A One Stop Location To Help Dallas Youth Escape/Avoid Sex Trafficking & Exploitation
DALLAS, TEXAS – February 11, 2020 – Juliette Fowler Communities (JFC), an organization serving vulnerable children, youth and older adults at different life stages, opened a Youth Support Center (YSC), serving as a one-stop location to help Dallas youth escape or avoid sex trafficking and exploitation. Partially funded by a grant through the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) and administered through The Office of the Governor’s Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Youth project, the program plans to serve at least 25 youth, male and female, ages 12-24, in its first year, by providing whole-person services from carefully selected and vetted partner agencies. The program had a soft opening in the fall and currently has five participants.
The Youth Support Center provides counseling, coaching, mentorships, and educational and life skills programming as well clothing, emergency food, and toiletries. Transportation is also provided for those unable to access the center. The center also offers male specific programming each week. Trained coaches, who are available during all open hours, engage with program participants, helping them to establish plans with goals while maintaining relationships through treatment and into restoration.
“Juliette Fowler Communities is thrilled to add this needed program in the East Dallas area through our Children, Youth and Family Services programs,” said Nicole Gann, president and CEO, Juliette Fowler Communities. “JFC began as an orphanage 128 years ago, and since our inception, we have been inspired to help children and youth heal from trauma, abuse, and neglect.”
In mid-2020, The Office of Governor Greg Abbott approached Juliette Fowler Communities to apply for a grant to open the center because they knew of the success of The Ebby House on the JFC campus. Named for Dallas area real estate icon and philanthropist, Ebby Halliday, The Ebby House opened in 2014 to provide a residential home and support services for young women who age-out of foster care while also extending services to young women who left the foster care system prior to their 18 th birthday.
“Governor Abbott’s Office believes that this new center will fill the gaps in service delivery for at-risk and sex-trafficked youth in Dallas County,” added Gann. “Through our work with The Ebby House over the past seven years, we have seen a great need for coordinated services for children before they age out of the foster care and/or youth programs. The Youth Support Center gives us an opportunity to reach at-risk and sex-trafficked children/youth before they become adults and before they require the services of The Ebby House.”
While more awareness has been generated in recent years about sex trafficking, the problem remains a serious one in both the city of Dallas – one of the top ten cities nationwide with the most sex trafficking – and throughout the state of Texas – the second-largest hub for sex trafficking in the country.
“We know that sex trafficking is a $99 million-a-year crime; there are an estimated 400 trafficked teens on the street each night in Dallas; the average age of entry into trafficking is 12-16; and most of these children/youth are runaways, who are often trafficked within 48 hours of leaving home,” added Gann.
While there are agencies in Dallas County to provide emergency shelter, transitional housing, and drop-in care, there is currently not a location where at-risk children/youth, including those rescued from sex trafficking, can go for prevention and resiliency training, therapeutic care, and wrap-around services in one place.
“Oftentimes, these children/youth are forced to juggle a bus schedule, face transportation issues, and manage appointments across many agencies to access whole-person care,” added Gann. “Bundling a spectrum of services at one location allows for consistent case management, provides greater access, removes the transportation burden, and keeps at-risk children/youth from falling through the cracks.”
Also unique to this center is extensive collaboration with community partners which will provide a full continuum of care to trafficked children/youth. Partners include: Dallas Children’s Advocacy Center, providing care coordination; Traffick911, providing intake and assessment services; Together We Thrive Texas, providing on-site advocacy; Cornerstone Crossroads Academy, providing education services as well as the Education Youth Support Center, providing tutoring for GED programs, high school classes, vocational schools, and college classes; Youth180, providing counseling and mental health services; The ARK Group, providing training to JFC staff and volunteers to hold group sessions; Texas Workforce Commission, providing information and job search assistance; Our Friends Place, providing a life skills program; Bob’s House of Hope, providing support and aid for male sex trafficking victims; and numerous workshops and activities with partners including Children’s Health, the Stewpot, and Legal Aid. JFC is also currently exploring medical care partnerships for on-site or telehealth as well as potential workforce partners including Dallas College, Texas Advancement Center, Learn to Serve 360 and more.
The 3,000+ square foot Youth Support Center has a full kitchen facility, social space, laundry room, bathrooms with showers, and rooms of various sizes for classes, private offices, and therapy sessions. Additionally, there is access to wellness programs, including a community center, exercise equipment, and pool. The space provides ample room for social distancing and for the expansion of additional programs over time. Referrals to the program will come through law enforcement, Dallas Children’s Advocacy Center, and Traffick911 as well as other city partners. JFC staff will manage the program, coordinating all collaborative partnerships and each youth’s individualized plan which will provide a schedule of services that will begin and continue until the youth reaches determined goals.
“It is so important that a victim’s needs are met through a holistic continuum of care from prevention to recovery to re-establishment,” added Gann. “We are beyond excited about the positive and transformative impact Juliette Fowler Communities can make on these young lives.”