TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Children at risk of being sexually exploited will get help, rather than time in a detention center, under a new Florida law.
The Safe Harbor Act, passed by the 2012 Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott, helps ensure the safety of child victims who have been trafficked for sex. The Safe Harbor Act allows children who are rescued from prostitution to get help from child welfare professionals instead of being placed in juvenile delinquency.
The law, effective January 1, allows the Department of Children and Families, the Department of Juvenile Justice, law enforcement and our local partners across the state to treat and help the victims of this abuse. They will receive intensive treatment in residential settings that are already being prepared for their safety and success.
“Children are being exploited for sex across this state and are living in constant fear,” said Department of Children and Families Secretary David Wilkins. “It is a long process to free these children from the criminals who exploit them, and to provide what they will need to grow up and be successful adults.”
A separate law, House Bill 7049, went into effect in July and imposes tougher penalties on human traffickers. In addition, Gov. Rick Scott has signed a proclamation naming January as Human Trafficking Awareness Month in Florida. The proclamation is attached.
“Florida has made great strides in protecting vulnerable children with the Safe Harbor Act,” said Department of Juvenile Justice Secretary Wansley Walters. “Both DCF and DJJ are exploring ways to identify and address the needs of this unique population.”
Since January 2010, DCF has investigated 1,266 cases of alleged human trafficking involving child sexual exploitation. Last year, about 200 trafficked minors received services through DCF and its community-based partners.
National statistics rank Florida as the third highest trafficking destination in the country. Half of all trafficking victims are children. If you are aware of any child or adult in an unsafe situation, please call the Florida Abuse Hotline at 1-800-962-2873.
For more information, and to see local events bringing awareness to Human Trafficking in Florida, please go to www.myflfamilies.com/service-programs/human-trafficking.
Follow the Department of Children and Families throughout January at www.twitter.com/myflfamilies for live updates from events, at www.facebook.com/myflfamilies for photo albums and information, and http://blog.myflfamilies.com for guest blog posts about real human trafficking stories.