CSEC Program Offers Trafficked Children & Youth Hope
In 2014, Senate Bill 855 clarified that children who are victims of commercial sexual exploitation will be served by the child welfare system, a system designed to protect and serve abused and neglected youth. As a result of this legislation, the County of Orange Social Services Agency (SSA) created its Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) program in order to provide prevention and intervention services as well as training related to youth victims. SSA has over 20 staff throughout various programs dedicated to supporting CSEC children and youth. The staff is specially trained and serve as liaisons with the various programs within SSA’s Children & Family Services Division. In addition, one senior social worker is assigned to work exclusively with runaway youth, many of which are victims of commercial sexual exploitation. SSA also maintains a team of Emergency Response senior social workers who respond to all calls of alleged exploitation and regularly partner with the Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force (OCHTTF). SSA is also a core member of the OCHTTF which is an enhanced collaborative model led by the Anaheim Police Department and Waymakers, a nonprofit helping individuals of all ages get past crisis.
The CSEC program leads Orange County in the fight against commercial sexual exploitation by way of the CSEC Steering Committee. The CSEC Steering Committee is chaired by SSA’s Children & Family Services Division Director, Anne Bloxom, and the Presiding Judge of Juvenile Court, Judge Motoike. The purpose of the committee is to bring together the agencies as well as community and faith-based organizations working with youth affected by commercial sexual exploitation. Collectively, the committee works to address the challenges that youth and caregivers face as well as helping to prevent at-risk youth from becoming victims.
The CSEC Steering Committee has led the way in creative solutions, awareness, prevention and intervention. Out of the CSEC Steering Committee, a contract was awarded to Orangewood Foundation, a nonprofit serving current and former foster youth, which created Project CHOICE (Creating Healthy Opportunities and Inspiring Change through Empowerment). Project CHOICE empowers youth ages 11 to 21 to take back their power of choice through a survivor-centered and strengths-based approach, prioritizing the health, safety and stability of each youth. The program offers a drop-in center that provides a safe, judgment-free space for respite as well as services and support.
In 2017, SSA, in partnership with the Orange County Transportation Authority and other community partners, re-launched the “Be the One” campaign with a specific focus on the sex trafficking of minors. The campaign is ongoing and continues to gain momentum throughout the community.
If you suspect a child is being commercially sexually exploited and/or trafficked, contact the Child Abuse Registry Hotline at (714) 940-1000.