Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

New Workgroup Focuses on Courts’ Response to Human Trafficking

The Ohio Supreme Court’s Advisory Committee on Children and Families has formed a Courts’ Response to Trafficking of Children Workgroup.

Chaired by Lucas County Juvenile Court Judge Denise Navarre Cubbon, the workgroup met for the first time on Jan. 20 and is made up of 20 people who have backgrounds in a variety of fields, including law, social work, law enforcement, academia, and medical.

“The workgroup's focus will be child victims of trafficking and how juvenile courts can best address the needs of these children,” Judge Cubbon said.

Each year, it’s estimated that nearly 1,100 Ohio children become victims of human trafficking, and an additional 3,000 are at risk. The goals of the workgroup are to:

  • Promote effective judicial response to the trafficking of children,
  • Identify promising court-centered practices, models, and strategies to identify system-involved trafficked children,
  • Support judicial leadership and foment inter-system collaboration at the local level, and
  • Recommend rules, policies, and practices.

In its first meeting, the workgroup discussed innovative court practices currently happening in Ohio. Judge Cubbon discussed steps Lucas County took to address human trafficking. One of the first counties to implement practices and procedures to address the serious and growing concerns of local children trafficking, Lucas County has worked collaboratively with local law enforcement, the FBI, social services agencies, and the University of Toledo’s Human Trafficking and Social Justice Institute to develop protocols and response initiatives.

“Lucas County has addressed human trafficking in a very aggressive way for the last 10 years when our community learned that our children were targeted victims of a human trafficking ring,” Judge Cubbon said. “The Lucas County Human Trafficking Coalition was founded in 2009. The coalition works to combat human trafficking in a collaborative effort with community members and stakeholders, law enforcement, service providers, healthcare providers, business leaders, the faith-based community.”

Judge Cubbon said Lucas County Juvenile Court has developed diversion protocols to address trafficking victims who have been charged with a delinquency offence.

Ohio attorney Jamie Blair gave an overview of Summit County’s Restore Program and Magistrate Lasheyl Stroud presented information on Franklin County’s Empowerment Program. Both programs are based on Ohio’s safe harbor law, which allows for decriminalization of youth offenses that result from their role as a human trafficking victim. In addition to acting as a diversion program, both models use treatment teams to identify youths’ needs and services. Blair and Magistrate Stroud both said the programs have had a high rate of success in their communities.

The workgroup is in the process of developing a survey to distribute to all courts across the state in order to identify services that are currently being offered, to assess local training and program needs, and to gather information on court services. Based on the survey responses, the workgroup will tailor projects in order to meet the identified goals.

“I anticipate an excellent product for juvenile court judges to use to address the needs of the children who are victims of human trafficking,” Judge Cubbon said.

The workgroup will meet again on May 2.

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