- Erie County
Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2021, $665,000)
International Institute of Buffalo Services for Minor Victims of Labor Trafficking Project Abstract Minor victims of labor trafficking are under-identified and underserved in Western New York (WNY). The International Institute of Buffalo’s (IIB) Human Trafficking Survivor Support Services Program with project partners Erie County Department of Social Services (ECDSS), IIB’s Employment Program and sub-awardee BestSelf Behavioral Health (BBH) seek support in expanding the identification of and strengthening services to minor victims of labor trafficking (MVLT) in Erie County, New York (NY) with capacity building efforts in the surrounding counties of Niagara, Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, Genesee, and Wyoming. Identification: In 2014, Erie County identified 11 minor victims of human trafficking. In 2015, NYS’s Safe Harbor legislation was implemented, requiring counties to screen all minors involved in the child welfare system for indicators of sex trafficking. After one year of implementation, Erie County identified 138 minor survivors of human trafficking, an increase of 1,015%. With the support and expertise of Dr. Diane Bessel, IIB and ECDSS seek to replicate this process for labor trafficking of minors. After identifying a validated screening tool, project partners will implement a county-wide training process, expanding screening efforts to include MVLT within the child welfare system and member organizations of the WNY Task Force’s Youth Sub-committee. Dr. Bessel will support IIB for the project’s duration, overseeing evaluation activities to determine progress toward project goals. Dr. Bessel will also share results with surrounding counties and the NYS Office of Children & Family Services which has expressed interest in replicating this process throughout NYS. Services: IIB currently manages a robust services program that includes a specialized youth unit which served 143 minors in 2020 alone, 17 of whom were identified as MVLT. IIB provides trauma-informed, developmentally appropriate case management while also partnering with community medical, mental health, substance use, LGBTQ support, emergency shelter, immigration legal, GED and language access service organizations. However, gaps in the areas of specialized mental health and employment support remain prevalent. As such, IIB will expand its partnerships with BBH and IIB’s Employment Program to focus specifically on the mental health and employment/occupational needs of MVLT. IIB and its project partners seek $665,000 in direct OVC funding with an additional commitment of $221,666 in match funding to achieve these direct services, training, referral and assessment related objectives, with the ultimate goal of expanding the identification of and strengthening services to MVLT in Erie County, New York.