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Cuyahoga County and Juvenile Court Team Up to Help Victims of Human Trafficking

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John O'Brien: (216) 263-4545; jfobrien@cuyahogacounty.us 

CLEVELAND – Cuyahoga County and the Court of Common Pleas, Juvenile Division are providing funding for Safe Harbor Docket trauma-informed treatment services for victims of Human Trafficking. The support total is $24,404.50 for the period of 10/1/2018 – 9/30/2019. The docket serves juvenile human trafficking victims to allow for criminal offenses related to the juvenile’s victimization to be diverted from official court prosecution.

The docket works closely with a multidisciplinary team to treat victims of human trafficking, rather than punishing them. These youths are often recovered by the FBI Cleveland Field Office or the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Department. Any youth that has signs of trafficking victimization is immediately referred to receive a Human Trafficking Victim Assessment (HTVA), conducted by Cleveland Rape Crisis Center.

Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas, Juvenile Division, has been operating the Safe Harbor Docket under the guidance of Judge Denise Rini since May of 2015: “The Safe Harbor Program provides intensive services to youth that are victims of Human Trafficking. Since most who are on the Safe Harbor Docket have experienced trauma, the treatment is critical to ensure that proper services are provided to break the cycle of abuse,” stated Judge Rini.

“We are working with the Sheriff’s Office and other partners to do everything we can for the victims of human trafficking,” said Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish. “Safe Harbor offers specialized treatment, assistance and support for victims, and a new chance for them to find success in life.”

In order to cease the criminalization of victims, the Court has contracted with numerous treatment providers to deliver individualized, trauma-informed treatment to youth that agree to participate in the Safe Harbor Program. The following treatment provider agencies are contracted to deliver Trauma-Informed Treatment Services:
  • Applewood Centers, Inc.
  • Bellefaire Jewish Children's Bureau
  • Catholic Charities Corporation
  • Cornell Abraxas Group, Inc.
  • Ohio Mentor, Inc.

Trauma-informed treatment provides therapy and intensive case management services to aid in the development of life skills and/or employability skills, assist the youth in enrollment in an educational program, assist in the development of a healthy support network, and link the youth to needed health services. The goal of the treatment services is to reduce trauma symptoms and improve behavioral health functioning and pro-social decisions.

When participants successfully complete the docket, their charges are dismissed, which allows the youth to have a clean record. However, even if an individual does not complete the program successfully, they are linked with numerous community resources and pro-social contacts to have as supports moving forward. Since receiving Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) funds to support the Safe Harbor Docket, the Court has been able to serve 24 youth with these specialized services. The docket has successfully graduated 6 youth to return to safe behavior in the community.

Other key members that contribute to the operations of this program include: Bellefaire JCB Homeless and Missing Youth Program, Cleveland Rape Crisis Center, Abraxas YFS, the Cuyahoga County Division of Children and Family Services, The Renee Jones Empowerment Center, The Cleveland LGBT Center, the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Task Force, The Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office, the Cuyahoga County Public Defender’s Office and the FBI Cleveland Field Office.