Friday, October 22, 2010

Trainings, Trainings, and More Trainings! Help!

Hi all,

We've been neck deep in trainings these past two weeks with more on the way!

Why do we do so many trainings? (I ask myself quietly, as I wake up at 7am to haul my Suburu out to yet another trafficking seminar in a far flung spot in Illinois)

I have to be honest, trainings wear me out. Physically. At this age, it's not from nerves. I'm passionate about the topic and the work that we do, so as a result my body temperature seems to involuntarily shoot through the roof at the podium. I tend to look like I ran a marathon by the end of it all or like Shelly Duvall after being chased by Jack Nicholson in the Shining. Worth it? Absolutely. Plus I tend to lose a couple of pounds to boot. Here I am this week training a group of law enforcement professionals. Can you see the beads of sweat?

At almost every training, we see a definite change in how people perceive the problem of human trafficking. IOFA conducts both pre and post training surveys, and inevitably there is a significant percentage increase in participants who believe they have come in contact with a victim of trafficking in some way or another - after they learn what trafficking and victims actually look like. It's a very powerful process that changes perspectives and ultimately saves lives.

That's why we train. That's why I heat up.

Recent Training Updates...

Last Thursday, October 14, IOFA trained over 30 victim witness advocates at the 2010 State of Illinois Prosecutor-Based Victim Advocate Association annual conference in Moline, Illinois. Victim witness advocates are extremely important in the effort to identify trafficking cases. Their purpose is to provide services and support to victims of crime involved with prosecution of a case. Many victims of human trafficking are often discovered through the investigation and prosecution of other types of crimes including domestic violence, immigration disputes, sexual assuault, etc. Victim witness advocates are critical to identiyfing a potential trafficking victim and getting them the appropriate services and assistance. The group was attentive and very interested in the topic, many indicating after the training that they now realize they had encountered potential victims of trafficking and could have provided even more assistance to these individuals, if only they knew then what they learned that day.

On Wednesday, October 20th, IOFA launched the first of six training seminars for law enforcement about identifying and responding to human trafficking from the law enforcement perspective. The trainings are being conducted through Mobile Training Units (MTUs) across the state. IOFA is helping to develop and deliver these trainings in coordination with the Illinois Rescue and Restore Coalition and Sgt. Carla Crubisic from the Chicago Police Department. The first seminar was held in Schaumberg, Illinois and included participants from surrounding precincts in the northeastern areas of the state.

I tell you, it's a difficult sell sometimes to get overworked law enforcement, social service, and legal professionals to be open to taking on yet another social problem. But when they hear the scope, and the consequences, particuarly to young trafficking victims, there is always a passionate interest and desire to know more.

Have a great weekend. More trainings next week. Next week's blog topic: "Aren't Adolescents (aka Teenagers) Really Annoying?" A sneak peek answer: yes and no.


Thursday, October 7, 2010

Hello from IOFA's new intern!

I’d like to introduce myself as the new intern at IOFA! I’m so excited to see IOFA’s work and to participate in their innovation. My interest in serving vulnerable adolescents has developed over a number of life experiences and jobs – perhaps most importantly, my family adopted internationally, so I have always been very connected to international child welfare issues and interested in child welfare systems, both locally and abroad. Work has carried me from helping to transition youth to independence from foster care in Miami and the Bronx – which exposed me to trends and terrifying prospects faced by youth in American foster care – to working in international adoption in New York. It was this experience at an adoption agency that inspired me to wonder, then research, and then worry fervently, “What happens to the youth in alternative care internationally who are not adopted? How do they fare?” I traveled to Kenya with these questions, working with adolescents “aging out” of orphanage care in rural Ngong, and was deeply troubled by the barriers and dangers they faced, and frustrated by the dearth of published research and support provided to this population. I enrolled at the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago, and have just returned from Cambodia researching this very issue, about which I have become so impassioned. It is clear to me that adolescents face unique and complex issues that so few social service agencies are equipped to address, and I am thrilled to find IOFA as a tailored expert in protecting this population from trafficking and exploitation. I am excited to be a part of IOFA’s continually expanding project base both domestically and internationally, as the support to vulnerable adolescents is such an important need with such little international attention. I’m sure I’ll be back soon with updates – thanks for reading!
Susan Rosas

Monday, October 4, 2010

Conference Recap; Cook County State's Attorney, Anita Alvarez Announces Partnership with IOFA

Hi all,

Thanks to all of you who attended last weeks Child Trafficking Conference at Loyola University and for attending the IOFA-related presentations and events. I had the wonderful opportunity to speak about the Building Child Welfare Response to Child Trafficking project with our partner, Katherine Kaufka Walts at the Center for the Human Rights of Children at Loyola University. As mentioned, The purpose of the project is to address systemic gaps in policies, protocols, and practice for proper identification and response to child and youth victims of trafficking within child welfare systems. Our first implementing partner was the Illinois Department for Child and Family Services and we have received a continuation grant of $37,000 from the Chicago Community Trust for meeting the final project outcomes.

IOFA and CHRC will publish a monograph outlining the BCWR project in October 2010. It will be available online and by order via CHRC. Be on the look out for an upcoming announcement on how to order and access copies.

We had a slight change of plans for the evening film event. Guy Jacobson had to return to Israel for a family medical emergency. In his place, we screened his latest documentary, Redlight, in it's entirety. Around 50 people showed up for the event, with a good cross section of professionals, students, and the general public. We will be talking about the film on the blog in the near future, particularly about the use of children in films where they are required to talk about traumatic experiences without protection of their identities. The film was very intense and the audience was very overwhelmed by the end of it. If you attended the event, we welcome feedback on your experience, what you thought of who participated in the film, and any other issues related to the content. A beautifully filmed piece that begs further discussion.

Finally, IOFA is pleased to announce a new partnership with the Cook County State's Attorney's office and the Salvation Army, in support of the new Enhanced Collaborative Model to Combat Human Trafficking Grant funded by the Office of Victims of Crime at the Department of Justice. IOFA will be supporting these two organizations in facilitation of the grant and will help to develop and manage a county-wide anti-trafficking task force. For 10 years, IOFA has built collaborative and interdisciplinary task forces in the US and around the world for the purposes of better victim identification, response, and prosecution of human trafficking cases. As the key note speaker, Cook County State Attorney, Anita Alvarez announced the partnership with IOFA and the Salvation Army during her opening remarks on day one of the conference. We will bring on a new staff person to serve as our IOFA Program Specialist to help both partners implement the project in the coming years. Very exciting news. We'll be officially announcing the details of this new project in the coming weeks.

Stay tuned to IOFA-Talk to learn more about our new strategic plan, upcoming projects, and new staff and interns coming on board!