(NASHVILLE) The Volunteer State is again in the positive spotlight for its comprehensive efforts in addressing sex trafficking. Tennessee is again ranked as best in the nation by a leading organization.
The collaborative efforts of several agencies on child and youth sex trafficking were highlighted this week during the release of the State Report Cards by Shared Hope International, an agency committed to bring healing and hope to those exploited and victimized by sex trafficking. The group lauded Tennessee for showing the most improvement over the past year, which moved the state into first place with a B+ score.
The accomplishments can be credited to the extensive efforts of Governor Bill Lee’s administration and the Tennessee General Assembly to provide increased funding and support to the coordination of efforts to investigate and provide comprehensive services and resources to victims of sex trafficking. Agencies such as the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, the Tennessee District Attorney Generals Conference, various non-governmental organizations, and Child Advocacy Centers throughout the state partnered together with efforts to achieve the high score.
Of the six areas outlined in the Report Card, statutory improvements and criminal penalties received a score of A and significant improvements in prevention and training specifically related to child welfare and juvenile justice agencies, prosecutors and school personnel were noted with a B+ score. Improvements were also made in the areas of screening through the child welfare and the juvenile justice system, multi-disciplinary responses, extended foster care services, non-criminalization for prostitution offenses, civil remedies, and orders of protection. Efforts focusing on further systemic and statewide improvements will include expanding community-based services, enhancing services through the child welfare and juvenile justice system, court proceedings, and enhanced training for law enforcement.
Department of Childrens Services Commissioner Margie Quin noted, “I look forward to bringing my passion for victims and expertise on child sex trafficking to my new role in child welfare. There is still much work to do to ensure children are protected but DCS will partner with other agencies as we improve our collective response to sex trafficking. The improvements could not have happened without the collaboration of many agencies, and the support of our legislators and Governor Lee. Tennessee is poised to remain as the top-ranking state.”
TBI Director David Rausch said, “Over the past decade, Tennessee has made incredible strides to understand and address trafficking. We’ve come a long way, but we’ve still got work to do. That’s why we continue to innovate in our approach to investigating trafficking, support and train local law agencies, and partner with every stakeholder we can in this vital work. We’re also incredibly thankful to the General Assembly and Governor Lee and his administration for their ongoing support to provide additional agent positions in the recent budget cycle to further accelerate our efforts.”
More information about Shared Hope International and its State Report Card program can be found online at https://sharedhope.org/. Information about Tennessee’s public awareness campaign on human trafficking is also online at https://www.ithastostop.com.