CHENANGO COUNTY – Chenango County Department of Social Services (DSS) has secured a grant through Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) to help identify and provide services to youth who are experiencing or are at risk of sexual exploitation and trafficking.
“The Department of Social Services is proud to partner with an agency that has a vast knowledge in the challenges that sex trafficked youth face and will work tirelessly to help victims overcome those challenges,” explained Chenango County Department of Social Services Director of Services Elizabeth Beers. “Sex trafficking crosses all socio-economic lines and is a social injustice no person should have to endure and ultimately we’d like to eradicate this issue in our community.”
According to Chenango Child Advocacy Center Program Coordinator Joanne Smith, LMSW the Chenango Child Advocacy Center (CAC) provides services to child victims of a crime, along with non-offending caretakers or family members, and is located in downtown Norwich. She said the CAC is collaborating with Chenango County DSS in order to help promote the Safe Harbour program, which helps identify youth-at-risk in the community and connect them to resources to help prevent further victimization.
“January is National Human Trafficking Awareness Month, and as of January 2022 Chenango Child Advocacy Center will be receiving referrals for Safe Harbour which will include providing basic needs, a safe place to stay, substance abuse support, and general advocacy regarding medical care and the criminal justice system for youths at risk,” said Smith. “A major aspect of the Safe Harbour program is to provide positive guidance and to help youth positively engage in and be part of the community.”
“It’s hard to believe that children are being trafficked and exploited here in Chenango County, but it doesn’t always look like what television or movies make it out to be,” she added. “In real life, it might look like a teen kicked out of their home and looking for a place to stay, willing to do anything to sleep in a warm bed or provide connection to another human being.”
“It might look like a teen convinced that sending a picture online won’t be a big deal.”
Smith said the coercion or force might be subtle, so it is important that we as a community stay open-minded and nonjudgmental when it comes to exploitation in children.
Smith added that to help raise awareness of this important cause, the Child Advocacy Center has paired up with Live Event NY on National Human Trafficking Day to shine blue lights around town.
“On January 11th, look for blue lights on the County Office Building and the Child Advocacy Center,” she said. “Through the month of January, the Child Advocacy Center will provide education through Facebook posts on what human trafficking is, red flags to look for, and identification of community resources, which, can be helpful for youth who are trafficked and exploited here in Chenango County.”
“Check out the Child Advocacy Center’s Facebook page at ChenangoCAC or visit the CAC webpage at www.chenangochildadvocacy.us for more information on Safe Harbour Services being made available in the Chenango County Region.”
- Submitted by the Chenango Child Advocacy Center