How to advocate for trafficking prevention in your local school districts

By Holly Austin Smith — From her column Speaking Out in the Washington Times

Gavel

WASHINGTON, DC, 30 May 2012 – Ever since Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell signed into legislation the SB 259/HB1188 bill, I have received emails from advocates around the country asking how they might bring similar change to their own states.  This bill, which was sponsored by Senator Adam Ebbin and Delegate Vivian E. Watts, will require the Board of Education and the Department of Social Services to collaborate and provide awareness and training materials for local school divisions on human trafficking, including strategies to prevent trafficking of children.  As a survivor advocate for this bill, I’m proud that others want to join the movement.

On January 16th, 2012, I testified in Richmond, Virginia before the General Assembly Education Committee regarding SB259.  As a survivor of child trafficking, I cared about this bill very much.

Initially, I was unnerved by the political setting.  A panel of busy lawmakers pushed each impassioned, and sometimes angry, speaker past the crowd of observers anxiously awaiting their own turns to speak for or against some other bill.  I nervously scratched and scribbled at my speech until I was finally called upon to speak.  Although I was uneasy, I was also adamant about explaining why a law like this is imperative in the fight to protect our children from predatory child traffickers.

Read the article on the Washington Times website

Neet’s Sweets: Human trafficking survivor and Entrepreneur bakes to make a difference

By Holly Austin Smith — From her column Speaking Out in the Washington Times

Neet

WASHINGTON, DC, May 23, 2012 – Meet Antonia “Neet” Childs, Founder and Executive Director of Neet’s Sweets Incorporated in Charlotte, North Carolina.  Neet, a survivor of human trafficking, discusses the difficulties and rewards to being a young entrepreneur:

“[I thank] God for this day, as well as every day, that I can continue to keep fighting and pushing [for] my dream. As I embrace 27, I think about what it has [taken] for me to get to this point…I am not even supposed to be here.  Just being a young black woman starting a business is tough, so I am forever grateful that I am able to use my past as my strength to inspire others to use theirs, because that’s what it’s about.”

Neet says she dreamed of having her own bakery ever since she was a little girl.  Neet’s Aunt Koona owned a catering business and, as a child, Neet followed her around the kitchen.

Read the article on the Washington Times website

Start strategies to prevent child trafficking early

By Holly Austin Smith — From her column Speaking Out in the Washington Times

Girl and brick wall

WASHINGTON, DC, May 16, 2012 – Last week, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell signed into legislation several bills aimed to combat human trafficking within the state.  As a survivor of child trafficking, I was honored to be part of the bill signing ceremony at the Northern Virginia Community College in Alexandria, VA.  However, as an advocate for the SB 259/HB1188 bill, I am concerned about the future implementation of this legislation.

This bill, which was sponsored by Senator Adam Ebbin and Delegate Vivian E. Watts, requires the Board of Education and the Department of Social Services to provide awareness and training materials for local school divisions on human trafficking, including strategies to prevent trafficking of children. I’m told that passing the bill was the easy part. The hard part is ensuring its execution and impact.

Read the article on the Washington Times website

Courtney’s 10 Tips for Educators

Courtney's House BannerThe past few weeks have been so busy and so very exciting!  Speaking at the 2012 National Trafficking in Persons Symposium in Salt Lake City, UT allowed me to meet so many fabulous survivors.  I was invited by several different organizations to speak at events in VA, NJ, and PA:  the Virginia Attorney General’s Office; the Henrico, VA Police Academy; the University of Pennsylvania; the State Public Affairs Committee of the Junior Leagues of NJ; the NJ Human Trafficking Task Force, the Children Advocacy Centers of VA, and others.

Last week, I attended a bill signing ceremony at the Northern Virginia Community College in which Governor Bob McDonnell signed into legislation several bills aimed to help fight human trafficking.  One such bill will require the Board of Education and the Department of Social Services to provide awareness and training materials for local school divisions on human trafficking, including strategies for the prevention of trafficking children.  To read more, please visit my new weekly column with the Washington Times.

As a follow-up to this article, 14-year-old Courtney (8th grade middle school student and namesake for Tina Frundt’s organization, Courtney’s House) offered to write up some tips to help teachers recognize when a child is being trafficked.

Thank you so much, Courtney!  You are so smart and brave and AMAZING!!

Courtney’s 10 Tips for Educators on How to Recognize a Child / Teen is in Danger of Trafficking Continue reading

A call to action: prevention efforts must begin in schools

By Holly Austin Smith — From her column Speaking Out in the Washington Times

Help Me

WASHINGTON, DC, May 8, 2012 – Reports of child sex trafficking cases have been sweeping through the nation.  Northern Virginia alone has had several cases reported by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia in the past 6 months, several of which involved violent gangs like MS-13 and the Underground Gangster Crips (UGC).

In a case from just last month, a Manassas, Virginia member of the street gang, SUR-13, pled guilty to the sex trafficking of a 14-year-old girl.  And just days ago, it was reported that a Lorton, Virginia leader of the Crips gang was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of luring at least seven high school girls into a child sex trafficking ring by recruiting them from local schools and through online social networking sites .

Read the article on the Washington Times website