Amid growing concern from Florida’s capital to the White House over human trafficking, the head of Florida’s social-services agency outlined plans to create a network of “safe houses” and long-term-treatment facilities where underage sexual workers and other children held against their will could seek refuge and protection, reports the Orlando Sentinel. “We have to have a different treatment program for these kids,” Department of Children and Families Secretary David Wilkins said.
Wilkins called for a “whole new process” to treat children who have been trafficked, particularly those forced into prostitution. A recent change in state law means that children caught being trafficked would enter child protective services rather than going into the juvenile-justice system as has been the case. Wilkins said that putting these children into existing group homes or foster homes could wind up being dangerous, because they could expose other children to the risk of being trafficked, particularly if the victim is still in contact with a pimp. The state plans to work with community-based organizations to create “safe houses” — offering short-term treatment — before the children are moved to a long-term facility for more-intensive counseling and other treatment.