On Wednesday, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services announced the creation of a network of first responders that will assist victims of human trafficking. to do that, the state will work with the Ohio Network of Children’s Advocacy Centers.
The announcement was made at Michael’s House in Fairborn – a place where abused children can get counseling, mental health and medical services, in a comforting environment. Michael’s House is one of 24 Children’s Advocacy Centers the state is now working with.
Michael Colbert is Director for the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. He says the trafficking network would serve a different purpose than foster care programs already in place.
“That system was designed for those young people in the case of abuse and neglect to have another home, whether its residential facility or whether its foster care," Colbert said. He added that the system, "was not really designed to wrap services around those individuals who have been in human trafficking.”
Elizabeth Ranade-Janis is the Ohio Anti-Trafficking Coordinator. She says partnering with the Children’s Advocacy network is an important step in the fight against human trafficking.
“Until yesterday evening, I didn’t have information on what it meant to be a child vicitm of trafficking in the state of Ohio," Ranade-Janis said. She added, “Now I have specific information on 20 children, who were identified through our child advocacy centers. I am confident, unfortunately, that as the two years progress, we will have a much better handle on the size and scope of the problem.”
As of September there have only been 15 arrests for human trafficking in Ohio this year, but officials believe the problem is much more widespread.
John Born, director of the Ohio Department of Public Safety says Governor John Kasich human trafficking task force set up 2 years ago was a step in the right direction.
Born thinks the progress is two-fold in that it's brought "greater recognition" to the issue of trafficking. He says, "Many people had no idea this was going on and is going on really close to home."
And secondly, Born hopes this collaborative effort will reduce the threat and the impact of human trafficking.