Youth Trafficking Survivors Personalized Recovery Services
Saving Innocence provides a continuum of care to children and youth who have experienced sex trafficking in LA County, including coordinating shelter, clothing, food, medical and mental health care, and ongoing empowerment and advocacy support. We operate from a strengths-based, trauma-informed approach, ensuring the needs of our clients' - most of whom are systems-involved/impacted youth - are acknowledged and met in a timely, caring, culturally appropriate manner, and we advocate for them within DCFS and the juvenile justice system.
What is the primary issue area that your application will impact?
Support for Foster and Systems-Impacted Youth
In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?
County of Los Angeles
In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?
Applying a proven model or solution to a new issue or sector (e.g., using a job recruiting software or strategy to match clients to supportive housing sites, applying demonstrated strategies from advocating for college affordability to advocating for housing affordability and homelessness, etc.)
What is your understanding of the issue that you are seeking to address?
Fourteen years is the average age at which an LA County girl is first trafficked for sex. During exploitation, trafficked youth will experience a range of cruelty and abuse, including regular physical and sexual assault, hunger, forced drug use, emotional manipulation, and developmental delays. Human traffickers are well known for using their victims' vulnerabilities to recruit and then manipulate them into compliance with terrible abuse. Traffickers prey within communities where economic struggle and underinvestment of resources are the norm, and among vulnerable young people, including systems-involved youth (foster care/child welfare & juvenile justice systems). They exploit conditions of poverty, which can cause young people to see themselves as powerless with few options; and social isolation, which feeds yearning for approval and belonging. Without effective intervention, the traumatic cycle of exploitation and abuse begins in childhood and repeats over generations.
Describe the project, program, or initiative this grant will support to address the issue.
As young victims of trauma who are overwhelmingly low-income & people of color (specifically, more than half of our clients are Black youth), and who have personal experience of the juvenile justice/child welfare systems, our clients are already among the most marginalized people in our society. After removal from their traffickers, our clients' needs continue to be many: from urgent needs for safe shelter, clothing, food, and medical attention, to longer-term needs for personal support and care. After initial intervention, our Saving Innocence case managers meet with their clients regularly to provide long-term intensive personal case management, helping them establish a sense of stability as they navigate their journeys to healing. We offer each client support, including: - Direct crisis response after she is recovered from her trafficker - Advocacy to law enforcement and in court; throughout the juvenile justice and/or DCFS system - Ensure she has the material necessities: food, clothes, hygiene/comfort items, school supplies, etc. - Visit her in foster home, care facility, or youth detention center - Help her set personal goals and manage her physical, mental, & emotional health - Support her in building healthy relationships & changing unhealthy patterns - Encourage and help equip her as she goes back to school and/or seeks a job - Celebrate milestones like birthdays, release from detention, & graduation/GED
Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.
Our work predominantly focuses on serving systems-involved youth in LA County who need the kind of trauma-informed, clinically-sound care & advocacy that we provide. While crisis response & case management remain the core of our work, we continue to grow into program areas that respond to our clients' needs. Recent examples of this responsive growth include the Survivor Leadership Academy for Youth (SLAY) & Growth Group personal development & peer support circles for transition-aged youth; our Foster Family Agency; & the Parent Empowerment Program for parents of youth who have experienced trafficking. We recognize that an effective response to sex trafficking includes changing broken systems, not just treating the wounds those systems inflict. It is our mission to build a more supportive and victim-centered culture within the juvenile justice system here in LA: to help others see survivor youth the way we see them, as resilient, creative, brilliant people full of determination & hope.
What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?
Success for us rests on our ability to serve each of our clients effectively and continue to grow our capacity to provide care for every child in need of recovery & restoration after the trauma of commercial sexual exploitation. Many factors influence the outcomes we can expect for each client, based on the client's own experiences before & during their exploitation. Our clients have suffered extreme trauma and abuse, and their healing journeys never follow a simple straight path. We incorporate mechanisms for learning & continual growth into our practice. Our clinical team regularly assesses client case data & client/partner feedback, identifying areas for reinforcement to ensure a consistently exemplary standard of care. Our team has been awarded by the LA Board of Supervisors, Probation Department, and District Attorney for their outstanding contribution to the fight against sex trafficking, and we regularly publish thought leadership & present at national conferences on our work.
Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?
Direct Impact: 400
Indirect Impact: 1,000