Responding to Child Victims of Human Trafficking - Florida

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State Agency Responsibilities

Citation: Ann. Stat. § 409.1754

The Department of Children and Families shall develop or adopt one or more initial screening and assessment instruments to identify, determine the needs of, plan services for, and determine the appropriate placement for child victims of commercial sexual exploitation who are not eligible for relief and benefits under the Federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act (22 U.S.C. § 7101, et seq.). These instruments shall assess the appropriate placement of child victims of commercial sexual exploitation, including whether placement in a safe house or safe foster home, as provided in § 409.1678, is appropriate and shall consider, at a minimum, the following factors:

  • The risk of the child running away
  • The risk of the child recruiting other children into the commercial sex trade
  • The level of the child's attachment to his or her exploiter
  • The level and type of trauma that the child has endured
  • The nature of the child's interactions with law enforcement
  • The length of time that the child was a victim of commercial sexual exploitation
  • The extent of any substance use by the child

The department shall conduct a multidisciplinary staffing for each child who is a suspected or verified victim of commercial sexual exploitation. The department shall coordinate the staffing and invite individuals involved in the child's care, including, but not limited to, the child, if appropriate; the child's family or legal guardian; the child's guardian ad litem; Department of Juvenile Justice staff; school district staff; local health and human services providers; victim advocates; and any other persons who may be able to assist the child.

The staffing must use the assessment, local services, and local protocols required by this section to develop a service plan. The service plan must identify the needs of the child and his or her family, the local services available to meet those needs, and whether placement in a safe house or safe foster home is needed. If the child is dependent, the case plan required by § 39.6011 may meet the requirement for a service plan but must be amended to incorporate the results of the multidisciplinary staffing. If the child is not dependent, the service plan is voluntary, and the department shall provide the plan to the victim and his or her family or legal guardian and offer to make any needed referrals to local service providers.

Training Requirement

Citation: Ann. Stat. §§ 409.1754; 409.1678

The department and community-based care lead agencies shall ensure that cases in which a child is alleged, suspected, or known to be a victim of commercial sexual exploitation are assigned to child protective investigators and case managers who have specialized intensive training in handling cases involving a sexually exploited child. The department and lead agencies shall ensure that child protective investigators and case managers receive this training before accepting a case involving a commercially sexually exploited child.

The Department of Juvenile Justice shall ensure that juvenile probation staff or contractors administering the detention risk assessment instrument pursuant to § 985.14 receive specialized intensive training in identifying and serving commercially sexually exploited children.

To the extent that funds are available, the local regional director may provide training to local law enforcement officials who are likely to encounter child victims of commercial sexual exploitation in the course of their law enforcement duties. Training must address this section and how to identify and obtain appropriate services for such children. The local circuit administrator may contract with a not-for-profit agency with experience working with commercially sexually exploited children to provide the training. Circuits may work cooperatively to provide training, which may be provided on a regional basis. The department shall assist circuits to obtain available funds for the purpose of conducting law enforcement training from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention of the U.S. Department of Justice.

The community-based care lead agencies shall ensure that foster parents of safe foster homes and staff of safe houses complete intensive training regarding, at a minimum, the needs of child victims of commercial sexual exploitation, the effects of trauma and sexual exploitation, and how to address those needs using strengths-based and trauma-informed approaches. The department shall specify the contents of this training by rule and may develop or contract for a standard curriculum.

Diversion From Prosecution

Citation: Ann. Stat. §§ 985.115; 409.1678; 787.06

A child taken into custody shall be released from custody as soon as is reasonably possible. Unless otherwise ordered by the court under § 985.255 or 985.26, and unless there is a need to hold the child, a person taking a child into custody shall attempt to release the child as follows:

  • To the child's parent, guardian, or legal custodian or, if the child€™s parent, guardian, or legal custodian is unavailable, unwilling, or unable to provide supervision for the child, to any responsible adult
  • Contingent upon specific appropriation, to a shelter approved by the Department of Juvenile Justice or to an authorized agent
  • If available, to a juvenile assessment center equipped and staffed to assume custody of the child for the purpose of assessing the needs of the child in custody

Nothing in this section or § 985.13 shall prohibit the proper use of law enforcement diversion programs. Law enforcement agencies may initiate and conduct diversion programs designed to divert a child from the need for department custody or judicial handling. Such programs may be cooperative projects with local community services agencies.

To the extent possible provided by law and with authorized funding, the services provided by a safe house or a safe foster home may be available to all child victims of commercial sexual exploitation who are not eligible for relief and benefits under the Federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act (22 U.S.C. § 7101, et seq.), whether such services are accessed voluntarily, as a condition of probation, through a diversion program, through a proceeding under chapter 39, or through a referral from a local community-based care or social services agency.

It is the intent of the legislature that the perpetrators of human trafficking are penalized for their illegal conduct and that the victims of trafficking are protected and assisted by this State and its agencies.

Services and Supports for Victims

Citation: Ann. Stat. §§ 409.1754; 409.1678

The services identified in the service plan should be provided in the least restrictive environment and may include, but need not be limited to, the following:

  • Emergency shelter and runaway center services
  • Outpatient individual or group counseling for the victim and the victim's family or legal guardian
  • Substance use disorder treatment services
  • Drop-in centers or mentoring programs
  • Commercial sexual exploitation treatment programs
  • Child advocacy center services pursuant to § 39.3035
  • Prevention services, such as those provided by the Florida Network of Youth and Family Services and the PACE Center for Girls
  • Family foster care
  • Therapeutic foster care
  • Safe houses or safe foster homes
  • Residential treatment programs
  • Employment or workforce training

Safe houses and safe foster homes shall provide services tailored to the needs of child victims of commercial sexual exploitation and shall conduct a comprehensive assessment of the service needs of each resident. In addition to the services required to be provided by residential child-caring agencies and family foster homes, safe houses and safe foster homes must provide, arrange for, or coordinate, at a minimum, the following services:

  • Victim-witness counseling
  • Family counseling
  • Behavioral health care
  • Treatment and intervention for sexual assault
  • Education tailored to the child's individual needs, including remedial education if necessary
  • Life skills and workforce training
  • Mentoring by a survivor of commercial sexual exploitation, if available and appropriate for the child
  • Substance use screening and, when necessary, access to treatment
  • Planning services for the successful transition of each child back to the community
  • Activities structured in a manner that provides child victims of commercial sexual exploitation with a full schedule

Support for Anti-Trafficking Efforts

Citation: Ann. Stat. §§ 39.524; 409.1678

Except as provided in § 39.407 or 985.801, a dependent child who is age 6 or older who is suspected of being or has been found to be a victim of commercial sexual exploitation must be assessed, and the department must conduct a multidisciplinary staffing to determine the child's need for services and his or her need for placement in a safe house or safe foster home as provided in § 409.1678 using the initial screening and assessment instruments provided in § 409.1754. If such placement is determined to be appropriate for the child as a result of this assessment, the child may be placed in a safe house or safe foster home, if one is available. However, the child may be placed in another setting, if the other setting is more appropriate to the child's needs or if a safe house or safe foster home is unavailable, as long as the child's behaviors are managed so as not to endanger other children served in that setting.

A 'safe foster home' is a foster home certified by the department under this section to care for sexually exploited children. A 'safe house' is a group residential placement certified by the department under this section to care for sexually exploited children.

A safe house and a safe foster home shall provide a safe, separate, and therapeutic environment tailored to the needs of commercially sexually exploited children who have endured significant trauma and are not eligible for relief and benefits under the Federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act (22 U.S.C. § 7101, et seq.). Safe houses and safe foster homes shall use a model of treatment that includes strengths-based and trauma-informed approaches.

A safe house or a safe foster home must be certified by the department. A residential facility accepting State funds appropriated to provide services to child victims of commercial sexual exploitation must be certified by the department as a safe house or a safe foster home. An entity may not use the designation 'safe house' or 'safe foster home' and hold itself out as serving child victims of commercial sexual exploitation unless the entity is certified under this section.

To be certified, a safe house must hold a license as a residential child-caring agency, as defined in § 409.175, and a safe foster home must hold a license as a family foster home, as defined in § 409.175. A safe house or safe foster home also must meet the following requirements:

  • Use strengths-based and trauma-informed approaches to care, to the extent possible and appropriate
  • Serve one sex exclusively
  • Group child victims of commercial sexual exploitation by age or maturity level
  • Care for child victims of commercial sexual exploitation in a manner that separates those children from children with other needs
  • Have awake staff members on duty 24 hours a day, if a safe house
  • Provide appropriate security through facility design, hardware, technology, staffing, and siting, including, but not limited to, external video monitoring or door exit alarms, a high staff-to-client ratio, or being situated in a remote location that is isolated from major transportation centers and common trafficking areas
  • Meet other criteria established by department rule, which may include, but are not limited to, personnel qualifications, staffing ratios, and types of services offered