Children and Youth Cabinet Discuss Ways to Combat Human Trafficking

For Immediate Release:
October 31, 2012

Erin Gillespie
Press Secretary
(850) 717-4450

Children and Youth Cabinet Discuss Ways to Combat Human Trafficking
New volunteer advocate role added to combat human trafficking across the state

MIAMI — As another sign of the state’s commitment to battling human trafficking and protecting victims, the Florida Children and Youth Cabinet today announced a top advocate to help educate the public about this terrible crime and how to stop it.

"Through our combined efforts, Florida has become a national leader in combatting the trafficking of our children,” said Department of Children and Families Secretary David Wilkins, who is the Chair of the Children and Youth Cabinet. “We will protect our kids, prosecute traffickers to the fullest extent of the law and provide safe haven to youth and young adults who have already been victimized."

The Florida Children and Youth Cabinet is made up of the Department of Children and Families, Department of Juvenile Justice, Governor’s Office of Adoption and Child Protection and several other state agencies that support the needs of children across the state.

Today, Secretary Wilkins announced the new statewide Advocate for Human Trafficking is Deborah Polston, an author, speaker, foster and adoptive mother and child advocate. The goal of this position is to work with community organizations to enhance the state’s effort to bring about a coordinated effort to address the needs related to human trafficking. Polston has served on many government boards and task forces to improve the foster care system and was the 2008 state “Point of Light” recipient for her exemplary service to the children of Florida.

In order to bring additional focused attention to various child-based initiatives, several volunteer advocacy roles were created earlier this year to work in conjunction with the Governor’s Office of Adoption and Child Protection. Tanya Wilkins, wife of Secretary Wilkins, is the state Advocate for Foster Care and Adoption.

Human trafficking is modern-day slavery through forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation. Statistics rank Florida as the third highest trafficking destination in the country, and half of all trafficking victims are children. Across America, almost 300,000 youth are at risk of becoming victims of commercial sexual exploitation. Many are being trafficked in our own communities.

In June, Florida became a pioneer in the battle against this complex and difficult issue. Gov. Rick Scott signed House Bill 99, The Safe Harbor Act, which provides services to help victims who have been sexually exploited. In addition, Gov. Scott also signed House Bill 7049, which gives prosecutors the ability to better fight this despicable crime by imposing tougher penalties.

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