The Los Angeles County Probation Department, along with several of its County collaborative agencies, officially rolled-out a new protocol designed to provide specialized services to detained youth who are identified as victims of sex-trafficking. The Los Angeles County Detention Interagency Identification and Response Protocol for Commercially Sexually Exploited Children (CSEC) and Youth was unveiled at a press conference held at the Kenneth Hahn County Hall of Administration on Thursday, March 14th.

The Protocol is a result of a finding by the Probation Department that since the practice of arresting children for prostitution ended in 2016, there was a sharp increase in the number of girls and boys in custody for other offenses who disclosed the fact that they had been victimized by sex-traffickers. More than 500 detained youth have personally disclosed to Probation Officers that they have been sexually exploited since 2014.

The Protocol was received with high praise by Second District County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and Fifth District County Supervisor Kathryn Barger who publicly shared their support.

“The Detention Interagency Identification and Response Protocol for CSEC represents the next step in an aggressive reform to decriminalize youth who are victims,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas emphasized during the press conference. “There is no such thing as a child prostitute…this protocol helps to send out the fundamental message that our youth are not for sale.”

“I’m appreciative of the collaborative effort to ensure that our county will not stand by while our youth are robbed of their childhoods, safety and their peace of mind,” said Supervisor Barger. “We are saying ‘enough is enough,’ and with the help of our Probation Department, we will continue our efforts to make sure that no child is subjected to the trauma and injustice of commercial sexual exploitation. Children who are sexually exploited are victims of child abuse and should not be criminalized for what they have experienced.”

The Protocol was developed on a foundation of strong collaborative partnerships between the Departments of Probation, Children and Family Services, Health Services, Mental Health, Public Health, the Los Angeles County Office of Education, and the National Center for Youth Law (NCYL) and builds upon previous efforts by outlining the roles and responsibilities of agencies serving youth detained in Probation juvenile facilities.

“The Probation Department has established a specialized unit, the Child Trafficking Unit, which has transformed the way we engage and interact with the youth in our custody,” said Los Angeles County Chief Probation Officer Terri L. McDonald. “Under the new protocol, children in our juvenile halls and camps who have informed us that they had been sexually exploited will receive specialize support and services provided by Probation and from our partner agencies who will join us in the shared goal of caring for these youth.”

CSEC survivor, advocate and former probation youth Oree Freeman (above, talking about her experiences) expressed the importance for this protocol.

“I was in that life, but that life does not define me or who I am, and it doesn’t define those who are caught up and trying to find a way out,” Ms. Freeman expressed. “I am grateful for the officers and counselors who surrounded me with the support I needed to feel comfortable and safe enough to tell them my story. That’s what this is all about; allowing these victims a safe space to tell someone what they are going through and get the help they need to get their lives back.”