila, CASA of Liberty/Chambers Counties: I think the most important thing we’ve learned was to stop being naive and recognize trafficking is happening everywhere—small towns, big cities, boys, girls, 4-year-olds, 20-year-olds.
KNOW: That young people in foster care are especially at risk.
Metoyer Martin, Child Advocates of Fort Bend: CASA volunteers work with one of the most vulnerable populations, which is why they are highly at risk for trafficking. Many of the children and youth we serve have experienced significant trauma, feel loneliness, and have no sense of belonging to anyone or anything.
Chad Frymire: People tend to think trafficking victims are somehow kidnapped and physically held against their will. This is rarely the case. Traffickers’ greatest tactics are force, fraud or coercion directed to someone who is vulnerable (like kids in foster care!).
Cori Davila: The victims themselves often don’t identify as victims because of the trauma bonding they have been put through.
KNOW: The risk factors and the signs.
Metoyer Martin: Prevention plays a key role in fighting trafficking. CASA volunteers should learn the risk factors and pay close attention to the children and youth they serve. CASA volunteers have the opportunity to make a significant difference, as they have meaningful connections with the children and youth.
Cori Davila: In our experience, we’ve started to see signs ahead of time, before a child was trafficked, and held meetings to discuss what we could do for that child specifically. We’ve also seen many children being labeled as “runaway” instead of missing/exploited/in danger… We take every child who is labeled as a runaway very seriously and always make sure they are reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC).
DO: Have conversations with the children and families you’re serving, and lend a compassionate, listening ear.
Metoyer Ellis: It is important for CASA volunteers to educate the children and youth we serve about trafficking risk and help them recognize signs. Most times, they will not understand or recognize they are being trafficked, as they may feel they are getting something they want or need in return. It is also important to help caregivers and foster parents recognize the risk factors.
Cori Davila: We reach out continuously to the child so they know they always have a person to reach out to when they are ready for help, and continue to stay in contact with family and friends to keep them involved.
Jade Dominguez, CASA of the South Plains: When working with survivors, it’s important to come from a non-judgmental place and to just listen.
DO: Take trainings and always keep learning!
Cori Davila: I was so excited and thankful to learn about the free Advocacy for Commercially Sexually Exploited Children (CSEC) online training, the CSE-IT tool and the anti-trafficking advocacy work in Texas. Everyone has the resources they need to get involved and help the children being exploited in their county.