A disturbing new report says 51 potential minor human trafficking victims — five of them age 6 and under — were discovered over a nine-month period through a statewide first-response network.
The information comes from the Ohio Network of Children’s Advocacy Center, which has a state contract to screen children who are referred by law enforcement, children’s service agencies, and others.
Statistics from the July 2013 to March 2014 found 51 minors identified as possible human trafficking victims. While the majority were 13 to 18 years old, five of the victims were age six and under. All but 1 of the 51 cases involved females. They came from both urban and rural areas.
Information on three of the five youngest victims indicated they were trafficked sexually by one or both of their parents in “exchange for drugs, rent, goods or money,” explained Amy Deverson Roberts of the Children’s Advocacy network. She said some cases have been referred for prosecution and others are pending. She could not release specifics about any of the cases.
The suspected victims were referred for help to law enforcement, children’s services, mental health providers and other agencies as needed, Robert said.
“It’s all about collaboration to provide the best services for victims,” she said.
The network last year received a $523,000, two-year grant from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services to provide training to detect signs of trafficking, do education programs, and handle child referrals. The grant resulted from a human trafficking task force and executive order issued by Gov. John Kasich.
Officials estimated that 1,100 children are forced into the sex trade each year in Ohio; 13 is the most-common age for children to be victimized.
By Alan Johnson - The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio (MCT)
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