Dear WestCoast Community,
As part of our continued efforts to advocate for an improved statewide response to the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) in California, WestCoast participated in a California Senate Committee on Human Services Hearing this past Tuesday. The hearing brought together leaders from the multiple systems that serve CSEC to educate policymakers on the complexities and challenges of protecting and serving sexually exploited youth. Panelists highlighted the critical role that the child welfare system must play in order to shift the response to commercially sexually exploited minors from one that criminalizes their behavior to one that protects them, and provides settings in which they can recover and heal.
The Senate Committee brought together experts from child welfare, mental health, juvenile court, law enforcement and children’s legal services for this Informational Hearing: Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Minors: Policy Considerations for the Child Welfare System.
WestCoast panel participation:
Susan Drager, Transition Age Youth Services Program Director, described the unique mental health needs of sexually exploited youth based on our clinical experience in the C-Change program. C-Change provides specialized mental health services for over 100 sexually exploited children per year.
April Fernando, Chief of Clinical Operations, Research, and Training, spoke to the key role of standardized screening and assessment measures in preventing exploitation, serving victims and allocating resources. April emphasized the need for early identification and, drawing from an assessment tool that WestCoast developed, the importance of understanding youth needs to inform placement and treatment decisions.
A recording of the Hearing is available online. You can skip ahead to Susan’s testimony at approximately 15 minutes in, and to April’s at 2 hours 45 minutes.
For more information, please contact Jodie Langs, WestCoast Policy Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org