New Year Brings New Coordinated System for Helping Trafficked and Exploited Victims

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January 11, 2017 is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day. According to experts, sex trafficking is the fastest growing business of organized crime with an estimated revenue of $32 billion annually, or $87 million a day. Human trafficking is the world’s second-largest criminal enterprise, second only to drugs. Unlike the sale of drugs where the supply meets one demand, human trafficking uses one victim (the supply) to meet multiple demands. The business of sex trafficking is not going away anytime soon. Over 5,900 cases of human trafficking nationwide were reported in 2015 with Florida ranking 3rd in the nation for reported calls.

Survivor, Alyssa Beck, from Jacksonville, told the Florida Times Union in a feature article recently, “Freedom. I have freedom,” she said. “Not just physically, but mentally. I’m no longer bound.”

With this first official update about the Open Doors Outreach Network, a new promising coordinated system for serving exploited and trafficked victims in Florida, Voices for Florida joins the thousands of advocates celebrating the freedom of those recovered to date and resolves to bring freedom to those still chained. We firmly stand with others in providing the quality services needed for survivors to heal and rebuild their lives.

Experienced Financial Team Forms

What does a leading Florida CPA, one of the nation’s most prestigious law firms and a state budget efficiency expert have in common?

Their resolve to build a strong fiscal, audit and evaluation team at Voices for Florida. They have come together to expand resource development efforts as well as provide financial and business management oversight for Open Doors. These leadership volunteers will meet monthly. Members include: Dr. Fred Gainous, former President of Florida A & M University, and Chair of the Voices for Florida board of directors; Dr. Robert Bradley, former VP for Planning and Programs for Florida State University and former Budget Director for the State of Florida; Stephen D. Cutright, CPA, who has more than 25 years of experience performing tax, auditing and controller work; Col. (Ret.) Ronald Joe, who spent 30 years of service in the military and retired with the rank of Full Colonel; Dr. Shairi Turner, who received her medical degree from Case Western University School of Medicine and was the first Chief Medical Director of the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice; Carol Armstrong, former Controller of AT&T Health and Welfare Benefits with a portfolio totaling over $1.6 billion; and Linda Alexionok, President of Voices for Florida and a former bank president.

Strong Operations Team Moves into Action

The Open Doors Outreach Network will bring new, promising practices to the state of Florida for serving child and young adult victims of exploitation and trafficking. In addition, innovations that further integrate and leverage the systems and supports for these victims are being sought. Research and best practice knowledge is being harnessed to:

• Develop common goals, uniform statewide protocols and training and education requirements among stakeholders
• Coordinate and monitor cross-sector implementation
• Identify ways to further leverage resources
• Measure key program and system outcomes
• Provide program and policy guidance that address gaps
• Continually improve program and system performance

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Dianne Williams-Cox, Robyn Metcalf and Linda Alexionok

Total Care Services to Victims will be coordinated statewide in partnership with local providers. Leading the statewide team is Robyn Metcalf, Open Doors Statewide Director. She served for three years with The Children’s Campaign, most recently as the Associate Executive Director. Throughout the past year, Robyn has been instrumental in the organizational development of Open Doors, as well as the General Revenue and VOCA funding applications.

She received her Bachelor of Social Work degree, Masters of Social Work with a concentration in Social Policy and Administration and Masters of Public Administration from Florida State University. In 2016, the FSU College of Social Work recognized Ms. Metcalf with the prestigious Distinguished Young Alumni Award.

Dianne Williams-Cox has been selected to serve as the Open Doors Statewide Assistant. Dianne has worked in the private, public and international sector over the past 30 years. She is a Project Management Professional and brings a wealth of experience in business analysis, contract management and planning and implementation. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Data Technology Processing from Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, a Public Management certification from Florida State University and an MBA from Nova Southeastern University.

Both Robyn and Dianne will work closely with Linda Alexionok, Voices for Florida president. Roy Miller, president of The Children’s Campaign, who co-envisioned the Open Doors Outreach Network with Dr. Lawanda Ravoira, will serve as senior advisor.

In addition, planning is underway for the creation of work groups that will provide feedback and assist in developing key sections of the Open Doors program and implementing guide. It is anticipated that the sections of the program and implementing guide will encompass programmatic development, coordination of systems, data collection and reporting, evaluation, education and training and technology.

Five Initial Target Regions for Open Doors

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In 2016, the Florida Legislature approved general revenue funding to assist with the needed infrastructure to pilot the Open Doors Outreach Network in five Florida regions:

• Northeast Florida: Nassau, Duval, St. Johns, Baker and Clay counties
• Big Bend Florida Region: Leon and Bay counties
• Central Florida: Orange and Osceola counties
• Southwest Florida: Collier and Lee counties
• Suncoast: Hillsborough, Manatee and Sarasota counties

Over the past several months, Voices for Florida has worked closely with the Florida Office of the Attorney General in applying for federal Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) funds to support the direct services in the target regions. The substantial grant application was submitted and is currently under technical review. Once the grant is approved, Voices will enter into contracts with partners and emergency/total care assistance services, and begin serving victims through the Open Doors Outreach Network.

More Outreach Meetings Underway

Over the last few months, Voices for Florida has met with stakeholders to gather key local and state level information regarding standing practices, existing providers, prevailing statutory requirements and current service delivery methods. More outreach meetings are planned. Voices has worked closely with the Department of Children and Families and the Department of Juvenile Justice to understand the current landscape in Florida. The expertise of the two agencies in serving this population continues to provide helpful information about promising best practices, policy and research taking place in Florida and around the country.

In addition, meetings were held with the identified service providers in the pilot regions, including the Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center (co-creator of Open Doors) and Children’s Home Society of Florida. The Open Doors team also began meeting with regional coalitions around the state, and is committed to engaging all anti-trafficking coalitions within the pilot regions.

If you have any information you would like to share or questions regarding the Open Doors Outreach Network, please feel free to call 850-425-2621 or email Robyn Metcalf at rmetcalf@voicesforflorida.org

Please feel free to share this update with others, and encourage them to subscribe to our mailing list. We plan to send regular updates as work progresses.

We look forward to hearing from you and working together to improve outcomes for sexually exploited and trafficked children and young adults in Florida!

 

On behalf of exploited and trafficked victims, and the caring individuals and organizations engaged in the effort to help them, Voices for Florida expresses our deep appreciation to the 2016 Open Doors Legislative Sponsors, Senator Denise Grimsley (R-Sebring) and Representative Ross Spano (R-Brandon), and the entire Florida Legislature for their leadership support for Open Doors. Also, Open Doors would not have been possible without the enthusiastic support of Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and her team at the Office of the Attorney General, Secretary Mike Carroll and the Florida Department of Children and Families, Secretary Christy Daly and the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, the Statewide Council on Human Trafficking and many stakeholders across the state who have provided insight, guidance and support.

The Open Doors project was supported by AGREEMENT No. K04049 through funds issued by the State of Florida, Office of the Attorney General.

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