While completing my undergraduate degree in social work at SUNY Brockport I was fortunate to study under policy workers who promote wide scale change for the benefit of vulnerable populations as well as an expert in sex trafficking. Working with these mentors increased my awareness of human trafficking – an issue I had been vaguely aware of, but largely uninformed about. I, like many others, had considered human trafficking to be an international issue. Because of this misconception I had missed the connection between human trafficking and the large migrant farm worker population in my own hometown of Sodus, NY.
After graduation I worked at a residential facility for pregnant and parenting teen mothers. Many of my clients were considered runaways until they became pregnant and entered the program. Looking back now, I can see indicators amongst many of my clients suggesting they may have been victims of sex trafficking. For example, some of my clients would run away from placement for a weekend and come back with new clothes, electronics, or money. One client in particular would talk about the various adult sexual partners that she had and what they would buy for her for being their ‘girlfriend.’ Many of my clients had the name of their boyfriend tattooed on their arms or chest, and most of my clients were involved in gangs, or were involved with someone who was in a gang. Even though I didn’t quite understand all of the things my clients were going through at the time, I knew that I wanted to help them and that I currently did not have the skills or knowledge to do so. I then deiced that it was time to go back to school to complete my Master’s Degree in Social Work at the University at Albany, SUNY.
I am excited about my work as a ChildRight: New York intern at IOFA. In a few short weeks I have already learned so much about labor and sex trafficking, and I am eager to continue learning about human trafficking as it affects children and youth in New York State. I look forward to incorporating my knowledge from working with vulnerable youth into the statewide response to child trafficking, and to contribute to the development of the ChildRight: New York Handbook and Blueprint. I am looking forward to learning and growing with all of you!
Caitlin Gallacher, ChildRight: New York Intern