Safe Harbor

What is New York City Doing to Protect Children from Sexual Exploitation?

This year, ECPAT-USA celebrates 25 years of child protection.  Things have changed for the better since we began working to protect children from sexual exploitation.

New York State passed its Safe Harbor law, the first in the nation, in 2008.  While it is not the country’s strongest law to ensure children are protected from sexual exploitation, it did mark the beginning for New York to get more serious about training, awareness, prevention and protection for vulnerable children.  Read our report “Steps to Safety”  to learn more about the array of Safe Harbor laws across the country.  

I sat down recently with Susan Morley, Special Advisor for Investigations to the Commissioner and Selina Higgins, Director of Child Trafficking Prevention and Policy of New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services (ACS), the leadership team for implementing protections for sexually exploited children in the city.  They described extensive training, services and awareness raising going on throughout the system.

  • In 2012 ACS published its initial policy on serving sexually exploited children.
  • Almost a thousand ACS, foster care and preventive agency staff were trained in Child Trafficking Awareness and Engagement/Interviewing skills during 2015.  Training is ongoing for staff and sub-contractor foster care and preventive agencies, and detention service providers.  Over a hundred  agencies around the city in which ACS works have received training.
  • ACS hired its first Director of Child Trafficking Prevention and Policy in 2015, and is hiring an additional Child Trafficking Prevention Specialist.
  • They created a specialized team of former NYPD Detectives to locate missing youth at risk of CSEC.
  • Funding for services for trafficked youth was provided to eight youth-serving organizations.
  • Work is taking place to develop a Child Trafficking Database so that we know how many sexually exploited children have been identified.  
  • The agency created an internal “Child Trafficking Mailbox” to facilitate communications, to provide alerts of trafficking cases, and to receive consultations, resource ideas and referral information.
  • This year ACS is again providing 12 sessions of its full-day Child Trafficking Awareness and Skills training, with 5 dates targeted specifically for preventive service agencies.

The buying and selling of children for sexual exploitation is a lucrative business everywhere in the United States, not just New York and other big cities.

But for 25 years there has been a growing movement to stop it. ECPAT-USA is proud of the progress we have made.