Help Minnesota's child victims of sex trafficking

  • Article by: LEE ROPER-BATKER
  • Updated: May 1, 2013 - 8:39 PM
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This artwork by Mark Weber relates to sex trafficking.

Photo: Mark Weber, Tribune Media Services

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Last week, the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota offered the state $1 million — the largest grant we’ve ever authorized — as part of a public-private partnership to end child sex trafficking.

When Gov. Mark Dayton signed the Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Youth Act into law in July 2011, it created two sea changes.

First, the law said that sex-trafficked children would be considered victims of crimes and provided housing and trauma treatment. Second, it directed the Legislature to study best practices in program delivery and build that model by the time the law goes into effect in August 2014.

The Women’s Foundation paid the fiscal note for development of the model, No Wrong Door, and the cross-sector collaboration of 85 leaders from law enforcement, philanthropy, government, nonprofits, survivors, faith community and corporations built it.

Now, despite fiscal belt-tightening, it is the Legislature’s turn to fully fund Safe Harbor. Our $1 million proposal, we hope, is a powerful incentive.

The good news is that Safe Harbor funding is included in both the House and Senate versions of the omnibus Health and Human Services (HHS) budget bill.

The bad news is that the amounts currently allocated fall far short of the $13.5 million needed to build the coordinated statewide system of safe shelter and intensive therapeutic care that child sex-trafficking survivors must have. And $13.5 million is less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the HHS budget.

To move the Safe Harbor HHS budget allocation closer to $13.5 million, our offer to House and Senate leaders of an additional $1 million is for the currently unfunded, but critically important, shelter and housing renovation portion of the legislation, contingent upon their contribution of $7 million. We hope they accept our offer.

This legislation, and our offer to establish a public-private partnership to make it happen, demonstrates how Minnesota leads so brilliantly: using cross-sector collaboration to create solutions to complex problems. Come on, Minnesota, let’s get it done.

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Lee Roper-Batker is president and CEO of the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota.

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