Topic: Child Abuse Experts

De-Bunking the Myths of Child Sex Trafficking

Across the globe, child sex trafficking is a $99 billion enterprise, making it the second largest illegal trade behind drugs. It reaches every corner of Colorado, but has largely been ignored and become a hidden epidemic that is destroying lives and endangering Kempe’s mission to protect children.

On October 4, 2018, we convened a group of health and human services experts to help educate the community on what child sex trafficking looks like in Colorado. Here, we de-bunk the five most common myths of child sex trafficking and share what we learned from this important discussion:

MYTH #1: Sex trafficking is not a problem in my community – sex trafficking is only a problem in foreign countries or large, highly-populated cities.
The unfortunate reality is that there is a growing demand for sex with youth here in Colorado. It happens in every community and affects youth of every age, all genders, races and from all income levels. Additionally, while the Coloradans fueling the demand for sex with children come from all socioeconomic backgrounds, the typical buyer is a Caucasian male, 35-45 years old, married with two children and making between $70,000 and $100,000 a year.

MYTH #2: Sex trafficking is a crime that must involve some form of travel, transportation or movement across state or national borders.
Although transportation may be involved as a control mechanism to keep victims in unfamiliar places, sex trafficking does not always involve movement. There are often subtler forms of coercion being used, including victims being physically and socially isolated from their family and friends, or withholding basic necessities like food, water and healthcare.

MYTH #3: For youth who are involved in sex trafficking, it must be their choice or they would run away and seek help.
Victims of trafficking often do not immediately seek help or self-identify as victims. Pimps use a variety of grooming techniques to prey on a victim’s vulnerabilities and leverage them for control, including cultivating drug dependency. Over weeks and months of physical and psychological manipulation, the victim experiences “trauma bonding” and develops an unhealthy loyalty to their pimp. When someone tries to remove a victim from a dangerous trafficking situation, many times they will go back to their pimp because that bond is so strong.

MYTH #4: If families were more vigilant, youth would not get caught up in sex trafficking.
Traffickers are expert manipulators and well-aware of the risk factors that make it easier to coax certain youth into trafficking. They target vulnerable youth on social media, dating apps or in online gaming chat rooms. Some young people are even lured into trafficking by other kids their age, especially those living at treatment centers or group homes. In some cases, there are parents or caregivers who traffic their own children for financial gain. These situations can be difficult to identify because of the complex cycle of abuse and control that has been unaddressed throughout the adults’ lifetime.

MYTH #5: Law enforcement and child protective services are the ones responsible for protecting our youth and putting an end to sex trafficking.
We all have a role to play in protecting our youth. Within our communities, it is essential that parents, neighbors and family friends look out for each other and offer support when it is needed. We must be careful not to judge or shame other parents, but rather, take the time to engage each other in important conversations. We must also educate ourselves about what trafficking really looks like and speak up when we notice any red flags. The conversation around child sex trafficking has been hidden for too long, and it is our job to bring it to the forefront.

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Child sex trafficking is one of many threats to the healthy development of Colorado’s children. Over the next few months, Kempe will continue to bring together community partners to help shine a light on these connections and how we can partner as a community to end the cycle of abuse and positively impact child development. We appreciate your support of our efforts to give all children the opportunity to thrive.

The Role of Caseworkers in Fighting Youth Sex Trafficking

Child welfare caseworkers are an invaluable resource in helping communities respond to the sex trafficking of children. Children involved with child welfare are at a greater risk for being targeted by traffickers because of their potentially unstable living situations, physical distance from friends and family, traumatic experiences and emotional vulnerability.

Therefore, it is imperative that child welfare caseworkers are on the frontlines of identifying, responding to and preventing child sex trafficking. Not only can they connect with potential victims before it’s too late, but they can also ensure that survivors remain safe and receive the support services they need.

We recently connected with Marika Quinn who is a caseworker for the Arapahoe County Child Protection Services’ Sexual Abuse and Recovery Team. She has an incredible heart for the young people who have been victims of human trafficking and an amazing ability to connect with them and lead them to safety and change when they are ready.

How do you identify and build rapport with youth who are victims of trafficking?
I consider my approach very carefully. Trafficking victims are unlikely to disclose their situation right away, and confronting them with suspicions could seriously disrupt my efforts to build trust. I never tell them that what they are doing is wrong. There is a strong trauma bonding that occurs between victims and their traffickers and so oftentimes, the victims may not see what I’m trying to do as helping them.

One way I build trust is giving them my cell phone number and encouraging them to text me whenever they need to talk. Especially with young girls, they are just looking for someone to connect with. I establish myself as a positive connection and show them that I’m not going anywhere.

How do you know when your efforts are working?
Victims frequently return to their traffickers throughout the intervention process. As a caseworker, we need to be patient and understand that they cannot be forced to do anything before they are ready. Once they finally stop running away from help, we ensure that appropriate support systems are in place so that they can continue on their path to recovery.

What support services do you provide victims to help them transition out of trafficking?
It is essential to help them learn how to manage the emotions, behaviors and other challenging life situations they will face after leaving their trafficker. We have a great partnership with the team at Embark Counseling who provides mental health support specifically designed for victims of trafficking. Gaining the confidence to live independently on their own is a big challenge, so we also connect them with programs to help them finish their GED and show them how to apply for jobs. Throughout the process, we are constantly demonstrating our support and providing them with examples of positive, healthy relationships.

Kempe Professionals Named “Top Docs” by 5280

The Kempe Foundation is proud to support experts in the field who work day in and day out to provide extraordinary care to children in our community. This year, three doctors from the Kempe Center were once again included on 5280 magazine’s list of “Top Docs.” The list recognizes professionals from 95 specialities who were nominated by their peers.

We would like to congratulate the following Kempe Center doctors who were recognized in their area of specialty, Child Abuse Pediatrics.

Dr. Andrew Sirotnak

Dr. Antonia Chiesa

Dr. Kathryn Wells

Child Welfare Training System introduces new training to help prevent child maltreatment fatalities

This fall, Colorado’s Child Welfare Training System will launch a new training for child welfare supervisors and managers – ‘Sleep Tight the Kids Are Alright,’ a reference to the sleepless nights caseworkers and supervisors endure worrying that they are making the right decisions to serve and protect the children under their watch and prevent the worst possible outcome. The course uses case study scenarios and data from child fatality cases in Colorado and provides a space for child welfare supervisors to analyze the events that led to a tragic ending in an effort to prevent similar outcomes in the future.

Since 2013, the Kempe Center has worked alongside the Colorado Department of Human Services to revolutionize the Child Welfare Training System (CWTS). Through leadership and learning, Kempe and CDHS are profoundly and positively impacting Colorado’s children and families through the transformation of the system.

Read more about Sleep Tight the Kids Are Alright.

Kempe, Haruv Institute Launch Innovative Journal to Keep Children Safe

The Kempe Foundation, The Kempe Center, and The Haruv Institute have joined to establish a groundbreaking international journal on child abuse and neglect.
The International Journal on Child Maltreatment: Research, Policy, and Practice will begin publication during the third quarter of 2018. It will be published by Springer Nature, one of the world’s largest scientific publishers, from its office in Dordrecht, The Netherlands.

The journal’s editorial management will be undertaken by The Kempe Center. Based at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, The Kempe Center is supported in its work, including the new journal, by The Kempe Foundation. The principal international partner in the financing and sponsorship of journal is The Haruv Institute, Israel’s leading center for training and research on the protection of children and an active catalyst in international scholarship on child abuse and neglect.

The journal’s stated purpose is the improvement of “policy and practice related to the fulfillment of children’s right to personal security—the protection of children’s physical safety, the promotion of their sense of security, and the assurance of their receiving care sufficient for fulfillment of their basic needs in the settings of everyday life.”

It will include descriptions and reviews of child protection programs and policies and evaluations of their effects, as well as scholarly reports of theory-grounded empirical research on the nature of child maltreatment and its causes and correlates.

Gary B. Melton will be the founding editor-in-chief. He is associate director for community development and social policy at The Kempe Center. He is also professor of pediatrics and of community and behavioral health at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus and visiting professor of education and psychology at the University of Virginia. Melton is the only recipient of four Distinguished Contributions Awards from the American Psychological Association, among other prestigious national and international honors for scholarship and public service.

Jill D. McLeigh will serve as associate editor. McLeigh is research assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. Already an accomplished editor, McLeigh is co-editor of the American Journal of Orthopsychiatryand past associate editor of Child Abuse & Neglect.

“There have been great advances in public concern and knowledge about child maltreatment. However, large gaps persist in the knowledge needed to keep children safe,” said Melton. “Older journals have often emphasized evidence that child maltreatment exists in diverse societies and that it has bad effects on people, both as children and later as adolescents and adults. Such findings by themselves may intensify public concern about child maltreatment. However, they seldom result in insights about what should be done to enhance children’s safety and well-being. The new journal will be a forum for presentation and analysis of innovative programs and policies for prevention, control, and mitigation of child abuse and neglect.”
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About The Kempe Foundation
The Kempe Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization focused on the prevention and treatment of child abuse and neglect. The Kempe Foundation works to keep all children safe and healthy by supporting experts in the field, advocating for children and engaging with communities.

About The Kempe Center
The Center is a section of the Department of Pediatrics in the University of Colorado School of Medicine. It is the oldest clinical care and research center on child abuse and neglect in the world. The Kempe Center provides clinical care and advocacy for child victims, advocacy for policy and prevention efforts, leads national and international research efforts, and provides training of professionals and the public.

About The Haruv Institute
Haruv is Israel’s leading training and research center and one of the preeminent institutions worldwide in the field of child abuse and neglect. The institute was established in 2007 to train professionals, paraprofessionals, researchers, parents and children on the prevention, identification, treatment and rehabilitation of abused and neglected children.

About Springer
Springer is a leading global scientific, technical and medical portfolio, providing researchers in academia, scientific institutions and corporate R&D departments with quality content through innovative information, products and services. Springer has one of the strongest STM and HSS eBook collections and archives, as well as a comprehensive range of hybrid and open access journals. Springer is part of Springer Nature, a global publisher that serves and supports the research community. Springer Nature aims to advance discovery by publishing robust and insightful science, supporting the development of new areas of research and making ideas and knowledge accessible around the world.