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Unprecedented Private-Public Collaboration to Support Adolescent Victims of Commercial Sexual Exploitation in Georgia

Unprecedented Private-Public Collaboration to Support Adolescent Victims of Commercial Sexual Exploitation in Georgia

December 29, 2009

ATLANTA (December 29, 2009) - Each month, approximately 374 girls are commercially sexually exploited in Georgia, and the average age of entry into prostitution or the commercial sex market for girls is between 12 and 14 years old. Recently, the Federal Bureau of Investigation named Atlanta as one of 14 cities in the nation with the highest incidence of children used in prostitution. Recognizing child prostitution as a serious problem in Georgia, the Governor's Office for Children and Families (GOCF) created the nation's first statewide response to address the needs of child sex trafficking victims. One of the first milestones for this state initiative was the establishment of the Georgia Care Connection Office, designed to connect victims to essential services and support. However, a challenge has emerged in maintaining adequate funding so that these girls can remain in a safe house treatment setting as long as needed to receive the services vital for recovery. To address this challenge, the Georgia Care Connection Office has established the Safety Gap Fund with Community Foundation for Northeast Georgia to cover the gap for girls who need residential care but have no other source of funding. The Georgia Care Connection Office is asking for community partners to make a contribution in an effort to raise $1.6 million to match what GOCF has already budgeted to address the needs of victims. GOCF supports this public-private partnership in ensuring that all victims receive the services and care they need, and believes that any monetary contribution can make a significant impact.

The Georgia Care Connection Office serves as the single care coordination entity for commercially sexually exploited girls. Care Connection staff recognize the girl as a victim of this severe form of human trafficking, assess the types of support the girl and her family need, and then lead a multi-disciplinary team in developing a comprehensive care plan that addresses those needs. Once the plan is developed, the Care Connection staff locates the appropriate services and assists the family in accessing funding for those services.

From the program's inception, roughly half of all the girls referred are those in parental custody. Since they are in the care of their parents, no stable funding source exists for residential care in a licensed safe house once they have been identified as victims of commercial sexual exploitation. The cost to remain in residential care is $5,600 a month, and a victim in parental custody is at a disadvantage unless her family can afford the monthly bill. All girls who have been victimized by commercial sexual exploitation deserve to have the opportunity to properly recover regardless of the cost.

GOCF is excited about this latest collaborative effort in furthering the initiative to address the commercial sexual exploitation of children in Georgia. As the facilitator of the statewide response, GOCF believes that the Safety Gap Fund is another landmark action to form public and private partnerships to address the needs of these victims, and vital community partners are needed to sustain these girls throughout the recovery process. For information on how to donate money, stock, or property to the Safety Gap Fund, please contact Beverly Estafen, Finance Director for Community Foundation for Northeast Georgia, at 770-813-3380. Donations can also be made online at www.cfneg.org.