Through trainings, publications, and resolutions, the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) works year-round to improve the judiciary’s understanding of and response to domestic child sex trafficking (DCST). This January, the NCJFCJ recognizes National Human Trafficking Awareness Month as an opportunity to call attention to the issue of DCST and the judiciary’s efforts to improve outcomes for child victims. Children who are involved in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems, whether presently or in the past, are vulnerable to being targeted by traffickers. Judges have an important role in preventing victimization and intervening to change the trajectory for children at risk. Around the country, judges are recognizing this role and taking action.
Since 2014, the NCJFCJ, with partners Rights4Girls and the Office on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, has hosted 10 National Judicial Institutes on Domestic Child Sex Trafficking and educated more than 225 judges from 41 states, the District of Columbia, various tribal nations, and Puerto Rico on DCST. The Institute takes an interactive and in-depth approach to educating judges to be better able to identify victims and children at risk of DCST; determine treatment and services needed to assist child survivors; and exercise judicial leadership within the court and community to improve outcomes. Institutes in 2020 will soon be announced, visit the Events Calendar for the latest educational opportunities.
In addition to the national trainings, the NCJFCJ contracts with states to provide “mini” judicial institutes on domestic child sex trafficking. Most recently, in 2018, the NCJFCJ hosted a statewide judicial institute in Houston, TX where 16 judicial officers were trained. In early 2017, the NCJFCJ reached both judges and juvenile justice professionals with the presentation Domestic Child Sex Trafficking: Challenges and Emerging Judicial Strategies at the NCJFCJ’s National Conference on Juvenile Justice. Later that same year, the NCJFCJ educated 80 judges, attorneys, and court staff in Washington, D.C. on DCST and the specialty court response. In 2016, more than 210 judges were educated in Wisconsin and Ohio at these state trainings.
In addition to providing in-person trainings, the NCJFCJ published a series of fact sheets for judicial officers focusing on red flags, what judicial officers should know about DCST, and federal, state, and tribal DCST legislation. In addition, the NCJFCJ gathered the collected voices of judges to compile effective and promising practices to share with other juvenile and family courts. Voices from the Bench: Judicial Perspectives on Handling Child Sex Trafficking Cases describes what judges have learned from their experiences handling DCST cases and implementing victim-centered approaches. It also serves as a practical reference source for juvenile and family court judges interested in improving outcomes in these challenging cases.
In 2016, the NCJFCJ also updated its resolution regarding DCST, which highlights the power of judges to help prevent child sex trafficking. Over the past two years, the NCJFCJ has passed a number of resolutions that take into account a child’s welfare if he or she has been a victim of trafficking – i.e., trauma-informed courts, shackling, adolescent brain development, juvenile probation, oversight of children in group facilities, oversight of youth confinement facilities, solitary confinement for youth, and the needs of homeless youth.
The NCJFCJ also addressed the needs of populations at risk for DCST through judicial tools including a bench card, a partnership with the National Juvenile Defender Center and the State Justice Institute, which provides guidance on working with youth or other juvenile court participants that identify as LGBTQ-GNC. The NCJFCJ also updated the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) Judicial Benchbook, to encourage judicial leaders compliance and guidance to ICWA, which leads to the child safely being returned home or placed in a secure and legally permanent home.
Additionally, the NCJFCJ released two publications in 2015 to assist judges and Native communities in responding to trafficking: Missing Children, State Care, and Child Sex Trafficking: Engaging the Judiciary in Building a Collaborative Response and Creating a Human Trafficking Strategic Plan to Protect and Heal Native Children and Youth. In 2016, the NCJFCJ released the Enhanced Resource Guidelines, which now includes important information for judicial officers to help address the needs of victims of sex trafficking.
On January 11, the NCJFCJ will continue its effort to bring awareness in the prevention of trafficking by participating in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s annual #WearBlueDay by wearing blue in solidarity with survivors of trafficking.
During the month of January, and all year long, the NCJFCJ looks forward to educating judges and other professionals about DCST. Our commitment to improving outcomes for trafficking victims through judicial education is long-term. We hope you will join us in these efforts!
For questions, more information, or to request judicial institutes on domestic child sex trafficking specific to your state, click here.