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Ill. Department of Children, Family Services increases human trafficking awareness

The department partners with four agencies to provide support and services to youth who have been trafficked or are at risk of being trafficked.
Human trafficking awareness
Human trafficking awareness(WTVG)
Published: Jan. 11, 2021 at 2:00 PM CST
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - Jan. 11 is Human Trafficking Awareness Day, and the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services is reminding the public that human trafficking is not something that only happens to people in other countries but occurs every day across Illinois to children whose average age is 14.

To coincide with Human Trafficking Awareness Day, the department launched a new online human trafficking training for DCFS and private agency partner staff. The mandatory training encompasses key concepts and terminology; signs that a youth may be a victim of human trafficking or at risk of being trafficked; experiences of trafficked youth in foster care; and techniques child welfare professionals can use to support youth who have been trafficked.

“Illinois’ children are not immune to the reality of human trafficking, and it’s up to all of us to recognize the signs and call 911 and the DCFS hotline if you think a child may be in danger,” Illinois DCFS Acting Director Marc D. Smith said. “By working in coordination, DCFS and our partners provide a safety net to rescue child human trafficking victims and help them heal.”

When there is an allegation of child human trafficking, the child victim is referred to the local Children’s Advocacy Center where they are asked assessment questions only once by a trained professional in a safe environment. Medical and mental health professionals, law enforcement, prosecution and DCFS investigators observe, ensuring the child is not re-traumatized by recounting events multiple times.

The department partners with four agencies to provide support and services to youth who have been trafficked or are at risk of being trafficked. Chicago’s ReClaim13 provides mentors and offers a congregate care setting for victims of sex trafficking between the ages of 10 and 17; Hoyleton’s HALO program provides services and support to youth in southern Illinois who have been victims of sex trafficking or are at risk of becoming victims; Selah Freedom provides prevention services to youth in care across the state and the Salvation Army’s STOP-IT program provides advocacy and support services to referred youth.

KNOW THE SIGNS. A trafficked child might:

• Have an adult control them by speaking for them

• Seem out of place given the time of day or night

• Look disheveled or dressed in clothes that they could not afford to buy

• Show signs of physical abuse such as bruising or red marks

• Not possess any form of identification

• Perform inappropriate work for their age and not be compensated

Anyone who believes a child might be trafficked, or in danger of being trafficked, should immediately call 911 and the Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-25-ABUSE (800-252-2873).

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