On March 1st the Statewide Council on Human Trafficking convened its first meeting chaired by Florida’s new Attorney General Ashley Moody.
The following individuals were appointed to serve as members: Florida Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nunez, Senate Majority Leader Kathleen Passidomo, House Business and Professions Committee Chair Heather Fitzenhagen, Department of Children and Families Secretary Chad Poppell, Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Mary C. Mayhew, Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Rick Swearingen, Department of Juvenile Justice Secretary Simone Marstiller, Department of Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco, State Attorney Dave Aronberg (15th Judicial Circuit), Terry Coonan and Dotti Groover-Skipper.
“Combatting human trafficking is one of my top priorities as the Attorney General,” stated Moody in her opening remarks. “I hope to be able to announce not only the successes of the Attorney General’s office, but those of the taskforces across the state, including law enforcement and service providers.”
This meeting introduced the new members to the various aspects of human trafficking and focused on facilitating coordination among the 20 taskforces. Voices for Florida President Linda Alexionok, Open Doors Statewide Director Robyn Metcalf and Compliance and Audit Director Sam Kimelman were in attendance.
“We were encouraged by the council’s enthusiasm and their commitment to addressing trafficking in Florida,” remarked Metcalf. “We’re looking forward to our continued collaboration with the statewide council. Working together, we will address gaps in services across the state to better serve this population.”
Survivor Spotlight: The Impact of a Coordinated Network
A key feature of the Open Doors Outreach Network is the coordinated approach. Because Open Doors services are standardized and consistent among all 32 participating counties, services are able to follow the individuals being served if they move throughout the network regions. This was the case with a recent transfer of services among two of the six regions.
An Open Doors Regional Advocate was on-call late one night when she received an urgent call from an Open Doors Survivor-Mentor from another region. The call alerted her that an individual being served had run away from a recovery center to a hotel room in the Regional Advocate’s area. The victim was reportedly with a few men. In crisis, she called her Survivor-Mentor for help as soon as she could. The Regional Advocate rushed to the hotel, picked up the individual, brought her to the office and calmed her down by taking a walk together. The Survivor-Mentor and Regional Advocate coordinated to meet halfway to return the individual home safely to her family. The individual is continuing to receive services from the Open Doors Outreach Network and is in a safe environment back in her home region.
Nationally Renowned Trainer Rebecca Bender brought to Tallahassee
Earlier this month, Voices for Florida provided an exclusive, hands-on training opportunity to Open Doors team members led by Rebecca Bender, a nationally-renowned Survivor Leader in the anti-trafficking movement. Bender was trafficked for six years before she escaped her trafficker in 2007. Since then, she has trained over 97,000+ community members using her perspective to inform how others can better serve survivors of commercial sexual exploitation and trafficking. Bender is also known for elevating and providing rehabilitation services to other survivors.
Bender’s training to Open Doors team members focused on Survivor-Mentor best practices and the importance of providing professional opportunities to survivors. Voices is proud to not only employ over 15 survivors, but also offer equality in compensation with team members Regional Advocates and Clinicians. This training reemphasized Voices’ dedication to supporting our Survivor-Mentors as well as the victims served through the Open Doors Outreach Network.
Sex Trafficking Prioritized at the Capitol through Traffick Stop Event
Reportedly 9,700 underage children are coerced, manipulated and victimized by the illegal sex trade in the United States each year. Some believe these are conservative estimates. The actual number could be significantly higher. On Tuesday, March 12th, prominent organizations including One More Child, Voices for Florida, Florida Abolitionist, One Purse and Samaritan Village joined together at Traffick Stop 2019 to bring attention to the complex social problem of sex trafficking.
The event began with a breakfast, followed by breakout sessions including a presentation from Roy Miller, President of our affiliate, The Children’s Campaign. Miller educated the 150+ attendees about past legislation and current needs impacting victims. The presentation promoted increasing opportunities for education, housing and jobs; expunging victims’ criminal records; and removing victims from the sex offender registry.
In addition to the breakout sessions, the event consisted of a unity march and rally on the steps of the Historic Capitol. At the rally, DCF Secretary Chad Poppell emphasized his commitment to serving victims of sex trafficking and announced Governor Desantis’ plans to double funding for human trafficking services. We are hopeful these additional funds will increase services, prevention efforts and ultimately reduce victimization.
Training and Education Grows Along with our Network
As the backbone organization, Voices for Florida is committed to providing high quality, cutting-edge training and education to our Outreach Teams to ensure successful care for those being served in our expanding network. Incorporating translational science into our trainings allows us to facilitate the practical application of the latest scientific discoveries and academic research into the implementation of services.
Earlier this year, the Open Doors Outreach Network Core Training brought Outreach Team Members and their leadership staff together at the Voices for Florida headquarters in Tallahassee. Led by Education and Training Director, Michaela Denny, the core training created opportunities for team members from across the state to come together, discuss ways to improve the network and strengthen existing relationships.
These core trainings occur twice annually to ensure that every Outreach Team Member experiences the training, which is becoming increasingly important as our Network grows. The next core training will take place in June.
In addition, Voices for Florida held a Survivor-Mentor Cohort Training in January. This was the final training in the cohort series specific to each member of the Outreach Team. These cohort trainings create a safe space for the Survivor-Mentors to have open dialogue about needs unique to survivors, reaffirm the survivor code of ethics and collaborate on vision and growth for the Network, all while improving the collaboration and strength of the Open Doors Outreach Network. Special thanks to Angie Conn from the Rebecca Bender Initiative for traveling to Tallahassee to support this training effort.
For more information, please contact the following:
- Big Bend (Leon, Bay, Franklin, Gadsden, Jefferson, Liberty, Madison, Taylor and Wakulla counties): Children’s Home Society of the North Central Division,850-819-3830 (Bay county), 850-219-4239 (all other counties in the Big Bend region)
- Central Florida (Brevard, Orange, Osceola, Polk, Lake and Sumter counties): One More Child,407-799-8719
- Northeast Florida (Nassau, Duval, St. Johns, Baker and Clay counties): Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center, 904-412-8923
- North Coastal Florida (Flagler, Volusia and Putnam counties): Children’s Home Society of North Coastal, 386-281-9823
- Suncoast (Hillsborough, Manatee, Pinellas, Sarasota, Pasco and Hernando counties): More Too Life, 941-227-1012
- Southwest Florida (Collier, Lee and Charlotte counties): One More Child,239-478-8649
- Statewide office (Tallahassee): Voices for Florida, 850-425-2621
- 2019 Collective Impact Convening in Chicago, IL: May 14-16, 2019
- DCF Child Protection Summit in Orlando, FL:September 4-6, 2019
- Shared Hope JuST Conference in Cincinnati, OH: October 15-17, 2019
Guiding Principles for Agencies Serving Survivors of Human Trafficking
This guide serves as an informative model of best practices and guiding principles for agencies serving victims of human trafficking. It is important due to the unique challenges, needs, trauma, policy and funding for victims of sex trafficking that differ from other kinds of trauma. The guide identifies important definitions, appropriate engagement with survivors, screening considerations and other vital practices and resources for relevant agencies. Read More
If you believe you are a victim of or suspect human trafficking, please call:
Florida DCF Abuse Hotline: 1 (800) 962-2873 or National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1 (888) 373-7888
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With your support, the Open Doors Outreach Network will be able to provide more services to these victims. The sexual exploitation of our children is happening right now, as you read this appeal. Please consider making a donation today. Contributions of any amount will make a difference.
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