Tuesday, September 29, 2015

You are Invited! Human Trafficking: A Closer Look

Break The Silence!  Join us at the Human Trafficking: A Closer Look conference to be held on October 15th and 16th at the Royal Dearborn Hotel and Convention Center in Dearborn, Michigan.

Co-Sponsored by the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan and the Michigan Human Trafficking Task Force, conference participants will benefit from engaging presentations and conversations with national and state experts on  human trafficking.  Together, we'll explore what is being done about human trafficking and what more needs to be done.  We'll identify unmet needs, focus on the urgency of research, highlight innovative community endeavors, learn from survivors and explore how new data collection processes might foster new approaches.  Whatever your background, whether you are an expert or a concerned community member this conference is for you.  All that matters is that you are committed to becoming a voice in the anti-trafficking effort.

Who will be at the conference?  The conference reflects the collaborative efforts of law enforcement, prosecutors, courts, victim service providers, community members, faith based groups, medical and rescue personnel, businesses, university faculty and trafficking survivors.  Presenters and attendees share the vision of advancing a victim-centered approach that builds awareness, supports prosecution, and advocates for the children, women and men who have suffered the consequence of trafficking.

To register for the conference, visit www.michiganprosecutor.org  Click on training and then human trafficking.  The cost of registration is $125 though applications for scholarships for police officers and survivors are being accepted.  For more information or for assistance registering for the conference call 517-881-8013.

Please note that that the conference is MCOLES approved.  Social work CEs will also be available at no extra cost.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

When Human Trafficking Survivors Have an Attorney: Victim Advocates

This blog entry is the second in a series offering a few tips for working with human trafficking survivors who are represented by an attorney. This entry discusses attorneys as victim advocates. (The first in the series posted on 8/23/15 and was titled “When Human Trafficking Survivors Have an Attorney: Confidentiality”).

Often the University of Michigan Human Trafficking Clinic clinic serves as a victim advocate for survivors.  This includes helping victims to aid in a law enforcement investigation of their traffickers, serve as a witness at trial, make a victim impact statement at sentencing, and request financial restitution.

While law enforcement agencies or prosecutors’ offices may have staff who serve as victim advocates or volunteers might play that role (all providing valuable help to survivors!), lawyers can play a different and, hopefully complementary, role. Attorneys have a confidential relationship with clients so that they can listen to clients’ concerns and advise them about various options, without disclosing those counseling conversations to anyone else in the case (unless they have the clients’ permission). And, attorneys are trained to prepare witnesses for trial and to advocate for their needs before the court.

Communications between survivors and staff members or volunteers are not usually legally protected as privileged communications. Victim advocates from law enforcement agencies and prosecutors’ offices cannot promise to keep communications confidential; indeed they may have a duty to report new information to their supervisors. Although a volunteer advocate might promise confidentiality, the promise is not legally enforceable.

Giving survivors access to confidential legal representation can actually benefit both survivors and law enforcement. Survivors have immediate access to a professional who represents only the survivors’ interests. When attorneys are present at an initial interview of someone identified as a possible victim of human trafficking, we, and law enforcement officers, quickly tell the survivor that the lawyer does not work for the law enforcement agency or for the court: that we are independent of the decision makers and we will advocate for only the survivor.

It is not difficult to imagine why this is helpful to survivors, but how does it aid law enforcement in the investigation? One of the greatest fears our clients express is the worry that they are in trouble, and that they are the subject of the investigation – that if they tell the truth, they will end up in jail or deported. This concern has typically been the threat made over and over again by their traffickers to keep them trapped. When they finally escape, they have difficulty trusting that law enforcement is there to help, not prosecute, them. 

Also, some survivors come from countries where law enforcement and the courts are corrupt and cannot be trusted to protect victims. The attorney for survivors can help them understand that the trafficker is the true target of the investigation and reassure them that the attorney will be by their side throughout the investigation to help explain the process and to protect their rights. This often allows victims to cooperate freely with the investigation by giving law enforcement information that can support prosecution of traffickers.

Attorneys are trained to prepare clients for testimony, so attorney victim advocates can help to reassure a worried client-witness, and can provide valuable guidance about the client’s concerns to the prosecutor. This works especially well when the attorney has a respectful relationship with the prosecutor and stays in the role of victim advocate, not interfering with the prosecutor’s work.

Also, attorneys who serve as victim advocates can participate in developing victim impact statements for survivors, advocating for restitution, and collecting it on behalf of clients. In one of our cases, the Clinic worked with a client who cannot speak English to develop a victim impact statement for the Court. After her trafficker was sentenced, the clinic advocated for an award of restitution, which was granted. The trafficker appealed the restitution order and the clinic has recently submitted a brief in the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit to defend the District Court’s award of financial restitution. Much of this work, and the ability to file an appearance and brief with the Court, could only be done by an attorney victim advocate.

As in most work in which a variety of people are trying to be helpful, one of our biggest jobs is to stay inside our appropriate role and to be respectful of each other’s work. The survivors with whom we work will be much better off if they can obtain the coordinated and complementary support of volunteer advocates, staff victim advocates, and attorneys while they attempt to navigate the complicated world of the criminal justice system.

Take Action: If you or someone you know wishes to contact the University of Michigan Human Trafficking Clinic for legal advice and/or possible representation, please call 734-615-3600.

Suellyn Scarnecchia is a Clinical Professor of Law at the University of Michigan Law School.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Women at Risk, International

In the fight against human trafficking, it can be hard to know exactly where to begin. At first, the enormity of this injustice can be overwhelming. Women At Risk, International (WAR, Int’l) understands this. But, believe no matter who you are, or where you are in life, you can be a voice for the voiceless.

The U.S. government estimates that hundreds of thousands of American children are at risk of being sold into sexual slavery. This is not an overseas problem. It reaches across gender, age and demographics. It is a heart problem.  

Three major components guide WAR, Int’l in its fight against human trafficking. Our goal is to 1) rescue, 2) restore and 3) empower at-risk women, as well as women who have already been exposed to the dangers and traumas of sex trafficking.

WAR, Int’l understands the power of team work and community, which is why we have developed a network of relationships and resources with 170 different organizations around the world in 40 countries. We truly believe in sustainability for the women we work with by providing funds for micro-loans so women can start their own businesses and break cycles of poverty. 

As an organization, we personally believe you don’t have to hop on a plane to Thailand to help those engulfed in sexual slavery. While there is a time and a place for that, something as simple as mentoring at-risk kids in poverty right in your community can be a very powerful thing.

Learning about human trafficking in its entirety is also of utmost importance. The reality is that human trafficking is here in our state. Educating yourself on what it looks like in Michigan could actually save a life.
In our fight to rescue, restore and empower, we recognize the need for our community to be alert so we can wrap arms of love and protection around those who need it most.

So, the first step in providing survivors proper care is to get educated. Find out what trafficking is. Then, volunteer your time, talent and treasure to a local organization fighting this injustice.

While this issue continues to grow, we hope that as you seek to empower women around the world, you would personally be empowered to educate yourself, and take action against this injustice.

Take Action:  Reach out to us if you have questions about how you can use your talents to end human trafficking.  Contact us today at info@warinternational.org. We would love to connect you with the resources you need to get started. 

Brittany Jacobson and Jennifer Roberts work for Women At Risk, International – an organization that unites and educates women to create circles of protection and hope around at-risk women and children through culturally sensitive, value-added intervention projects. WAR, Int’l address 14 different risk issues in more than 40 countries, bringing a voice to the voiceless. 

Friday, September 4, 2015

What Do We Do? Meet the Native American Affairs (NAA) Office

The Michigan Department of Health and HumanServices (MDHHS), Native American Affairs (NAA) office provides a broad range of services to protect, preserve and strengthen American Indian/Alaska Native families both on and off tribal lands.
Native American Affairs (NAA) assists Michigan's tribal population of approximately 130,000 with various services provided in partnership with Michigan's federally recognized tribes, historic tribes, urban Indian organizations, federal government and other community and state organizations.
These services include, but are not limited to:
  • Tribal consultation; 
  • Training/technical assistance to state employees, customers and the general public regarding cultural competence and Indian child welfare; 
  • Advocacy on behalf of American Indians throughout all levels of government and among the general public; 
  • Direct services through Indian Outreach Workers; and 
  • Providing and/or assisting the department/private agencies with meeting the mandates of the Indian Child Welfare Act (1978)/Michigan Indian Family Preservation Act (2013).

Indian Outreach Services are provided in the counties of Baraga, Chippewa, Emmet, Gogebic, Isabella, Kent, Luce, Mackinac, Marquette, Menominee, Van Buren, and Wayne.  These workers provide direct assistance to tribal families requesting services or are referred from the court, tribes, and private agencies for child welfare/direct assistance to mediate family concerns.

Human Trafficking: Native American Affairs (NAA) assists human trafficking survivors and direct service providers through referrals to local state and tribal experts for case management and referral services including but not limited to: 
  • traditional medicine practitioners; 
  • tribal sexual assault and violence advocates; 
  • tribal safe havens/shelters; and 
  • MDHHS Indian Outreach Services/Children’s Protective Services/Adult Protective Services case managers and contractors as appropriate.

Take Action: Reach out to MDHHS and NAA for any of your support and referral needs.
  • MDHHS protects human trafficking victims through its implementation of the abuse and neglect Human Trafficking Protocol and Michigan’s newly amended human trafficking legislation (MCL 750.462 (a)-(i)).
  • If you are concerned about a potential abuse or neglect of a child or adult in Michigan, make an anonymous complaint to report incidents or concerns by calling 1.855.444.3911. 
  • NAA and other MDHHS Policy Manuals are available for free download.
  • For more information, contact Native American Affairs (NAA) at 517-335-7782 or visit the website.  Email your policy questions for Native American Affairs (NAA) to: DHS-NAA-MIFPA@michigan.gov.

Stacey Tadgerson is director of Native American Affairs for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, is a member of the Michigan Human Trafficking Task Force (MHTTF) and serves as a state expert on American Indian Alaska Native service linkages and case consults specifically pertaining to Indian child welfare and generally as liaison to Michigan tribes and urban Indian centers.  She is a member of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians and she holds a master’s degree in public administration from Northern Michigan University.