Commercial Sex Trafficking in El Dorado County
By Jeffrey McKay
Sex trafficking is a topic that has received much attention over the past few years, both locally and nationally. You may hear it discussed in the news or on social media using terms such as human trafficking, domestic minor sex trafficking, online sexual exploitation, or commercial sexual exploitation. No matter what description is used, the reality is there are youth in our county who are victims of sexual exploitation at the hands of traffickers and pimps.
Since 2014, the El Dorado County Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA) has worked with our County partners and local youth serving organizations to combat and address the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) in El Dorado County. This has been accomplished through the establishment of the County’s CSEC Task Force, a multidisciplinary team that includes members from the Probation Department; the District Attorney’s Office; the Sheriff’s Department; the Placerville and South Lake Tahoe Police Departments; the El Dorado County Office of Education; County Counsel; Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of El Dorado County; and HHSA’s Behavioral Health, Public Health and Child Protective Services. The outcomes for youth who have experienced commercial sexual exploitation can be tragic if intensive services and systems of support are not put in place to serve the complex needs of these victims. The primary goal of the CSEC Task Force is to ensure that County youth who are victims of sexual exploitation or domestic minor sex trafficking are kept safe and receive the services they need.
As the CSEC program coordinator for HHSA, one of the questions I am most often asked is, “How can I get involved and help?” The best ways to help reduce CSEC and human trafficking are to become aware of the issues, educate yourself on the signs of human trafficking and CSEC, and tell someone if you suspect anyone you know is being trafficked or exploited. The Polaris Project (www.polarisproject.org) is a great resource for information on human trafficking. Additionally, the County Welfare Director Associations of California’s website (www.cwda.org/csec) is a great starting place for information on CSEC. These resources can serve as a starting point for the conversation on how to best serve youth in our communities who are victims of either human trafficking or sexual exploitation.
Remember, no child can consent to sex and children who are forced into prostitution or exploitation are victims of horrific crimes with life-long effects. While the issues of human trafficking and CSEC are greater than any of us individually, there is nothing we cannot overcome together as informed and engaged citizens of El Dorado County.
If you know a youth who you suspect is being trafficked or exploited, call the El Dorado County Child Protective Services 24-hour hotline on the West Slope at (530) 642-7100, in Tahoe at (530) 573-3201, the National Trafficking Hotline at 1-(888)-373-7888, or call 911. Together, we can stop sexual exploitation and domestic minor sex trafficking in El Dorado County.
Kathleen Guerrero, Executive Director, First 5 El Dorado Commission
Connections matter. Brain connections, caring relationships and thriving communities contribute to healthy communities. The Community Hub Partnership Team believes El Dorado County can build healthy communities by understanding and being intentional about connecting families.
Positive interactions are the foundation for healthy brain development at any age. The Harvard Center for the Developing Child finds brain connections begin before birth, continuing until 26 years of age. Ninety percent of the brain is formed by the time children enter kindergarten, making the first five years of life critical to development. Healthy brain development is interrupted when children are exposed to excessive or prolonged stress referred to as toxic stress.
In the absence of a caring relationship, childhood trauma can disrupt healthy brain development. The ACEs study confirms that toxic stress impacts health outcomes. Adverse Childhoods Experiences or ACEs actually rewire a child’s developing brain. According to the research “the more ACEs you have, the greater the risk for chronic disease, mental illness, violence and being a victim of violence.” People have an ACE score of 0 to 10.
For example, people with an ACE score of 4 are twice as likely to be smokers and 7 times more likely to be alcoholic. Have an increased risk of emphysema or chronic bronchitis by nearly 400 percent, and attempted suicide by 1200 percent. People with high ACE scores are more likely to be violent, to have more marriages, more broken bones, more drug prescriptions, more depression, and more autoimmune diseases. People with an ACE score of 6 or higher are at risk of their lifespan being shortened by 20 years.
The ACEs screening tool has 10 questions: As a child, did you experience physical, sexual and verbal abuse or physical and emotional neglect. Did you have a family members who was depressed or diagnosed with other mental illness, addicted to alcohol or another substance or in prison, witnessed a mother being abused or lost a parent to separation, divorce or other reason.
Promoting healthy brain development is essential to community development. Research tells us the higher number of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) impacts health outcomes. Children living in resilient families are more likely to overcome ACEs. According to the Robert Wood Johnson California Health Rankings, the county’s ranking has declined in the last five years from 6 to 15. A 2012 Kidsdata.org report shows 71.8% of children in the county were usually or always resilient, but 18.2% have two or more ACEs. In order to improve outcomes, local data is needed to inform effective strategies addressing the disparities such as income, language and access leading to inequity for children and families.
El Dorado County exceeds the state in the number of domestic violence calls for assistance per 100,000 adults (685.7/415.6), substance affected still or live born infants per 1,000 (45.4/23.4) and mental health diagnoses in pregnancy (129.7/48.5). To address these concerns, Public Health Nursing staff in each Hub have conducted community level needs assessments used by Hub Teams in developing outreach plans with strategies to address local issues.
Communities can promote healthy brain development through relationship building. Community Hubs were created to offer community based, prevention and early intervention services in the County. Each Hub has a multi-disciplinary team offering activities focused on early literacy and reading, child development and parenting, and preventative health activities and services. These services are provided at no cost to the families. Each Team member’s position is different but have complimentary roles.
- Early Childhood Literacy Specialists are best known for weekly storytimes at libraries, but also offer books, early literacy kits, and other resources to support parents as their child’s first teacher.
- Community Health Advocates are health staff that focus on improving access to health care and can help with insurance, medical and/or dental provider connections and individualized assistance to help families navigate through the process.
- Family Engagement Specialists assist with everyday child development and parenting questions by connecting families with screening tools, workshops, parenting classes and individual appointments in their community.
- Public Health Nurses provide short-term case management, including home visitation, to help with families that have multiple needs, require physical and/or developmental assessments, or coordination of care between multiple agencies or providers.
Community Hubs are physically located in each El Dorado County Supervisorial district within a public library in: El Dorado Hills, Cameron Park, Placerville, Georgetown, and South Lake Tahoe. While these are central places where Hub activities occur, any place where Community Hub partners serve families within a community is a Hub. For more information on Community Hubs, visit first5eldorado.com/community-hubs.