Oct. 5, 2012 – Senator Marco Rubio joined local officials for a visit of Kristi House’s emergency drop-in shelter, the first safe house in the State of Florida for child victims of sex-trafficking planned to open in January 2013.
Kristi House, the Children’s Advocacy Center for Miami-Dade that provides services and system coordination for child-victims of sexual abuse and sex trafficking, provided the exclusive tour to Senator and Mrs. Marco Rubio and local officials of the soon-to-open shelter. The property, located in the City of Miami, will serve as the emergency drop-in shelter for child-victims of sex trafficking, the first of its kind in the State of Florida under the Florida Safe Harbor Act which becomes law January 1, 2013
In partnership with the Department of Children and Families, City of Miami, Miami-Dade County, and Miami-Dade County Public Schools, South Florida prepares to implement the Florida Safe Harbor Act – a law changing the way commercially sexually exploited children are viewed and treated in Florida. Kristi House’s program will serve as the model for statewide implementation of the Florida Safe Harbor Act – HB99. The legislation’s passage was unanimous and was sponsored by Senator Anitere Flores in the Senate and Representative Erik Fresen and Jeanette Nuñez in the House in the 2012 legislative session.
“The success of this effort can only be credited to the extraordinary leadership of our elected officials through collaboration and an absolute bipartisan approach to finding a solution to assist child-victims of sex trafficking – the most egregious form of child sexual abuse,” said Nelson Diaz, attorney at Becker & Poliakoff and Kristi House Board President. Diaz further commented that ‘the Safe Harbor Act creates a framework for safe harbor shelters throughout Florida for victims of an insidious crime – victims who in many cases are helpless and feel hopeless.”
As of January 1, 2013, as the permanent headquarters of Kristi House’s Project GOLD, the Drop-in Center will be the location for the offices of program staff and volunteers, the “first-stop shop” for intake and assessment, and a youth-friendly and safe space for girls ages 11-17 who are survivors of commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking. The Drop-In Center will provide short-term emergency refuge, crisis intervention and ongoing support and services. It has been created based on DCF’s standards for licensing.
Senator and Mrs. Rubio were joined by Mr. Jose Bermudez, Office of the Governor, Regional Representative; City of Miami Mayor Thomas Regalado; Commissioner Steve Bovo; Commissioner Rebecca Sosa; Commissioner Marc Sarnoff; Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, and Ms. Esther Jacobo, Regional Director, Department of Children and Families. Ms. Maria Cruz Leviano represented Commissioner Pepe Diaz.
“With the passage of HB99, our Tallahassee leadership rose to the occasion with the help of our friends in Washington. They have provided the legislative structure to begin the process of real healing for these child-victims. Remember, a sex-trafficked child is a sexually abused child,” stated Trudy Novicki, Executive Director of Kristi House.
Kristi House, together with the Department of Children and Families, the Office of the State Attorney, law enforcement, City of Miami, Miami-Dade County, and Miami-Dade County Public Schools comprise the Florida Safe Harbor Implementation Coalition stakeholders.
“Abuse is so pervasive, so life altering to our young children. I am here to dedicate my support of the school’s resources. Shoulder to shoulder – we can change the future for these most vulnerable children,” said Miami-Dade Public Schools Superintendent, Alberto Carvalho.
Kristi House is the Children’s Advocacy Center for all of Miami-Dade County and is dedicated to providing a healing environment for child victims of sexual abuse and their families. This approach includes coordinating client families’ involvement with legal, medical and mental health systems, limiting the number of interviews to reduce the trauma associated with each retelling of the story, and ensuring that no child falls through the gaps in our complex child welfare system. Kristi House provides a full continuum of wrap-around services and care for victims and their families free of charge including mental health services, critical for recovery from the trauma of sexual abuse for most survivors.
Kristi House’s Project GOLD is a specialized program addressing the commercial sexual exploitation of children that provides intervention, prevention and advocacy services and help to these previously overlooked sex abuse victims. An emergency shelter and drop-in center will be opened in 2012.
Kristi House is located on the University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Hospital campus at 1265 NW 12 Ave. Its south facility is located on U.S. Highway 1 and 152nd Street, and its north facility is located at 18441 NW and 2nd Avenue. Founded in 1996, Kristi House has served more than 8,500 victims of child sexual abuse and their families. Thousands more are reached every year with education and prevention outreach programs. Visit www.kristihouse.org for more details.
Trudy Novicki, Executive Director
Mary Faraldo, Community Relations Officer