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Child Welfare workers trained to combat human trafficking in Louisiana

By Regina Pergola
On May 4, 2017

Dr. Corie Hebert, a social work professor and Title IV-E Child Welfare Program Coordinator, has partnered with Lt. Chad Gremillion and the Department of Children and Family Services to create an online child welfare academy aimed at training child welfare workers that recognize signs of human trafficking. The training is called Human Trafficking 101: A Multidisciplinary Training which covers the basics of recognizing when someone has been trafficked. 

“I am the principal investigator over a project we have here at Southeastern,” said Hebert. “The training academy’s responsibility is to train all child welfare workers as well as any persons that come in contact with cases of abuse and neglect of children that end up in the court system. So, when the child must be removed from the parents’ home due to risk of abuse or neglect, they’ll come in through the court system and then they’re put into the foster system, a group home or kinship care. We also train judges, attorneys, anybody that comes into that system designed to protect children.” 

The training, which will be at least an hour and a half long, will first be available on the DCFS website and then later on the Louisiana Child Welfare Training Academy website for anyone to complete, free of charge. 

“So, a very high need these days is human trafficking,” said Hebert. “We know we have a pretty big problem in Louisiana. One of our tasks through the training academy is to develop training and to make sure all child welfare workers in the state are trained on human trafficking, the issues, the prevalence, how to deal with the problem, how to recognize red flags.”

Hebert described how she made connections with the police as well as the DCFS to further the training academy. 

“We have reached out to the state police to see if they would partner with us,” said Hebert. “Originally, we said, ‘Can we come and interview you and video it because we’re developing right now an online training.’ We wanted a video on the training because we want to make it interactive. And so, Lt. Gremillion, with the Special Victims Unit through the state police, met with me last week. I asked him some questions about what’s going on in Louisiana. It was interesting. A lot of the research I’ve done was confirmed by this interview. He said that we have a bad problem in Louisiana and we tend to see it in areas where there’s a pipeline. I-10 is a big human trafficking pipeline all across the country. But also, he’s seen a lot of activity on I-55.” 

She also elaborated that one of the main problems with identifying human trafficking is that the person being trafficked, either for sex or for labor, is usually reluctant to come forward due to fear of being in trouble with the law or that family members may be harmed if they do so. 

“He says we see a lot of sex trafficking because labor trafficking is harder to identify and it may be individuals from out of the country who are coming in and working whereas sex trafficking tends to be a lot of minors who are then recruited,” said Hebert. “The reason we are doing it in child welfare is because we know that children that are in the system like that, in foster care or group homes or even in the Juvenile Detention System, are more vulnerable or susceptible due to past traumas. So that’s why we are making sure all of our child welfare workers are informed.”

If anybody sees a crime, not necessarily human trafficking, there is an app called See Send they can use to report it anonymously.

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