Human Trafficking Awareness Month:
Devereux Florida on supporting survivors and advocating for change
want to ensure sexually exploited youth are not defined by what happened to
them but, instead, given a fresh start at life.”
- Devereux Advanced
Behavioral Health Florida Program Manager Erin
year, millions of people around the world are victims of human trafficking. In
the U.S., Florida ranks third in the number of calls to the National Human Trafficking hotline. Many of these calls
are in reference to children who are lured into commercial sexual exploitation
or labor through force, fraud or coercion.
In addition to the larger Devereux organization,
Devereux Florida is working to combat
this form of modern-day slavery by raising awareness and understanding.
have a responsibility in our state and in our communities to not only provide
high-quality, evidence-based programs and services to those who have
experienced this unimaginable trauma and abuse, but also identify and protect
children and adolescents who are at risk for commercial sexual exploitation,”
said Wirsing. “Our ultimate goal is to grant hope and healing to individuals in
need, and empower them to take control of their lives and thrive.”
A story of survival
individual who is embracing her new life – thanks to support from Devereux
Florida – is “Jesse.” (Jesse’s name was
changed to protect her identity.)
Jesse was a young child living abroad, her parents dreamed of a better life for
her in the U.S., and sent her to live with extended family in Florida. Feeling
alone and abandoned, Jesse began to act out. Her family felt they had no choice
but to place her in foster care.
to make emotional connections, Jesse moved between group homes and sought
comfort from people who pressured her into making a living on the streets.
changed when Jesse enrolled in Devereux Florida’s residential treatment
program. She gradually opened up and addressed the trauma and loss she had
experienced. While at Devereux, Jesse earned her high school diploma,
describing herself as an “empowered woman” with life goals that included going
noted, “Devereux truly helped me. I now know how important it is to make good
friends who are a positive influence.”
Devereux Florida’s CSEC
Florida’s Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) program provides
comprehensive treatment for children and adolescents, like Jesse, who have
experienced emotional, physical or sexual trauma.
teach those in our care how to recognize their inherent worth and value,
develop healthy relationships, set appropriate boundaries and manage their
emotions more effectively,” Wirsing explained. “In addition, as a prevention
method, we explain the dangers of sexual exploitation, so youth can recognize
this type of treatment before it
Florida’s CSEC services are offered in both residential and outpatient
settings. The center also operates “safe foster homes,” where foster families
receive specialized training to better care for youth who are victims of sexual
Seeking state funding
to enhance services
report by the Human
Trafficking Institute found that more than half of all active criminal human
trafficking cases in the U.S., in 2018, were sex trafficking cases involving children.
According to the U.S. Department of
the average age of children who first fall victim to sexual exploitation is 12
to 14 years old.
help address this significant problem, Devereux Florida is advocating for
additional funding from the state to expand CSEC services and provide
trauma-focused clinical training to foster parents and caregivers statewide.
remain committed to ensuring help is available to survivors and their
caregivers in safe, nurturing and therapeutic environments,” said Devereux
Florida Director of External Affairs Lindsey
Phillips. “Thanks to support from the Florida Legislature in recent years,
our team has been able to provide therapeutic services that have resulted
in a 98 percent reduction in trauma symptoms for exploited youth. We look
forward to continued support from our lawmakers, to allow us to expand our
services in the state and provide youth with the tools they need to overcome
their past and build a bright future.”
addition to Florida, Devereux’s CSEC services, which vary by state, are
currently available in Arizona, Georgia, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Texas.
more about Devereux Florida’s CSEC
Learn more about Devereux Advanced
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Read this Autism Spectrum News article spotlighting Devereux Pennsylvania’s Community Adult Autism Partnership Program, which transitioned to telehealth services during COVID-19. Team members have found that these services have helped adults with autism maintain structure and consistency, while providing increased opportunities for socialization with their peers in a new virtual formal.
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Ten Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health centers have been recognized by the Human Rights Campaign, the leading LGBTQ rights and advocacy group in the U.S., for supporting and serving LGBTQ youth and families.