Thursday, October 30, 2014

Fostering Hope: Intersections of Foster Care and Human Trafficking

One great thing about living in Georgia is the vibrant and longstanding anti-trafficking movement in the state. Every couple of weeks there is an event or gathering sponsored by one of the numerous non-governmental organizations working on this issue in Atlanta. This week I went to a talk on the intersections of foster care and domestic minor sex trafficking sponsored by Street Grace a faith-based organization in cooperation with Georgia Cares the state coordinating agency connecting services and support for child victims of trafficking and exploitation. The talk was held at Peachtree Presbyterian Church in Buckhead the most affluent neighborhood in Atlanta. The connections between the church and the anti-trafficking movement are much more apparent here in the South than they were in other regions of the US. 

The talk began with Senator Renee Unterman who has authored a number of pieces of legislation combating human trafficking in Georgia. She spoke about how she became aware of human trafficking and how she used research on the subject to convince other lawmakers that it was a problem in Georgia. She also spoke about the safe harbor bill that anti-trafficking NGOs will be lobbying for this legislative session.  
Senator Renee Unterman speaking to the crowd. 
The picture below shows members of the panel discussing the connections between child trafficking and foster care. According to one study conducted in New York Office of Children and Family Services 75% of trafficking victims have been placed in foster care. 
They also introduced the Street Grace Research Institute which looks to understand how and why foster youth are drawn into domestic minor sex trafficking. The research institute will use applied research to examine human trafficking in Atlanta. I spoke with the new director of the institute and I am hoping my students will be able to coordinate research projects with them in the future.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Route 2 Change 5K and Duathlon

October 18 is the European Union Anti-trafficking Day so people and organizations around the world got together to walk and raise awareness for human trafficking. In Atlanta  YouthSpark, my local anti-trafficking organization also organized the Route 2 Change, a 5K running event and a duathlon with a 10K biking component. Since I don't have a suitable bike I decided to run the 5K in order to raise awareness and money for  YouthSpark. This is a picture of me before the race watching the sunrise with the Atlanta skyline in the background.

This is me after the race! I took first place for my age group and here is a picture of me with my trophy, the second place winner, and YouthSpark board members. 

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Global Modern Slavery Directory

Polaris Project, Freedom Fund and Walk Free Foundation released the Global Modern Slavery Directory today. This is the first collaborative effort to combine resources and map non-governmental organizations that work on human trafficking initiatives around the world. According to the website "The Directory aims to map out the contours of the movement worldwide to enable more effective communication among stakeholders." Although there are currently only 949 organizations listed in the database and there are many holes in the data. For example in Russia and Ukraine there are only three organizations listed in each country which does not even begin to scratch the surface of organizations in those two countries. However, there is room to expand the database and you can submit new directory items and expand the database here. The website states that "this first release of the Directory represents the efforts of multiple organizations that have contributed by engaging in thought leadership, sharing contact lists of member and partner organizations, and offering volunteer and staff time to verify organizations for inclusion in the directory." Consequently, there is room to expand the database to make it truly inclusive and representative of the trafficking movement around the world. Despite this shortcoming it is an ambitious effort to identify and connect actors around the world working on this issue. I think it will definitely use it in my future research as a starting point for communication with NGOs in new countries of research. It is also a great reference for students seeking to start researching human trafficking topics in different countries around the world.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

YouthSpark Community Ambassador Training

Last weekend I attended the Community Ambassador Training at YouthSpark. The training educates community members about human trafficking and YouthSpark programs and then these community members in turn volunteer their time to raise awareness to this issue. This semester my students are partnering with YouthSpark and evaluating this program. So along with a few of my students I went down to the Fulton County Juvenile Court which is where YouthSpark is located on a Saturday morning to attend the training. It is the nicest 
juvenile court I have ever been to and to the right is a picture of the outside of the building.

This is the seal that greets you when you enter the courthouse.

The training room with YouthSpark trainers and fellow community members. 
Me and my students at the training.
My certificate of completion from the Community Ambassador Training.