At Kempe, we believe our children’s future and the world’s future are one. We act on this belief by working to eliminate traumatic experiences that adversely impact a child’s development while strengthening positive ones. Child abuse and neglect are obvious threats to healthy development, and can lead to many life-long adverse effects for a child. In the coming months, we will explore a few other threats to healthy development, bringing together community partners to help shine a light on these connections, and even more how we can partner as a community to end the cycle of abuse and positively impact child development.

Our first focus in this effort to “unite communities” is on child sex trafficking. Sex trafficking of minors has been reported in all 50 states, including Colorado. Between 2008 and 2013, Colorado’s human trafficking hotline (CoNEHT) provided services to more than 437 suspected and confirmed labor and sex trafficking victims throughout Colorado. In our metro area, cases have been confirmed in Denver, Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield and Jefferson counties. Child sex trafficking is child abuse. It can happen in any community, to children of any age, gender, race, and socioeconomic background. It is often a hidden crime, and many children or youth who are being trafficking may not even view themselves as victims.

While we may think of trafficking as portrayed in movies with child victims kidnapped and enslaved, it is more commonly a subtle grooming process where vulnerable youth are identified and recruited over time.

Much like victims of child abuse, many of the root causes of human trafficking are the same. Youth with a history of homelessness, identify as LGBTQ, have involvement in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems, experience poverty and economic inequality, struggle with substance abuse themselves or in the home, and experience some level of social inequality are all at greater risk. Even more, youth who are a part of the foster care system are some of the most vulnerable.

Human trafficking isn’t a new issue in our state, but we have made strides to combat it in recent years. In 2012, Governor Hickenlooper established the Colorado Human Trafficking Council. One of the first items the council focused on was including child sex trafficking in the legal definition of child abuse and neglect. Supported by the Kempe Foundation, that legislation passed in 2016 and was an important step in allowing child welfare agencies in all Colorado counties to provide services to victims and focus on prevention efforts.

Today, there are several active collaborations in our state working on victim assistance and response, law enforcement action, survivor assistance, public awareness and prevention.

In the coming weeks, the Kempe Foundation will highlight efforts by professionals in the field like Denise Abdoo, PhD, CPNP, MSN from the Kempe Center who coordinates the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Program Team at Children’s Hospital. We will also highlight efforts from Jefferson and Arapahoe counties to combat child sex trafficking regionally. Finally, we are partnering with fellow nonprofit Extended Hands of Hope to highlight their work to provide safe housing and supportive services to sex trafficking survivors.

We encourage you to learn more about human trafficking and its impact on our Colorado communities by attending these local trainings and events:

Saturday, September 8 – EatUp! Denver

EatUp! Denver is Extended Hands of Hope’s largest annual fundraiser in support of their commitment to equipping young girls who have been trafficked and exploited with the necessary resources to move forward. Learn more and register here.

Thursday, October 4 – Uniting Communities for Kids: Sex trafficking and child maltreatment

7:30-9:00 a.m.
Wellshire Events Center – 3333 S Colorado Blvd. Denver, CO
Tickets $45 | Register Here

Join us for breakfast and hear from our panel of experts on what efforts are being made to prevent sex trafficking in Colorado as well as the treatment programs provided to the victims that are rescued.

Kempe is partnering with Extended Hands of Hope, a nonprofit offering safe housing and supportive services to sex trafficking survivors, to bring this important information to the forefront of the conversation on child maltreatment. Find out what more can be done and how you can help.