Human Trafficking Awareness Month January 2021

Human Trafficking Hotspot Map courtesy of 

(photo courtesy of:

This is a map of human trafficking hotspots nationwide.

Can you even see North Carolina?

I would venture to say that most people do not know that NC is a hotspot for human trafficking. It is a growing issue that directly impacts the children we serve at Boys and Girls Homes. Youth who have experienced significant trauma in their lives are at higher risk for exploitation in general. Other factors that significantly increase risk of being trafficked include involvement in the child welfare system, abuse and neglect (especially sexual abuse), a history of running away, homelessness, financial problems, inadequate familial and supportive relationship, self or familial substance use or mental health diagnoses, identification as LGBTQ, low self-esteem, lack of identity, and unmet tangible and intangible needs.

Youth who have experienced sex trafficking are at increased risk for: suicide, homicide, unintended pregnancies, substance use disorders, prosecution/conviction/incarceration, homelessness, serious illness/physical harm, PTSD/trauma.

We are part of a statewide collaborative of 12 agencies working together to identify and meet the needs of youth at risk of commercial sexual exploitation/sex trafficking. In October 2019, our collaborative implemented the Commercial Sexual Exploitation – Identification Tool (CSE-IT). The CSE-IT is an evidence-based tool that identifies risk for sex trafficking in youth ages 10 and older. Evidence based means that we have chosen a tool that is an objective and concrete mechanism for determining risk that has been studied and determined to be effective at measuring risk.

As a collaborative, we have screened 1,393 youth for their risk for sex trafficking. 602 of those youth have been identified as at risk for sex trafficking, that is 43% of the youth screened.

Between October 2019 and October 2020, 440 youth in the residential foster care programs of the 12 agencies have a possible or clear concern for sexual exploitation – that is 45% of the total population served in residential foster care. Our data results confirm national trends that historically marginalized populations are at increased risk for commercial sexual exploitation – youth of color and LGBTQ youth.

Now that we have a way to measure risk, Boys and Girls Homes is working to address and decrease that risk over time through the following activities:

·      Moving to a clinical model in all of our residential cottages

·      Providing Trauma Focused - Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) and other evidence based therapeutic practices to youth whose scores indicate that they have possible or clear risk for commercial sexual exploitation

·      Providing Success Coaching for those who are able to return home to increase their chances of being able to remain at home and not be exploited

·      Researching prevention curricula to teach, prepare, and empower our youth.

At Boys and Girls Homes we are doing our part to put an end to this horrible practice. We all have a duty to do something. If you see it, tell someone about it. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. If we avoid talking about it because its taboo, the traffickers win and children, youth, and young adults get hurt. Become part of the solution to end human trafficking in our lifetime.

Rev. John Cobb is the Director of Compliance and Risk Manager for Boys & Girls Homes of North Carolina.

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