Human Trafficking

Discussion on Human Trafficking with Aron Steward Ph.D., Chief of Psychology for CVPH at the UVM Health Network in Plattsburgh and Trissie Casanova LICSW and FSD Human Trafficking Consultant.


Cassie Gillespie (00:03):

Welcome to the field, a podcast of targeted trainings for child welfare professionals. I’m Cassie Gillespie. Join us as we chat with local experts about topics that are pertinent to child welfare in Vermont.

Cassie Gillespie (00:16):

Today, we’re going to talk about human trafficking with Dr. Aron Seward and Trissie Casanova, licensed clinical social worker. But before I introduce them, I should give you a little disclaimer and let you know that due to COVID-19 we’re recording from our homes. So the sound quality might be a little bit off. Aron is the chief of psychology at CVPH hospital in Plattsburgh. And Trissie is a human trafficking consultant for family services. Both Aron and Trissie function is local experts here in Vermont on human trafficking, and they both do a lot of training and consultation for us. So Aron, I’m going to pass this over to you to tell us a little bit more about who you are and the work you’ve been doing.

Dr. Aron Steward (00:59):

Hi everybody. My name is Aron Seward. Cassie told you already I’m the chief of psychology for CVPH at the UVM health network in Plattsburgh. And before that I was the clinical director for Woodside juvenile rehabilitation center at the state of Vermont DCF for five years. But I’m here today because I have been working on human trafficking for as long as I’ve been working, starting in my career around the country, and then coming back to Vermont in 2014 and working ever since then in various roles on human trafficking, which you’ll hear more about as we go forward, but currently the co-chair of the Vermont state human trafficking task force.

Cassie Gillespie (01:42):

Trissie, can you fill us in on who you are and the work you’ve been doing?

Trissie Casanova (01:46):

I’m Trissie Casanova. I work for the department for children and families, family services division. I’ve been with the department for over 17 years. I have been working in human trafficking, I think since 2014 or so. And that’s actually when I met Dr. Steward when she was doing a training at the Saint Alban’s district office for us, when I was an investigator. I currently work in central office and I’m the deputy compact administrator for the interstate compact on the placement of children and commission on juveniles. And I’m the human trafficking consultant for our division. So I consult on all cases regarding human trafficking of children. And I sometimes consult on cases regarding parents who we work with. I also sit on the steering committee with Dr. Steward and I and we, we both sit on the human trafficking work group for DCF that is working on policy development.

Cassie Gillespie (02:42):

Great. Thanks. Just to start out, could you give us a brief overview of the definition of trafficking?

Dr. Aron Steward (02:50):

Okay. So the definitions for trafficking have evolved over time and that’s important to know because they will continue to evolve over time, they are ever changing and getting clearer and clearer on what trafficking is. Much like in a mental health diagnoses we look at trafficking as a rule out, so it could be a lot of different things, but the definitions help us with the laws, help us determine that it’s actually trafficking. And as a contextual thing that’s really important, law enforcement views trafficking in a different way than mental health providers and mental health providers use trafficking in a different way than DCF workers. And so, as we work on multidisciplinary teams, you’ll run into situations where people have a different definition of trafficking, but the definition by law involves force, fraud or coercion in adult cases, you need either one of those three things force, fraud or coercion, and we can define them more as we go, or you can research them and Google them.

Dr. Aron Steward (04:00):

But it’s a law based definition for force, fraud or coercion and it involves either sexual exploitation or labor trafficking. So human trafficking is the general overarching term that sexual exploitation or sex trafficking and labor trafficking sit underneath human trafficking. For cases under the age of 18, you do not need force, fraud or coercion. You need the trading or lending or bartering of something of value that a youth wants in exchange for sex or labor. And the definitions are long and the laws are long and as you may well understand as we continue across the country, all different States have different trafficking laws. And so Vermont has its own trafficking laws, which are very, very good in comparison to other States and are written to protect victims and survivors, which we are grateful for. And so there are small changes to the law as it gets to state requirements.

Cassie Gillespie (05:14):

Okay. Gotcha. It sounds like when you hear people refer to trafficking, they could be referring to sexual exploitation or labor trafficking.

Dr. Aron Steward (05:24):

Correct. And so the federal laws of human trafficking and the department at the agency for human services are human trafficking initiatives. Under those, there are both labor trafficking and sex trafficking, and certainly contextually Vermont has been working on sex trafficking very, very, very hard for many years, 10 years. And specifically in the last five years, we’ve been working really hard on sex trafficking and over the last five or six months have really started working on labor trafficking. Interestingly enough, some cases that we work have both components, both labor and sex.

Cassie Gillespie (06:04):

Great. Thanks. One of the questions that I have is how big of a problem is trafficking in Vermont and what type of numbers do we have about that?

Trissie Casanova (06:13):

So DCF has been collecting data regarding reports since 2014. So from 2014, until December of 2019, we have accepted 161 cases for suspected allegations of human trafficking of a minor. And that’s for our whole entire whole entire state. So in each district office, we have 12 district offices, there’s been at least three accepted reports from every district office and the age ranges of those alleged victims are between the ages of six and as old, as 17 years old. And the themes that we’re really seeing in those cases are a trading of sex or sex acts for anything of value for money, straight up money phone cards, drugs, alcohol, clothing, things like that. And the range of cases that I’ve been consulting ,the majority, has been with adolescents around 14, 15, there’s a lot of 17 year olds as well that I’m consulting on. And then there’s also a group of kids that I’ve consulted on with regards to younger children who’ve been trafficked by their parents or caregivers.

Dr. Aron Steward (07:33):

And then for the adult population, we in an attempt to gain that collaborative grant that we won in 2018, we had to gather a lot of data and we did our very best to gather the range of numbers and data in preparation for trying to get that grant. And so what we found from 2014 to September of 2017, and since we got the grant we’re putting in new initiatives to get even better data, so this is a vast underestimate of what there was in 2014 to 2017, but we were looking at 243 cases in total in that timeframe 2014 to September, 2017. And there were some interesting things in that dataset. The first is that the largest population of people by age for trafficking was the 18 to 28 year olds. And that’s not to discount any other age group but it was the one that we found the most. And what we found the most is that they had either an online component, meaning that someone found them online or they were found online or that it started online, or that there was a drug component so that there was some substance abuse channel by which they were recruited and or kept. So that’s some interesting stuff about the data. We don’t know numbers since that last data set, but we are actively trying to gather numbers from both law enforcement case management and victim services liaisons.

Cassie Gillespie (09:21):

Why is it so hard to get good data on this?

Dr. Aron Steward (09:25):

The data is very hard to get because folks are really scared to be counted when they are being trafficked for a lot of different reasons. One is that when they cooperate with any public official, they increase their level of risk. So as soon as they talk to or cooperate with someone, not under the control of the trafficker they know that their lives are then in jeopardy and at an increasing rate than had they not spoken to or cooperated with public folks. However, there’s the cons that, which is that their lives can also get safer by talking to and cooperating with helpers. And so numbers are really hard to gather initially because survivors and victims are concerned about being known and being counted. And also there are organizations in the state of Vermont that are leery about sharing their numbers because of historical experiences where their survivors and victims were approached by law enforcement or not helped by public people because they were trafficking survivors both and are true.

Dr. Aron Steward (10:44):

That once you become labeled that way, you either get approached in a way that you don’t want to be approached or that we shouldn’t have done, or you get avoided and disconnected from services because of that label. And so numbers are really hard to gather both in survivors protecting themselves and also organizations protecting their survivors, but we’re working hard to build relationships and partnerships so that people feel more trust in coming forward. It’s really important in terms of healing to be found. And also the trafficker does not want their survivors and victims to be found. And so they’re working really hard to teach them not to talk about what is going on.

Cassie Gillespie (11:25):

And so, you know, our audience primarily are family service folks, they’re likely going to interact with this issue either because parents on their caseload are being trafficked or the youth on their case load are being trafficked. So Trissie, how good of a job do you feel like, or how reliable is the data from your perspective of the numbers of kiddos we’re seeing that are getting trafficked? Like, are we catching them all or are we missing a lot? What do you think?

Trissie Casanova (11:54):

So as anyone who works for family services know we have a very archaic database system. And so right now, the way the data is collected regarding reports is when centralized intake sees a report that’s being accepted for trafficking they have to remember to send me the link to notify me about the accepted report. And if they don’t do that, if the worker and supervisor don’t send it to me, then I have no way of knowing about that report and that number doesn’t get counted and then I’m not able to consult on the case. The other thing that I think is happening as well is that we have a group of adolescents on the JS caseloads, who are at risk of trafficking, who are engaging in some high risk behavior that might be trafficked but people aren’t making reports about it and aren’t contacting me to consult on those cases.

Trissie Casanova (12:47):

And then the last pocket that I think that we’re missing is that with our opioid and poly substance abuse problem within our state, I do think we’re missing a portion of younger children who are being exploited by their family or caregivers. I think those numbers are really low with regards to younger children. And I think some of the trends that are being seen across the country is this correlation with the poly substance abuse problems throughout the state, that there is a higher number of younger kids being exploited as well. I don’t think those numbers are reflective of the problem that I think actually is happening here in Vermont.

Cassie Gillespie (13:28):

That makes sense. So, given that we’re in this kind of crazy COVID-19 time, and we’re all under a stay at home, stay safe order, what are we seeing now what’s currently happening with trafficking? Does it look different? Is it still happening? What are you seeing?

Trissie Casanova (13:46):

Well, I think some of the JS workers can tell you that some of the adolescents are having a really hard time staying at home. And so I’ve seen a bunch of boys, ironically, who have been running away most recently more than girls right now, pretty much since COVID-19 has happened and the stay at home. There’s been one girl that ran away and she was found pretty quickly. And then we’ve had a whole slew of boys who’ve been on the run. I think in some of the webinars that I participated on with ‘My life, My choice’, in some of the organizations, some of the trends that they’re seeing are that trafficking is still happening it’s just looking a little bit different. So there’s a lot more video conferencing per se happening for sex acts and trading. And they’re still in person.

Trissie Casanova (14:36):

People are still meeting in person. They might be wearing masks or not wearing masks in order to trade sex for things of value. So I think that in Vermont, the cases that I’ve been consulting on I can honestly say there’s one case that I’m pretty confident that there has been in person contact that’s been happening with this youth and other people in Vermont, and then also traveling outside of Vermont. So even though we have a stay at home order and our neighboring States that might be hot zones. People are still crossing state lines in order to trade sex for things of value and money.

Dr. Aron Steward (15:14):

And Cassie, I would just add that as a risk factor and a red flag across all ages, across all groups, something that a trafficker has always been looking for is a lack of supervision and a lack of eyes on in order to recruit. And they have been doing that online, but they’ve also been doing that by word of mouth and by gang affiliation and all of those things that nationwide make some youth and young adults easy targets because nobody’s looking for them. And certainly we know that kids with a history of being in the custody of any state, any foster care system, any DCF, CPS, SPS, whatever system, when you have that custody history it makes you more vulnerable because a trafficker would be able to assume that you might not be being looked for. And so similarly, runaway history puts people and runaway current and present puts people at substantial risk.

Dr. Aron Steward (16:21):

And so there is a minor silver lining to COVID with regard to trafficking, which is that people are looking for other people right now, and they’re counting people and they know where people are. Parents are keeping, trying to keep kids home. As Trissie said, adolescents are hard to keep home, but we are trying to watch out for and supervise people at a larger degree. I’m not saying that reduces trafficking. I’m saying that traffickers are always looking for the loopholes and the kids and the young adults that have voids that they can fill. And so supervision is one of those things. And runaway is one of those things that we’ve always been concerned about how high the percentage is of traffic survivors that have a runaway history and a lack of supervision or custody, state custody history.

Trissie Casanova (17:14):

I would add to that, that, that lack of supervision, that there are parents who just don’t call their kids on run. Yeah. And there are, in terms of the Vermont statistics regarding youth, the majority of our kids who’ve been trafficked. The trafficking experience happened while they were living at home with their families, not while they were in foster care, which is the flip for the rest of the country. The rest of the country, the trafficking experience for most of their kids have happened while they were in foster care and that’s different for us. And I think one of the things that continues to surprise me is that we have this large number of kids who we haven’t had a lot of involvement with whose families who are unsupervised for extended periods of time. And their parents are not calling them in as missing people. And so they’re not being captured, nobody’s looking for them. And those are the kids that I am probably the most worried about, because I think as DCF, we do a pretty good job about calling the police, calling the national center for missing and exploited children when our kids are on run. And we really work hard to find our kids and getting them back very quickly, which is different than what happens in other States.

Cassie Gillespie (18:27):

So am I correctly remembering from some of the past conversations we’ve had that the typical pattern of a kid involved with trafficking isn’t necessarily that they’re gone and they’re gone forever, but they go and come and go and come back into the home.

Dr. Aron Steward (18:40):

So, yes. And I would just caution all of us as providers and helpers and DCF experts that if you’re looking for a typical pattern, you’re going to miss some of the cases. It’s important to talk about typical pattern, because we want to get our brains and bodies ready for the fact that survivors and victims are going to come and go, which is scary and risky. And it’s really hard to deal with. But that’s the beginning pattern of many of the cases that they come and go for longer and longer periods of time. But you also want to be thinking about an atypical pattern because there are cases where they’ve only been gone one time and we never get them back. And thankfully in Vermont, we have not had that experience recently. But that happens all the time across the country. And so we want to be thinking about the typical pattern as it relates to Vermont cases and also the atypical pattern as it relates to all trafficking survivors and victims, so that we can be creative in what we’re looking for so that we don’t miss some of the cases.

Cassie Gillespie (19:55):

So what should people be looking for in terms of indicators, red flags? I hear you that there’s no one set of behaviors. That’ll let us know, hey, this is a trafficking case, but what are some of the things that should make a worker, you know, feel like they need to reach out.

Dr. Aron Steward (20:12):

Yup. Trissie, do you want to talk about some themes from the cases you’re seeing now?

Trissie Casanova (20:16):

Yeah. I think something that’s really important to, to think about is that runaway history. And especially when we’re talking about kids who are 12 and under I, as soon as I start hearing about and talking to workers that they have a kid on their caseload, who’s 12 or younger. And this happened recently who has had multiple runs that for me, my antennas go up and I start paying attention and ask, I want to ask more questions and I want to start asking questions as to like, why is that kid running? And has anybody had a conversation with that youth as to why they’re running and how are they getting their basic needs met? So the running away and kids who don’t have financial means, but are showing up with expensive things that they have, no, there’s no way to connect the dots as to how they would have gotten the, you know, the Vera Bradley bag or the Michael Kors or the nice, the really nice expensive stuff.

Trissie Casanova (21:12):

While professionals have most professionals, I know have two cell phones, there is not a good reason why any adolescent needs two cell phones. So if you have a youth that you’re working with that has more than one cell phone, that should be prompting some other questions to some that should be prompting a red flag in your mind for you to go back and ask some follow up questions this desire for money and things. And that’s a red flag for a lot of things. It’s not just for trafficking, but that desire for money and that sense of connection. Everybody wants that, but it is a risk factor. And again, one of the themes that goes for juveniles and for adult cases is this history of prior sexual abuse and child abuse. And so that is most of the adults who’ve been trafficked. They were previously seen and the child advocacy centers as victims. So I think for people to be thinking about with the younger population around prevention, preventative services that can be used with kids. So that to help maybe try to shift trajectory a little bit. Aaron, do you have other, thoughts?

Dr. Aron Steward (22:30):

So the hardest part I think about trafficking is that there is a difference between risk factors and red flags. And sometimes people, people think about them in the same way, because there’s an overlap in the list of risk factors and red flags. What you want to be thinking about is that the risk factor compilation of, of experiences are early childhood trauma early childhood custody by the state, early childhood foster care, early childhood sexual abuse early childhood generational substance abuse and mental illness. All of those experiences put youth at a substantial increase for risk. And what you’re thinking about in a bigger picture is that you’re looking for children who have a void or a need. And the reason why that’s so important as a risk factor is because the trafficker needs to be able to fill the need in order to keep them or recruit them. And so that’s what you’re looking for as a youth that has been harmed or has been neglected or abused. The trafficker will exploit that first before they ask them to trade sex or labor. And so those are the risk factors, and then the red flags are what you start to see in a youth when they’re being groomed or recruited or trafficked. And so runaway, being a runaway or having a runaway history is both a risk factor, and it’s also a red flag.

Cassie Gillespie (24:11):

Yeah. Got it.

Dr. Aron Steward (24:13):

The, the statistics that we’ve gotten most recently from studies are that when a youth runs away that 76% of them in the first 24 hours are approached for trade of sex or labor and specifically sex trafficking. And so they’re approached very, very quickly when they’re not being supervised or they’re on run.

Cassie Gillespie (24:37):

I just wanted to stop you there because one of the things that comes up when we talk about trafficking in Vermont is that idea of, well, it doesn’t really happen here or not in our rural state. So that statistic is so mindblowing, right? That I think you just said 76%, is that right?

Dr. Aron Steward (24:54):

In the 76% in the first 24 hours on run are approached by a predator or somebody who has predatory behavior or dangerous sexualized behavior for a trade or a barter in something of value to that youth. And when we think about the big picture, that makes perfect sense. If a youth is running away, they need to take care of their basic needs cigarettes, drugs, couch to sleep on housing, alcohol, water, food, clothing, shelter, all those things need to be cared for. And so they’re at substantial risk. And so when we talk about risk factors and red flags, I want you to be thinking about a desire for electronics as a risk factor and an overuse of electronics as a red flag, both of those things are true. So we, we have to get creative in the way that we’re perceiving risk factors and red flags and in the human trafficking, one-on-one training. There’s a huge list of both risk factors and red flags.

Cassie Gillespie (25:57):

Thanks for talking us through that. That’s helpful. And one of the things that’s occurring to me is that there’s folks who might be listening, who are now having that alarm bell go off, right? So they’re thinking like, Oh, I’m thinking of this kiddo. So if someone on your caseload or someone that you work with, you know, if you’re having a concern that they may have been trafficked, exposed to trafficking may be trafficked in the future, what should they do? Who should they reach out to?

Trissie Casanova (26:23):

So for kids, they should be calling me. And some of the things that I know that happens after these trainings is that these alarms do go off on people and they think everybody on their caseload has been trafficked. And I think some of the things that I want to really tease out with people during consultations are to really figure out what are the pieces that they’re worried about to lead them to think that it’s trafficking, because there is exploitation in general, where there are people who are predatory but it’s not trafficking necessarily.

Trissie Casanova (27:02):

And that there’s risks. So for me, some of the things that I’m hearing about people’s worries is that they’re really more worried around risk, that they have a youth on their case load who’s at substantial risk of trafficking and there’s kids who they suspect have been trafficked. And then kids that have been confirmed that have been trafficking. So for me, there’s three different categories and I’m still, when I’m consulting with people, some of the things that I’m really wanting to hear about, I’m going back to the definition of trafficking, to hear what are the parts that while you don’t have to prove force fraud or coercion with minors, there usually are those elements in those cases, it’s not necessary for prosecution, but those elements generally exist in all of those cases, but they have to be trading of something of value for sex or sex acts. And those are the pieces that have to exist in order for it to be trafficking.

Cassie Gillespie (27:57):

Can you give us an example of what that looks like on the ground? Because when we talk about bartering or trading for goods of value, it’s hard sometimes to get a mental picture of what that looks like on your caseload.

Trissie Casanova (28:10):

Absolutely. So sometimes we have kids who I’ve consulted on cases with kids who have been on run and that they have been a trading sex acts in order for a place to stay or that they were for cigarettes and drugs are a common theme that kids, kids are absolutely trading cigarettes and drugs for sex acts. And I think some of the things that get confusing for when people think about trafficking of minors is that you don’t always have that third person of a trafficker. The person who’s buying sex might be the sex buyer and the trafficker with regards to how DCF defines trafficking, because that person is exploiting that child for their own personal gain. And kids shouldn’t have to trade things of value, they shouldn’t have to trade sex for a place to stay in order to get their basic needs met.

Trissie Casanova (29:07):

So we see that we see that a lot in the cases that I’m consulting on. And I’ll say a lot of those kids that I’m consulting on their cases, those kids there’s a chunk of them that they were on run and missing for periods of time. And maybe their families weren’t calling them in on run. One of the cases in particular, there were other people involved. There were other adults who were involved in helping bring them to other States. For the trafficking, I’ve consulted on cases where kids who have wanted money and wanted things, and they Googled how to make money. And they learned very quickly online as to how to make an ad and post themselves in order to sell sex and that they had their parents drop them off at places and the parent at the mall, and then somebody would come and meet them and take them shopping and then take them to a hotel. And so there’s a variety of different things that I’ve been consulting on across the state.

Dr. Aron Steward (30:09):

And Cassie. I think it’s important to mention that children in the state of Vermont and across the country, because we’re mandated reporters, trafficking is considered child abuse in the state of Vermont and considered child abuse and sexual abuse in some States. And so we have to report every single case that we believe to be under the age of 18 and believe to fall into the category of trafficking. And I’ve worked a lot of cases where at the beginning, I’m not sure that it’s trafficking because it’s complicated. I’ve also worked a lot of cases where it’s very clear to me from the very first moment a child discloses that it is trafficking. And so in those cases we call anyway. And so we want people to call the hotline and make the reports and not spend a lot of time trying to figure it out themselves.

Dr. Aron Steward (31:03):

Don’t ask more questions, don’t investigate. Don’t do any of that stuff, just call it in and make a report. And I’ll give you an example. So there’s ones that are really, really clear where a trafficker will say, if you want your daily dose of coke, meth, crack cocaine, any of those things, you have to do this for me. And that might be to me or to somebody else. And that becomes very clear. There are other cases that are more complicated and difficult. Like I just heard about a case this past week on this side of the Lake, where a youth said that they had a boyfriend that they really, really loved, and they really, really wanted him to stay their boyfriend. And he said, in order for him to stay their boyfriend, that they had to perform certain types of sex acts that they weren’t comfortable performing.

Dr. Aron Steward (31:55):

And if they didn’t perform those certain types of sex acts, he was going to go out and sleep with other people and no longer be a monogamous boyfriend anymore. That’s a complicated description, but we call it in any way and let the investigators and law enforcement and multidisciplinary teams figure out what it is. The second thing I wanted to say about what you when your own red flags go off of, I just saw that type of case, or maybe I saw that type of case where it was this person is that adults have free will. And we do not approach people that we think are being trafficked. If they’re adults, we don’t approach their perpetrators. Adults are able to choose how they want to live their lives. And this plays into what we’ve started really talking about in Vermont is that we don’t rescue or save adults that are being trafficked, that when we approach a trafficking case in that manner, we disempower the survivor and victim to make their own choices.

Dr. Aron Steward (33:02):

And so we do give information if it’s safe to do so, we do reach out and connect with them if they’re our friend or our close person, and try to help them in any way possible. But it’s a very hard situation to watch an adult make choices that are unsafe. But as providers, we do that all the time. If there’s a kid involved, we have to make a report, and, or call Trissie. But it’s different in adult cases. And so you want to get supervision and consultation from your supervisor, and you can always call Trissie for consultation, even if it’s an adult. But she will tell you that unless there’s a kid involved, that we have to empower people to make safer choices. And that’s really hard to do in substances are involved and, and force, fraud, or coercion is involved.

Trissie Casanova (33:48):

I think some of the other difference with kids and adults is that in Vermont, we investigate sex trafficking of minors. We don’t investigate labor at this time. But that as with any other sexual abuse investigation, we are required to talk to kids and interview them. And even though they don’t get to say, no, thank you to that face to face contact, kids get to say, no, thank you. When they have that face to face contact with us to say, I’m not ready to talk, or I don’t want to tell you anything. And that’s really okay. Just like it would be any other type of investigation that kids get to choose what, and when and how they tell us what it is that they want us to know. I think that same with adults, we still should be giving them information from a harm reduction perspective so that we make sure that they have the resources and information out there. So when they’re ready, they know who they can call.

Cassie Gillespie (34:48):

Great. Thank you. We are about out of time. So as we’re closing up I’m wondering if each of you want to just share one thing that you want people to walk away with, from listening to this? Aaron, do you want to start?

Dr. Aron Steward (35:03):

Sure. you said one, but I’m going to give you two and I’ll be quick. The first is that I want people to know that there’s hope involved in these cases that you never know which survivor and victim is going to be ready to live a different type of life. And so we have to work as hard as any survivor and victim at empowering people to make safer choices. You never ever know which person is going to be ready. There’s a window of readiness and we have to be present. And keep coming back until that window opens. And Trissie and I have seen some of the most amazing stories of recovery and hope. And so these cases can feel really sad and desperate and difficult and risky in the middle of it. And also we know about folks that are living free and living proud of not being under somebody else’s determination and destiny that’s the first thing is that there’s hope. And so we have to keep working on them. And the second is that trafficking in Vermont is not what the media is going to tell you. It is nationwide or even in Vermont. So because of systemic oppression and systemic systems of putting people of ethnic minority status in boxes and shipping it out to the culture and saying, these are bad people, and these are good people. What you’re going to see is that trafficking is a certain way, and there’s a profile and that is not true. It is not people of color trafficking Caucasian individuals. It is sometimes, but that’s not the majority of the cases we’re seeing. And so I would caution DCF workers to be very openminded in the way that they’re perceiving it and have no profile for what they’re looking for. And also be culturally competent and on fighters against systemic oppression which Trissie and I are always doing, but it is a full time job. And so you have to be creative and not look for a profile.

Trissie Casanova (37:09):

So I would say to not do this work alone, you can’t, these cases are extremely complicated and exhausting. And so one of the things that I tell every team is you need to build a multidisciplinary team and it needs to be similar to safety planning meetings, family safety planning meetings, and there needs to be a balance of professionals and natural supports because the goal eventually is for DCF to step out and the supports need to remain in place even when we leave, but you need a multidisciplinary team in order to wrap that kid and their family, because the level of supervision that we are asking for and requiring needs multiple people in order to help ensure safety and supervision of kids. Because when we have concerns around trafficking, we are asking families to take away the electronics and to provide 24/7 supervision. And that’s really hard and difficult. And so the thing that I can’t stress enough is to consult. And to not sit with this alone, the purpose of consultation is for people to not be sitting with risk by themselves and to have your multidisciplinary team. I’m always happy to come to a MDT meetings and consult with, with teams as well. All right.

Cassie Gillespie (38:30):

Thank you both so much. It was a pleasure to chat with you today.

Trissie Casanova (38:34):


Dr. Aron Steward (38:34):

Thanks Cassie.

Cassie Gillespie (38:35):

Thanks for listening. If you have any ideas about topics that you want us to cover or episodes that you’re interested in hearing, shoot us a message. You can reach me by email at, or you can leave us a comment on the webpage where you downloaded this podcast. Welcome to the field is produced by the Vermont Child Welfare Training Partnership and the State of Vermont, and a special thank you to Brickdrop for composing and recording our music. See you next time!

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