Help for Trafficked Minors

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What are Trafficked Minors?

Young people typically lack the experience, resources, and rights that adults have. This makes them more vulnerable to becoming victims of trafficking. In the United States, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) considers any person under the age of 18 years old and coerced, defrauded, or forced to work at the benefit of another party to be a trafficked minor. The Act also allows any person under the age of 18 who is in the commercial sex trade - whether or not they've been coerced, forced, or defrauded - to receive trafficking victim services. Any minor regardless of nationality or gender is protected under this Act.

Trafficked Minors + Streetwork Project

Safe Horizon’s Streetwork Project was founded in 1984 as a response to juvenile prostitution in New York City's Times Square area. Since its inception the program has expanded into a comprehensive social service program for anyone who is younger than 24 years old and homeless. Streetwork serves New York City where nearly 32,000 teens call the streets home; where on any given night an average 3,800 young people are sleeping on the streets - and of that number, 150 will spend the night with someone who pays them for sex. In a 2008 study of New York City's commercially sexually exploited youth, most cited Streetwork as the place they visited most frequently for help, compared to other homeless and runaway youth organizations.

Streetwork continues to provide holistic, non-judgmental services to homeless young people regardless of their situations. We make more than 19,000 contacts a year and provide direct emergency and practical services to more than 1,800 young people annually.

Streetwork: Services for Trafficked Minors

Safe Horizon is committed to working with any minor involved in the sex trade, whether they are in their situation due to choice, circumstance, or coercion. Safe Horizon has an equal commitment to working with minors who have been victims of labor trafficking. We have worked with U.S. citizens as well as foreign born young people who were forced to work in illegal conditions. Minors in this country, regardless of their immigration status, have a right to be in school and are protected by our country’s child labor laws.

When young people are working more than they are in school or are being held out of school so they can work, laws are being broken. If that young person does not want to be working and is not able to keep the money they are making, the situation might be labor trafficking. We have worked with young people who were trafficked by their family members as well as young people who were trafficked by acquaintances or strangers. If a young person was 1) recruited, harbored, moved, or obtained by 2) force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of 3) involuntary servitude, debt bondage, or slavery – this is child labor trafficking.

Streetwork clients are offered the following free services as available:

  • legal, medical, and psychiatric services
  • individual and group counseling
  • case management and advocacy
  • help in obtaining identification
  • emergency shelter and assistance obtaining long-term housing
  • GED preparation and support
  • help in obtaining Medicaid, Food Stamps,  and other benefits
  • hot meals, showers, and clothing
  • wellness activities including acupuncture, yoga, and nutritional counseling
  • HIV testing with pre- and post-test counseling, and HIV prevention counseling
  • syringe exchange and drug counseling including overdose prevention and low-threshold buprenorphine assessment and treatment
  • parenting groups
  • the opportunity to socialize in a safe, non-judgmental setting

All clients are assigned a primary counselor who can assist them in accessing needed services. Two emergency shelter beds are reserved for trafficked minors.

Multiple-Program Approach: Streetwork, Anti-Trafficking Program, Child Advocacy Centers

Safe Horizon is uniquely suited to serve trafficked minors, because of the availability of multiple programs we offer. Streetwork coordinates its efforts with our Anti-Trafficking Program, a national leader in providing services and advocacy to trafficking survivors, as well as our Child Advocacy Centers, which are model programs for meeting the needs of abused children. Safe Horizon’s diversity of approaches to working with minors in the sex trade and other forms of forced work ensures that every client receives the appropriate individualized services for their life and situation. 

Contact Us

If you would like to refer a young person, discuss a case, or host a training, please contact us at our New York City office at 646.24.3817.

Download a version of our Trafficked Minors Guide (PDF)

Safe Horizon's mission is to provide support, prevent violence and promote justice for victims of crime and abuse, their families and communities.

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