Giving a Voice to Children and FamiliesJuly 4th, 2012 by Jess Dannhauser
I’d like to take the opportunity of our Independence Day to update you on how we are using the right we are given in this country to voice our opinions, and to give a voice to those struggling to be heard.
For the past few months our staff and supporters joined other social service agencies to actively advocate for children on two fronts: protecting children from sexual exploitation and ensuring access to after school and early childhood programs. We are pleased to report that there is good news on both fronts, and there remains important work to be done which we invite you to join.
As a child welfare agency we provide services to victims and survivors of trafficking in our foster care and prevention populations, who are particularly vulnerable to exploitation. We have been working hard to develop relationships with law enforcement to protect our children and advocate for investment in services to help child victims. As a result of our recent advocacy with a group of concerned organizations, the New York State legislature invested $1.5 million in the FY13 budget to establish services for commercially sexually exploited children. In addition, the City passed new legislation last week that includes penalties for taxi drivers who knowingly traffic young people, and announces a partnership with airlines to work with law enforcement to reduce international trafficking.
The City legislation also calls on the State to pass legislation that makes it less likely for a young person who is a victim of sex trafficking to be prosecuted for prostitution, and classifies pimping a minor as sex trafficking, which comes with steeper sentences, without making the minor testify about how she/he was coerced. We spoke at a recent press conference to compel the State to pass this Bill and help protect our young people. Unfortunately, this State legislation – which would be more impactful than what the City has jurisdiction to pass – has not yet passed. We will continue to work with our advocacy partners on this issue to help it come to fruition. I invite you to add your voice to this issue so we can get the important State legislation passed.
Tell Village Voice Media to take down their website Backpage.com, which is commonly used for trafficking children for sex. The website Backpage.com is a commonly used tool of those trafficking children for sex. The site, owned by Village Voice Media, makes $22 million each year – and 70% comes from prostitution ads. You can sign a petition through change.org calling on Village Voice Media to take down Backpage.com, a step toward eliminating the channels used in sex trafficking.
Help trafficking victims avoid being charged with crimes
Give victims access to services
Increase penalties for traffickers
Eliminate stigmatizing language
Last week also brought the welcome news that after school and early childhood programs across the City were spared deep budget cuts in FY13, which originally threatened to eliminate 47,000 after school and child care slots. Although the funds were restored in the end, the City created untold stress by informing thousands of families that they would lose important supports. We intend to engage our fellow advocates early next year to ensure that we can avoid this scenario and the accompanying stress and hardship it created for families already struggling to maintain quality care for their children.
We could not carry out our work without friends like you. Your support for our efforts – from our advocacy to the direct services we provide every day – empowers children and families to achieve their own independence, by taking charge of the challenges they face and forging a path toward success in life.
We thank you, and wish you a Happy Fourth!
Nick Kristof, op-ed columnist for The New York Times, has brought media attention to the issue of commercial sexual exploitation of children in his columns:
Not Quite a Teen, Yet Sold for Sex, April 18, 2012
She Has a Pimp’s Name Etched on Her, May 23, 2012
Financiers and Sex Trafficking, March 31, 2012 (about action against Backpage.com)