Fostering stability for victims of human trafficking at the heart of 2-day conference at Vanguard University
A two-day conference hosted by the Global Center for Women and Justice at Vanguard University beginning Friday, March 3, invites educators, childcare workers and families to collaborate and learn how they can better support kids and teens who have been the victims of human trafficking.
Child services in Orange county recovered 85 children who had been sexually exploited for profit in 2022, said Dr. Sandra Morgan, director of the Global Center for Women and Justice. And 78 of them were residents of the area.
“I’ve often heard people say Orange County is a destination [for human trafficking]. But 78 of those kids are our children, so our community needs to step up and make sure every child has the support they need.”
Children who become victims of human trafficking experience prolonged repeated abuse, Morgan said. But when they are taken out of such situations and placed into group homes or some form of shelter, they often run away.
“They’re looking for connection, for family,” Morgan said.
Trafficked children are less likely to run when they are reunited with relatives and placed into their care, Morgan said. And it’s not enough to simply take them off of the street and give them a place to sleep. Guiding them out of a life of exploitation requires the support of loved ones and professionals from a wide variety of fields.
“It takes a really long time before they really feel safe, they’re able to deal all of the mental health issues, the trauma,” Morgan said.
The Ensure Justice Conference hosted in partnership with the Orange County Department of Education is a forum for those who care for and about exploited teens to find ways to better support them. It will feature mock proceedings of G.R.A.C.E. Court, an Orange County family court that specifically handles cases involving trafficked minors. Those demonstrations show attendees the sort of legal issues involved in supporting child victims who have been recovered from the street, and illustrates how many hands are needed to steer them toward brighter futures.
“If you ever go to G.R.A.C.E. court, you may see 14 adults all there for one child,” Morgan said.
The event will also include presentations from experts in child development and welfare, as well as a screening of the documentary “Sextortion: The Hidden Pandemic.” The conference is free to teachers, staff and parents of the Orange County Department of Education, and those interested in attending can register and find a full schedule of speakers and demonstrations at gcwj.org/ensurejustice.
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