According to a new report by Shared Hope International and the Institute for Justice and Advocacy, the majority of states, 40 out of 50, and the District of Columbia received failing grades for their anti-child and youth sex trafficking efforts.
Florida was the only state to receive a C grade. Ten states received D grades (Texas, Mississippi, California, Washington, Colorado, Kentucky, Utah, Tennessee, Louisiana, and Minnesota). No states received A or B grades.
Florida continues to rank third in the nation, behind Texas and California, for the number of calls placed to the National Human Trafficking Hotline.
The report assessed states based on six categories, including criminal provisions, identification and response to victims, continuum of care, access to justice for survivors, tools for victims through states’ criminal justice system, and prevention and training efforts.
Shared Hope launched its national Protected Innocence Challenge around ten years ago to raise awareness and help states create legal frameworks to address the crime of child sex trafficking. It also implemented a state report card system to assess states’ progress. Initially, the majority of states received an “F” grade, “reflecting the reality that many states’ laws failed even to recognize the crime of child sex trafficking,” the report states. Since then, states have enacted trafficking laws and implemented criminal justice policies to combat child sex trafficking.
Voices for Florida, a network of organizations combatting human trafficking, reports that “children are being sold for sex in every county in Florida.”
In 2020, its 774 community partners provided services to over 1,093 victims. The majority were non-Latino Caucasian girls between 13 and 17 who had a history of running away. The majority had also been involved with the Florida DCF, had a history of or were currently experiencing homelessness, and didn’t attend school.
In 2014, the Florida Legislature created a Statewide Council on Human Trafficking. Chaired by the state attorney general, its members are from law enforcement, prosecutors, legislators, and experts in health, education and social services. The Legislature created a Florida Alliance to End Human Trafficking as part of the Council, which met for the first time in August 2019.
Florida has local task forces and coalitions to combat human trafficking in all 67 counties as part of this network.
Children can be victims of human trafficking regardless of their citizenship, residency, or immigrant status. Those suspecting abuse or trafficking are encouraged to call the Florida abuse hotline at 1-800-96-ABUSE or the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.