Kansas Shelter for Trafficking Victims

The state of Kansas has designated the Wichita Children’s Home as a state shelter for human-trafficking victims. Under a new anti-human-trafficking law that went into effect January 1, the state needed to designate a state shelter because, until now, the main alternative available to law enforcement was to send trafficking victims to juvenile jails, said Karen Countryman-Roswurm, founder and director of Wichita State University’s Center for Combating Human Trafficking and a national expert on human trafficking.

Anna Pilato, deputy secretary for the Kansas Department of Children and Families, said this does not mean that the Children’s Home is the only place trafficking victims might be sent. Depending on each case, Pilato said, some children might be sent there, or to foster care, or possibly back to their families if that is deemed best.

Countryman-Roswurm said that the Children’s Home is underfunded for its new responsibility. “As a community, we need to make sure this new care we are offering these children will be long-term and sustainable. If not, it will be funded for a couple of years and then go away, and what will we have accomplished?”

Countryman-Roswurm, a former Wichita runaway, was the catalyst for persuading the state to pass a law last year redefining Kansas child sex workers as victims needing aid and shelter rather than as “prostitutes” deserving arrests and jail terms. Under the terms of a grant proposal, the Children’s Home will receive $120,850 a year in state money to provide four beds to take in human trafficking victims from all over the state. Those children will be offered the shelter for 72 hours of assessment and aid.There were so few options before that law enforcement usually placed human-trafficking victims in juvenile jails when police found them during arrests for prostitution crimes. All that often accomplished was to encourage those children to rely more on pimps than the authorities.

The Children’s Home designation is not yet a victory for the victims, Countryman-Roswurm said. “Now that we got this going, let’s commit to growing it,” she said.

Learn more at Roy Wenzl’s and Stan Finger’s The Wichita Eagle article: Wichita Children’s Home named state shelter for human-trafficking victims.

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