On February 18, the Child Sex Trafficking Subcommittee of San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee’s Task Force on Anti-Human Trafficking discussed the county’s plan to serve commercially sexually exploited children (CSEC) under a new program launched by the state.
Senate Bill 855, signed into law in June 2014 by Governor Jerry Brown, amended California’s Welfare and Institutions Code (WIC) section 300 to clarify that under existing law, commercially sexually exploited children whose parents or guardians are unable to protect them may be served by the juvenile dependency system. Prior to the law, the standard entry point for services for exploited children was through the juvenile justice system – not child welfare.
SB 855 provided money to be administered by the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) to counties that opt in. San Francisco is one of the early counties to state their intention to opt in, paving the way for limited state funds aimed at developing and supporting prevention and intervention services as well as training for child welfare workers, foster caregivers, probation staff, and young people at risk of commercial sexual exploitation.
The state has appropriated $5 million for the CSEC program in fiscal year 2014-15, and that number will rise to $14 million annually beginning in 2015-16.
The creation of the new CSEC program comes after much effort on the part of the state’s CSEC Action Team, created in 2013 by the California Child Welfare Council following the release of their report, “Ending the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children: A Call for Multi System Collaboration in California.” The report, authored by Kate Walker of the National Center for Youth Law, urged the state to “develop a comprehensive and collaborative response to ensure CSE victims are identified and receive the services they need to overcome trauma and live healthy, productive lives.”
All counties opting in to the program must develop interagency protocols for serving CSEC. Barrett Johnson, Program Director, San Francisco Family & Children’s Services Division, provided an update on the department’s development of this protocol during the Feb. 18 meeting.
The National Center for Youth Law won the contract to facilitate the development of San Francisco’s protocol for serving CSEC. This will require parsing through how numerous agencies such as child welfare, juvenile justice and law enforcement work together to serve commercially sexually exploited children.
As required by an All County Letter sent by CDSS on 9/3/14, the team developing the protocol will include representatives of the county human services department, probation, mental health, public health, and the juvenile court.
“Having a uniform protocol developed by our child welfare agency will help create a response to CSEC that treats these youth as survivors of child abuse, not as criminals,” said Minouche Kandel, director of Women’s Policy, San Francisco Department on the Status of Women, in an email to The Chronicle of Social Change. Kandel staffs the Mayor’s Task Force on Anti-Human Trafficking. “San Francisco’s Family & Children’s Services has been an active member of our Task Force on Anti-Human Trafficking, and their engagement in the new CSEC program will bring our response to CSEC to the next level.”
The county is also working with WestCoast Children’s Clinic, an Oakland-based provider of mental health services for youth to develop and pilot a screening tool to assess children being served by Family and Children’s Services for their risk for involvement in commercial sexual exploitation.
The subcommittee also heard an update from Huckleberry Youth Programs, which took over case management for youth identified as CSEC through a San Francisco Department of Children, Youth, and Families contract previously held by the SAGE Project, which closed its doors last fall.