Local Organization Gets Funding To Fight Child Trafficking

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The Athens County Child Advocacy Center will have money to fight for a new cause in the area thanks to a state push to combat human trafficking.
"With the money we get, we will be able to train a team and bring information to students and the community," said Athens CAC director Rebecca Miller. "This way we will be able to educate people on what the realities are of human trafficking."
The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, the Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force and the Ohio Department of Public Safety are partnering with the Ohio Network of Children's Advocacy Centers for the funding distribution.
Over the next two years, the ODJFS is providing $523,000 in funding to children's advocacy centers.
The Athens CAC is a collaboration between the Athens County Sheriff's Office, Athens Police Department, county prosecutor's office, county children services and county victim assistance program along with medical professionals. As a whole, the organization provides services for victims and families of child sexual abuse, from law enforcement interviews to medical aid.
About $5,800 of the state funding will come to the Athens CAC to "train the multi-disciplinary team members to provide direct services to (juvenile) victims of human trafficking, develop and identify important community resources, provide community workshops on human trafficking …" and work on trafficking response protocols along with the regional Ohio Network of Anti-Human Trafficking Coalitions, Miller said.
The Ohio trafficking task force was created by Governor John Kasich in March 2012 to "coordinate statewide efforts to identify and rescue victims," according to a release by the task force.
Athens County has not had any reported cases of human trafficking, according to Sheriff Patrick Kelly, but Miller said with the money, officials might be able to bring to light trafficking that goes unnoticed.
"There is a lot of attention on international human trafficking and sex tourism, but I don't think there are many people aware of the significant issue of domestic human trafficking," Miller said. "With the governor's new initiative and the money coming down, I think we're going to find that it's a bigger problem than we thought."
Athens County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn said that with the funding, the office would have another strategy to fight trafficking.
"If there's any way we can prosecute it within the county, we will need the help of (the CAC) and this money will help us move forward with that goal," Blackburn said.
Child trafficking prevention "just came along through the work we already do," Miller said, but the CAC has trouble getting the communities they serve to recognize that the problem is present.
"While we service Athens County, there's a possibility (with the funding) we could serve Meigs County and Vinton County as well," Miller said, adding that the areas the CAC will be able to serve depends on the finalization of the funding.