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Stabilizing Foreign-Born Adult Survivors of Human Trafficking in the U.S

Date Published
August 31, 2016

This project examined comprehensive case management services provided to foreign-born adult survivors of trafficking from 2006 to 2011. The goal of the study was to better understand the characteristics of trafficking survivors and the efficacy of interventions in stabilizing their well-being.

These programs were funded by the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Program of the Office of Refugee Resettlement under the Per Capita Reimbursement Contract administered by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). The USCCB was also in charge of providing training and technical assistance to the programs serving survivors of human trafficking.

Researchers grouped their findings into three analytical categories. The first focused on an analysis of the victims served in the program. Among other findings, the analysis showed that a surprising number of women receiving services had experienced labor exploitation (75 percent) as opposed to sexual exploitation (18 percent); a smaller share (7 percent) had experienced both.

The second set of findings was derived from fieldwork that the research team conducted with the USCCB’s former service providers. These findings provide a rich discussion of the challenges and changes that service providers faced during the period.

The third and most important set of findings focused on the central question of what factors contributed to “stabilization” of victims and the length of time it took victims to stabilize. Gender, age and country of origin influenced the length of time it took victims to stabilize, but the most significant findings concerned the crucial role of individual service plans. The greater the ability of victim service providers to identify and address the specific and individualized needs of victims, the greater the chance that the victim would stabilize. This confirms that active intervention through victim service provision is critical to bringing victims to stability.

The report concludes with a series of lessons learned and recommendations for service providers and government agencies overseeing them. Particularly notable was that length of service was as important to survivor stabilization as meeting immediate needs, such as safe housing and employment. As one as interviewee noted, their discharge from the program was “abrupt.” Clients left programs because of the time-limited services, not always because they were ready. This seemingly simple finding is one of the more consequential of this project, as it has significant ramifications in practice for program design and cost: In order to achieve sustainable stabilization, the length of program and service provision should increase according to survivors’ needs.

This was a mixed-methods study that analyzed the statistical data on survivors collected by USCCB in their administrative database, augmented by field research with a select number of programs.

About this Article

The work discussed in this article was completed under grant number awarded by NIJ to Georgetown University. This article is based on the grant report After Rescue: Evaluation of Strategies to Stabilize and Integrate Adult Survivors of Human Trafficking to the United States by Elżbieta M. Goździak and B. Lindsay Lowell.

Date Published: August 31, 2016