Researchers: Tool Can Identify Human Trafficking Victims

March 14, 2019

A screening tool designed specifically to assess for human trafficking was more likely to identify sexual and labor exploitation of youth, as well as the risk factors, than a commonly used psychosocial assessment, reported researchers from Baylor College of Medicine and the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth).

Participants for the study were recruited from Covenant House Texas, the largest shelter in Houston for homeless youth and young adults. Results were recently published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Texas has the second-highest number of cases of human trafficking after California. A 2016 report by the Statewide Human Trafficking Mapping Project of Texas estimated that 313,000 people were experiencing human trafficking, including 79,000 minors and youth experiencing sex trafficking.

“An important part of this project was to have a screening process in place at Covenant House going forward to benefit the residents,” said first author Dr. Salina Mostajabian, an adolescent medicine fellow in the Department of Pediatrics at Baylor when the study was conducted. “Having a standard tool will maximize the likelihood of identifying victims and getting them the needed resources.”

Covenant House offers onsite psychiatry and psychology services provided by Baylor and employs a full-time mental health counselor and other mental health and trauma-informed care services to help meet the needs of these youth.

“This study emphasizes the need for healthcare providers to recognize how difficult it can be for youth who have been trafficked to open up to providers,” said co-author Dr. Claire Bocchini, assistant professor of pediatrics at Baylor and faculty member of the Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Child Health Policy and Advocacy. “Providers need to be trained on the importance of using a trafficking-specific screening tool to maximize the opportunity to identify trafficking survivors. We also have to offer the most supportive and accepting atmosphere as possible to help overcome mistrust in the healthcare system and optimize acceptance of resources.”

To read the full story by Dipali Pathak on the site of Baylor School of Medicine: Click Here

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