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TX Program Aims to Help Child Victims of Human Trafficking

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Wednesday, October 6, 2021   

AUSTIN, Texas - Countless children who are victims of human trafficking are getting help through a new grant program in Texas.

A bill passed by the Texas Legislature and signed by Gov. Greg Abbott is allowing the Texas Health and Human Services Commission to administer funds to help address the high need for emergency shelters and treatment programs.

Sandy Hennip, executive director of Unbound North Texas, said the state ranks second in the nation for the most cases of human trafficking, with most young people enticed via social media.

"A lot of how young men and women get pulled into trafficking is what they would call a 'grooming' process, where they kind of get lured in," she said, "and then - even though they're physically free to leave - emotionally, socially, psychologically, they're bound."

A 2016 report by the University of Texas at Austin found about 80,000 young people were identified among the more than 300,000 sex and labor trafficking victims in the state.

Hennip said the common profile among trafficked youths includes developmental trauma, abuse and neglect. Until recently, she noted, the Dallas/Fort Worth area has been without a 24/7 drop-in shelter to support at-risk youths.

"And we know that youth that are homeless, runaway - they're at a heightened vulnerability to being trafficked. And so, we just opened our youth drop-in center in Tarrant County this last October."

Unbound North Texas will host an outreach event, called "Not In My City," on Saturday in Dallas.

Hennip said the average American may not know how much child trafficking goes on in Texas or other parts of the United States because movies often depict it as an international problem.

"What we see here is much more domestic trafficking," she said. "So, there's easy access and flow of people, if you will, which sounds awful - but in trafficking, people are commodities."

In addition to shelters, the new state grant program will help facilities provide mental and behavioral health services, immediate trauma support, medical care and referrals and legal advocacy.

Disclosure: Annie E Casey Foundation contributes to our fund for reporting on Children's Issues, Criminal Justice, Early Childhood Education, Education, Juvenile Justice, Welfare Reform. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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