Two years ago Minnesota lawmakers passed the Safe Harbors for Sexually Exploited Youth Act, and Minnesota became just the fifth state in the country to define exploited, sex-trafficked children as victims of crime in need of support and services rather than as criminals in need of arrest and detention.
The law is set to go into effect in 2014, meaning it was on this year’s Legislature to provide funding for counseling, shelters and other help for children rescued from cheap hotel rooms, shabby apartments and elsewhere. It was on this year’s Legislature to assure the support the 2011 Legislature so rightly chose to provide. But only $2.8 million was approved of the $13.5 million identified as necessary for 40 beds of shelter housing in as many as six communities, including in Duluth; for therapy and culturally specific counseling for sex-trafficked children; to hire a state director, six regional heads and 14 youth street outreach workers; and to train law enforcement and others on the front line of this shameful organized criminal activity.
The $2.8 million approved, approximately 20% of the identified needed $13.5 million, will be enough to hire what is believed to be the nation’s first statewide director of child sex-trafficking prevention as well as six regional coordinator positions. The allocation also will pay for up to 12 beds of safe shelter and treatment. Only four such beds exist now.
When the new law goes into effect in less than seven months, what is going to happen? When people come forward to say they’re victims, will they be helped? What about victims rescued by law enforcement? What resources will be there for them?
Will 80 percent of them end up back out on the streets?
Learn more at the Duluth News Tribune article: Our view: Support falls short for sex-trafficked kids.