Fontbonne University and the Fight Against Human Trafficking

Progress on “Human/Sex Trafficking Advanced Clinical Training Program”

By Kaitlyn Wallace

Beginning in the 2018-2019 school year, the Raskob Foundation, an organization which financially supports Catholic Church-affiliated nonprofits and initiatives, will provide funding to support the Fontbonne University Center Against Human Trafficking and Exploitation. This funding will help kickstart a fellowship program, and will fund a portion of the director’s salary so that she can focus more fully on developing new programs for the Center– for example, the “Human/Sex Trafficking Advanced Clinical Program,” a course designed to further the education of social service professionals in the area of human trafficking. The program, created in September 2017, is designed to combat the rise of human trafficking in the St. Louis area.

The Midwest, and even the United States as a whole, is not commonly thought to be a major trafficking destination. However, according to State Representative and former head of the Human Trafficking Task Force Elijah Haahr, St. Louis is one of the top 20 human trafficking destinations in the U.S. And, according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, human trafficking is on the rise in the United States.

Fontbonne’s Advanced Clinical Training Program aims to change that. Through a partnership with the Incarnate Word Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to benefiting the conditions of women, children, and seniors worldwide, Fontbonne was able to make the first sessions of the program free to a number of service professionals.

As Laura Beaver, Director of Fontbonne’s Center Against Human Trafficking and Exploitation explains, the program takes a multifaceted approach to the problem, focusing not just on education, but also on creating and strengthening connections between service providers: “Our first pillar of success is education and training, and our second is community development… We believe our role in connecting individuals, agencies, and corporations concerned with the issue of human trafficking and exploitation is perhaps the most important outcome of our work.”

Accordingly, the program focuses on building a network of social service professionals and charitable organizations such as homeless shelters, crisis hotlines, youth and adolescent crisis services and treatment centers, and domestic violence shelters, so that these entities can better support victims of human trafficking.

Of course, the program also provides social service professionals with crucial education in prevention, identification and crisis intervention, as well as more specific and long-term skills such as facilitation of healthy lifestyles and life skills for victims. Training in these areas is critical, because as Laura Beaver explains, social service professionals are often missing vital information and education regarding human trafficking: “Nearly all of [the attendees] commented on how little they actually knew about trafficking and how surprised they were to find out that they have all worked with trafficking survivors but didn’t recognize it at the time.”

The first two sessions were completed in March, but the program isn’t stopping there. There is at least one session scheduled for the upcoming academic year. And, with the help of the new funding from the Raskob Foundation, the program is continuing to expand onto the national stage: “We have plans for larger and more expansive trainings that will have national scope, ensuring we continue to grow our reach to meet the needs of people and organizations throughout the country who are working to end the horror that is human trafficking.”  

For more information on the program, visit www.fontbonne.edu/together.

MM&E

Kaitlyn Wallace is a contributing writer from St. Louis, Missouri

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