For more information, contact Chris Simonsmeier (360) 397-2201 ext. 4833
In 2010, through the collaborative work of a number of community organizations and local government agencies, the issue of sex trafficking of juveniles came to the forefront of our community’s attention. This is an issue that for many years was understood as a problem that existed in our neighboring, and much larger, metropolitan area of Portland, Oregon. Through the work of Shared Hope, the YWCA and other community partners, we came to recognize that this tragic problem is as much a Clark County issue as it is a Portland issue.
Consistent with addressing many community concerns in Clark County, our history of collaboration among community partners has marked our response to minor sex trafficking. As has been stated by Shared Hope, the misidentification of youth involved in sex trafficking is a key issue that needed to be resolved. Through a year-long collaborative community process of education, planning, training and implementation of a pilot program, Clark County Juvenile Court and its community partners have developed a response to minor sex trafficking that focuses on the recognition of these youth as the victims of crime and the bringing of appropriate community resources to bear that can both protect and serve these youth.
Clark County Juvenile Court created a full time professional staff position with a specialized focus on serving youth who have self-disclosed, or been assessed through the department’s screening process, as being at risk or involved in sex trafficking. The DMST staff position is equivalent in job classification to a probation counselor. This position, while staffed through the juvenile court, is a resource for all community agencies and organizations working to address minor sex trafficking. Youth served may be referred by any community partner for services provided through this position. The fundamental approach in identifying and serving these youth will be that of responding to victims of sex trafficking. The position is housed and supervised in the department’s Victim Impact Unit. This unit specializes in responding to the needs of all crime victims.
In addition to providing specialized direct service to these youth, the DMST staff position develops and maintains an information sharing data system for community partners; revising and updating the existing screening protocol as needed; providing educational opportunities in the community regarding DMST; and providing leadership for community resource coordination and development.