Maryland has taken a statewide approach to combating human trafficking and serving victims. Along with the Maryland Human Trafficking Task Force (MHTTF) which has served as the lead body for coordinating all aspects of trafficking (investigative, prosecutorial, and services), DHS has responded to the needs of minors who have been victims of trafficking. Recent estimates indicate that anywhere from 5,000 to 21,000 youth are trafficked in the United States each year. As Maryland’s human services agency, DHS plays a significant role in helping to identify suspected victims of trafficking and connecting them with available supports and services.
With the 2012 passage of Maryland legislation which made sex trafficking a form of child abuse; child welfare policy was issued outlining the screening, investigation and service delivery process for children identified as sex traffic victims. Training on the policy was provided to child welfare staff statewide in the fall of 2012. Two residential providers were identified as willing to provide emergency and longer term placement services for trafficking victims under the age of 18. Staff at both programs was initially trained by TurnAround, an organization focusing on serving trafficking victims. Training has continued to be provided to assist in the challenges presented in service provision for this population.
A Human Trafficking brochure was developed and distributed to all residential providers to assist them in identifying, reporting and preventing sex trafficking of youth in their care. The brochure was also provided to foster parent/resource trainers to be incorporated in foster parent training.
The Secretary of DHS has participated in each of the Governor’s Conferences on Combating Human Trafficking in Maryland along with other agency heads, each year it has been held. DHS is also a member of the Maryland Human Trafficking Task Force both on the Steering Committee as well as on the Victim Services Subcommittee.
DHS is also represented on the Safe Harbor Task Force which was instituted in 2015 and again in 2016 by the Maryland legislature to address the possibility of adopting Safe Harbor legislation in Maryland. (Safe Harbor refers to laws that are developed by states to address inconsistencies with how children who are exploited for commercial sex are treated. Under federal law, a child under the age of 18 that is induced into providing commercial sex is a victim of trafficking and must be treated as such. As of the Fall 2015 thirty-four states had enacted Safe Harbor laws of varying degrees.)