Society for Social Work and Research

Sixteenth Annual Conference Research That Makes A Difference: Advancing Practice and Shaping Public Policy
11-15 January 2012 I Grand Hyatt Washington I Washington, DC

53P Coalition Building Challenges In Working with Victims of Human Trafficking

Friday, January 13, 2012
Independence F - I (Grand Hyatt Washington)
* noted as presenting author
Rowena Fong, EdD, Ruby Lee Piester Centennial Professor, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX
Melissa Moreno, JD, Director, Anti Trafficking Program, Catholic Charities Diocese of San Antonio, San Antonio, TX
Significance: Victims of human trafficking have experienced severe trauma with adjustment difficulties, despite obtaining T-Visas and services offered by the Trafficking Victims Reauthorization Act (2008). Tensions between social service providers and law enforcement have caused coalitions to evaluate communication, collaborative efforts, and mutual problem-solving methods(Caliber Associates, 2007; Clawson, et. al., 2008). Although coalition members of social service providers, federal and state law enforcement agents, educators, and mental health practitioners meet on a regular basis, insufficient information is available about the effectiveness of these coalitions in terms of their success in meeting mission goals, addressing human trafficking victim client needs, and training the public about this population. From a social systems theoretical framework, this study reports analyses conducted to determine the effectiveness of this coalition in order to guide future strategic planning and improve services to victims.

Methodology: This qualitative study included structured face to face interviews with a purposive sample of 48 male and female coalition members from an urban city in a southwestern state. The study objectives were to determine the effectiveness of the implementing this specific Coalition on Human Trafficking's mission, providing services to meet the needs of human trafficking victims', and offering trainings to educate the public about the plight and needs of these victims.

Using a 32 item instrument as an interview guide, the research questions were focused on 1) the purpose, strengths, and needs for improvement of the Coalition, 2) the types of clients served and the services offered, and 3) the kinds of training sought and offered.

From January to June 2009 data were collected in taped, one and one-half hour interviews conducted in the agency office. Based on grounded theory, qualitative data analyzes included constant comparison, coding, themeing, labeling and memoing. Results: Thematic analyses indicated that in answer to research question #1 22 out of the 29 respondents to this question (n=22, 76%) found the Coalition as accomplishing its mission, whereas improvements for the Coalition in the areas of outreach, structure, and recruitment of more diverse members was recommended. To answer research question #2 the female, sex trafficked victims served were found to need services in shelter, mental health counseling, legal services, medical exams, spiritual guidance, and advocacy. However, only 13 out of 29 respondents (n= 13, 45%) found the services for victims effective. To answer research question #3 trainings that are mandated for law enforcement persons, information on immigration and legal aspects, and media sensitivity were the significant findings in the study.

Conclusions: This study offers new findings that indicate that coalitions made of constituents of social service providers, law enforcement, educators and mental health workers do not always have consensus with their mission and services offered to victims of human trafficking. Yet further diverse membership, perhaps victims themselves, is needed as well as additional training within group members to facilitate communication and common purpose.

Implications: Additional research is needed to determine who also needs to be involved in coalition building to improve the services and policies for this vulnerable population.