California Governor Signs Legislation to Protect Commercially Sexually Exploited Children
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 24, 2014
Stephen Texeira, National Center for Youth Law, (510) 835-8098
OAKLAND – On Friday, Governor Jerry Brown, signed new legislation into law that will provide $5 million in the 2014-15 budget and $14 million annually beginning in fiscal year 2015-16 to fund prevention, intervention, and other services for children who are sexually trafficked and to provide training to child welfare and foster caregivers.
By signing SB 855, the governor is creating a Commercially Sexually Exploited Children (CSEC) Program, to be administered by the State Department of Social Services.
In addition, the law will allow for a child who is sexually trafficked and whose parent or guardian is unable to protect her, to be served through the dependency system rather than the juvenile justice system. The clarification in the law also allows children engaged in “survival sex–” an exchange of sex to meet basic needs like food, shelter, and clothing–to also be served through the dependency system.
“Because of this clarification, sexually trafficked children unequivocally fall under the purview of the child welfare agency. This change will begin to shift California away from criminalization, and start treating these children as the victims of exploitation and abuse that they are,” said Kate Walker, attorney with the National Center for Youth Law (NCYL). The National Center for Youth Law, along with a coalition of other advocates and services providers has been a strong supporter for passage of this legislation, including submission of coalition letters to the Governor’s and legislative staff, meeting with staff to the legislative budget committees, and outreach to media through editorial boards, twitter, and Facebook.
Other changes as a result of the law:
- The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) will be required to allocate funding to county child welfare agencies that elect to participate in the CSEC Program. The optional nature of the program was created in response to concerns raised by the Administration that creating a new, mandated program would obligate the State for future costs under Proposition 30.
- Funds also will be allocated to counties who opt to participate, to develop local interagency protocols for serving CSEC youth. These protocols would be developed by local teams that must include county probation, county mental health, county public health, and the juvenile court, and may include other entities including but not limited to local education agencies, law enforcement, and survivor groups.
- Beginning in 2015-16 and on-going, $14 million will be allocated to child welfare agencies that opt into the program to provide prevention and intervention services including but not limited to: training foster children to help recognize and avoid commercial sexual exploitation; engaging survivors of commercial sexual exploitation to provide support to county staff and survivors; consulting and coordinating with homeless youth shelters and other service providers; hiring county staff trained and specialized to work with children who are victims; and providing supplemental foster care rates for placement of child victims of commercial sexual exploitation.
- Requires CDSS to establish a mechanism in the California Child Welfare System-Case Management System to collect data concerning children who are commercially sexually trafficked and served by child welfare.
- Requires CDSS to submit a report to the Legislature by April 1, 2017 on the implementation of the CSEC Program.
About the National Center for Youth Law
The National Center for Youth Law (NCYL) is a national non-profit organization that has been working for over four decades to improve the lives of at-risk children. Employing a range of strategies, NCYL works to ensure that low-income children have the resources, support, and opportunities they need for healthy and productive lives.
About The Center for the Study of Social Policy
The Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP) is a national, nonprofit organization recognized for its leadership in shaping policy, reforming public systems and building the capacity of communities. For more than 30 years, CSSP has influenced and supported elected officials, public administrators, families and neighborhood residents to take the actions they need. Based in Washington, DC, CSSP translates research and new ideas into strategies for on-the-ground implementation. We use the knowledge from those real experiences to better inform the next generation of ideas, programs and policies. CSSP’s goal is to make sure low income children can learn, develop and thrive with the support of strong families, in safe and healthy communities. For more information, visit www.cssp.org or call 202.371.1565.