Advisory Board Shares Concerns, Suggestions With State Lawmakers
An Advisory Board of lived experience experts - individuals who experienced Commercial Sexual Exploitation as youth - assembled by NCYL and CLC to assist the California Child Welfare Council’s Commercially Sexually Exploited Children (CSEC) Action Team, shared valuable first-hand insights and concerns directly with state legislators and staffers during a Child Welfare Policy Roundtable in Sacramento.
The forum, held in January 2020, allowed members of the Advisory Board to speak directly to lawmakers about the ways that various policies and practices impact children, and offer suggestions for improvement. Topics explored at the Roundtable included:
- The importance of appropriate trainings for professionals who provide direct services to youth impacted by CSE;
- The criminalization of children who are Black or Brown or come from lower socio-economic backgrounds;
- The need for an array of housing options with specially trained staff and dedicated funding to meet youth’s needs ; and
- The need for better mental health services for youth that are culturally relevant and appropriate.
A major area of focus during the Roundtable centered on the inadequacies of existing trainings for direct service providers, like case managers, social workers, group home staff, and others in the law enforcement, medical and media industries.
Members of the Board recommend that robust, youth-centered trainings be created and mandated across disciplines. They also recommended that survivors be involved in the creation and delivery of trainings
The Advisory Board members also discussed the further victimization survivors experience as a result of criminalization, with several members sharing personal experiences of incarceration and the negative impacts of their criminal records have had on their lives. The Board members recommended that more be done to identify survivors and ensure they are supported rather than criminalized given the significant and lingering ramifications of a criminal record,, including barriers to education, housing and employment, among others.
Board members also discussed the importance of providing culturally appropriate and relevant mental health and other support services. Members stressed the importance of avoiding re-traumatization and finding ways to help youth enjoy life again, by identifying a young persons’s goals and connecting them to extracurricular activities, providing support based on the stages of change model, and applying a harm reduction approach. They also discussed that such services must address traumas beyond their exploitation, as many young people impacted by exploitation have experienced significant trauma prior to their exploitation.
The California Child Welfare Policy Roundtable meets monthly to discuss the major child welfare and foster care issues facing California, visions for systemic reform, and policy opportunities to improve the lives of California’s most vulnerable children and youth. Co-hosted by Children Now and the Assembly Foster Care Select Committee, it features a panel of policymakers, practitioners, advocates and former foster youth and provides an informal opportunity to learn and ask questions about California’s child welfare system.
The California Child Welfare Council’s Commercially Sexually Exploited Children (CSEC) Action Team Advisory Board was assembled by the National Center for Youth Law in 2016 in partnership with CLC. The Advisory Board is the first state-funded board of its kind in the nation.