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Unresolved Challenges - Lack of Best Practices & Standards

Human trafficking has been a long standing global issue. It has only been since the late 1990's that the United Nations established an anti-trafficking protocol and the United States passed the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act in 2000. Over the past decade and a half, the issue has become more publicized and we have seen a dramatic increase in efforts to educate, prevent, intervene, rescue and provide restorative services to victims of human trafficking. Included in this growing movement are concerned citizens, governmental agencies, community organizations and faith based groups. The challenges involved in combatting trafficking and the complexity of survivor needs combined with the rapid growth of programs and services have created gaps in continuum of care, service inconsistency, and lack of accountability. It is necessary, both for the ethical and competent treatment of human trafficking victims and for growth and advancement within this field of practice, to implement a system of empirically based treatments, licensing or certification of organization leadership, fiscal and program accountability and survivor informed policies. This same standard of excellence is required in strategic planning and financial management as well. Efficacious practice, uniform service standards and fiscal accountability are a necessary foundation for the viability, sustainability and transparency required by individual donors, foundations, grant-making organizations and other funding bodies.

Best practices are interventions and treatments that have most consistently resulted in positive impact or change. These practices are officially agreed upon by a governing body as a standardized model. The establishment of best practices is the most reliable method of insuring that communities and patients receive consistent and effective programs, regardless of geography or demographics. In support of that, industry standards promote consistency, clarity and accountability within a field of practice. As growth continues, it is imperative that we evaluate the standards that exist with this movement. The process of designating best practices and establishing uniform standards will take considerable effort, collaboration and time; it must be inclusive of those currently working within the movement, as well as the leaders, advocates and professionals of the future. But it is one of the most critical and necessary endeavors we must undertake and these implementations are being called for by leadership, advocates and survivors alike. Currently, there is a Victim's Bill of Rights included in the TVPA but not every anti-trafficking organization or advocate has read or adhere to those standards.

In consideration of other social causes, it is not unusual for the demand of an emerging social issue to require immediate responses that quickly evolve more rapidly than practice standards and program development can keep up. As a result there are many active and informed leaders and advocates within the anti-trafficking field that have had no formal training aside from hands-on experience. This experience is a valuable building block, but as time, resources and research becomes available, it is vitally important that formal training, accreditation and licensing programs be developed and incorporated into the standards of how anti-trafficking efforts will move forward.

It is the responsibility of those who reach out to the most vulnerable among us to do so with the ethical obligation to do no harm. Human trafficking victims certainly fall into the category of most vulnerable. Although, any man, woman or child could become a target of this criminal activity, some victims may be domestic runaways or throwaways, dislocated foreigners, persons held against their will, impoverished, abused, and tortured. These conditions may be part of their present circumstances, as well as part of a long history of violence, abandonment and exploitation. Although not specific to every trafficking victim, they can be a part of a vulnerable population accustomed to poor treatment and failed systems. It is only natural that, following rescue or promises of help, when recovery and restorative programs don't deliver, it creates incredible damage and reinforces mistrust. 

So, aside from the obvious professional, legal and financial benefits of creating a structured, accredited system of standards and best practices, it is a moral imperative that we do so for the population that we serve. We believe best practices and standards should be created and made readily available to every advocate and leader within this movement. All advocates and leadership that work with trafficking survivors should become accredited through a program created to raise the level of excellence, care, and accountability from those we serve. We need to help break the cycle of abuse and make sure we create a foundation that can sustain continued growth and serve those that rely upon us for care.