Devereux certifies first ‘safe’ foster homes for sexually exploited youth in Central Florida
Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health Florida recently announced the certification of two foster families as “official safe homes” – providing special assistance and support for sexually exploited youth in Central Florida.
The issue: A recent report from the National Human Trafficking Hotline ranks Florida third in the nation for this horrific crime and, globally, the numbers are staggering – an estimated 21 million children, women and men are victims of trafficking and forced labor.*
Devereux is the provider of choice nationwide in supporting commercially sexually exploited youth on their path to healing through trauma-informed, evidence-based clinical therapies delivered in a caring and compassionate environment. This certification of identified safe foster homes allows Devereux Florida to take these services to a new level by conducting state-approved training for foster parents of this vulnerable population.
DCF relies on Devereux to provide training
In recent years, legislation in Florida has evolved to include “safe foster homes” as an option for survivors of sexual exploitation, in addition to safe houses and residential treatment centers. The Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) named Devereux as one of two providers in the state authorized to provide the mandated training required for safe foster home certification.
At the end of January, in partnership with the Florida DCF, Devereux certified its first two “safe foster homes” in Central Florida, which are among the first in the state. Existing Devereux foster families underwent additional training to meet the requirements outlined in the Florida statute, and will be provided with ongoing support by Devereux’s clinical experts in the treatment of sexually exploited youth.
“We’re so excited that we have families who have decided this is a path for them, that they wanted to get trained to have extra knowledge and expertise to take trafficked youth into their homes and provide a safe foster home,” said Devereux Florida Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children Program Director Erin Wirsing in a recent Orlando Sentinel article.
In addition to foster parent support, the initiative supports Devereux Florida’s training for caregivers, clinicians and child welfare professionals regarding the treatment of sexually exploited youth.
Enhanced support for a vulnerable population
“This has been a four-year initiative, and we are proud to be able to make a difference with, and provide enhanced support for, this vulnerable population,” said Devereux Florida Director of External Affairs Lindsey Phillips. “And we couldn’t have done it without the support of Florida’s lawmakers – particularly Representative Bob Cortes, Representative Jason Brodeur, Representative Gayle Harrell and Senator Debbie Mayfield -- who have dedicated time and resources to support this initiative and address human trafficking in the state.
“This significant development in our system of care will pave the way for more families to become certified as safe foster homes – making a lasting impact on the lives of the sexually exploited youth in Florida,” continued Phillips.
About Devereux’s CSEC program
Devereux’s Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children program provides sophisticated treatment for girls and boys across the country, ages 10-21, who have experienced emotional, physical and sexual trauma. These services – currently available in our Florida, Georgia, Pennsylvania and Texas locations – offer individual and group therapy to address the complex traumas of exploited youth, while also providing a sense of community and reducing feelings of isolation. Devereux also works with youth to instill skills to develop healthier lifestyles, improving their ability to safely and successfully reintegrate into their families and communities.
*Data according to the UNICEF “End Trafficking Toolkit."