January 17, 2019 -- In observance of Human Trafficking Prevention Month, the Westchester County Youth Bureau is partnering with the Children’s Village and Westchester Jewish Community Services, to provide additional resources to youth service providers who serve youth that are at risk of being human trafficked. In an effort to educate and inform youth service professionals of the resources that are available to them, the Youth Bureau will host its January Professional Development at the Children’s Village Sanctuary in Dobbs Ferry on January 17, from 10 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.

Westchester County Executive George Latimer said: “Our financial commitment to programs offered through the Youth Bureau and its partners reinforce the message that there is no place for human trafficking in Westchester County. Upon taking office in 2018, we restored funding to WJCS’ Center Lane, and maintained funding to the Sanctuary. In 2019, we will continue to support these critical services with the understanding that homeless, runaway and LGBTQ youth in particular, are at higher risk for victimization when resources are unavailable.”

Runaway, homeless and LGBTQ youth are often targeted by human traffickers because of their unique vulnerabilities, such as lack of stable housing, family connections and an adult support system. The Sanctuary is a safe haven to many of the County’s runaway and homeless youth, and has developed specialized assessments to screen and identify youth who may have been or are at high risk of sex and labor trafficking. The agency also provides crucial services as part of Westchester County’s Safe Harbor Unit, an initiative led by the Department of Social Services (DSS), which responds to reports of youth identified as at-risk of human trafficking.

The Westchester County Youth Bureau receives funds from the New York State Office for Children and Family Services to coordinate Runaway and Homeless Youth services, and leverages state and tax levy funds to support LGBTQ youth through Westchester Community Jewish Services (WJCS) Center Lane. The existing trend of LGBTQ youth becoming trafficked is being addressed by Center Lane through community outreach and education.

Executive Director of the Westchester County Youth Bureau Dr. DaMia Harris-Madden said: “In New York State, there were more than 200 cases of youth human trafficking between January 1 and June 30, 2018. It is estimated that 1 out of 3 homeless LGBTQ youth are at risk of being recruited by a trafficker. The tours offered through the Children’s Village Sanctuary and the programming offered through WJCS’ Center Lane support our aims of acknowledging the existing trends, supporting service provisions to address the needs, and leveraging resources to create a safe, nurturing environment for the most vulnerable populations of children and youth.”

Program Director for Children’s Village Sanctuary Jennifer Madera said: “As the Director of The Sanctuary and a part of the Children’s village Safe Harbor Team, I have been able to infuse my knowledge and experience to foster programming that supports safety and healing for young people, especially those who have been identified as survivors of human trafficking. We appreciate the Westchester County Youth Bureau being instrumental in providing the Sanctuary with training, guidance and financial assistance so our youth can access services and make critical connections to other community providers.”