Kristi House partners with county for air- and seaport training

Kristi House completes phase one of new sex trafficking airport and seaport training program

First-of-its-kind training program recognizes and intercedes for child-victims of sex trafficking and receives support from National Children’s Alliance grant

March 15, 2012, Miami, FL – Kristi House, the Children’s Advocacy Center for Miami-Dade County that provides services and coordination of cases for child-victims of sexual abuse and sex trafficking, announces the successful completion of the first phase of its train-the-trainer program for Miami International Airport and PortMiami. The Route Ends Here is a first-of-its-kind program in the country that builds on Kristi House’s national and growing international recognition as a model program. It was awarded one of just three grants in the country from the National Children’s Alliance (NCA) for addressing community training needs of commercially sexually exploited children (CSEC).

Kristi House Assistant Executive Director Dawn Thompson introduces “The Route Ends Here” transportation hub training on child sex trafficking at Miami International Airport.

Kristi House’s CSEC program has focused on bringing the community together around the issue and providing training and awareness building to bring attention to what has been a previously overlooked problem.  The agency identified a weakness and danger existing in our airports and sought to find ways to help children being trafficked through ports.

“We realized that underage children can travel through our nation’s airports without question as to who is traveling with them or why,” Kristi House Executive Director Trudy Novicki said. “We know that children are trafficked for sex from city to city for major sporting and entertainment events, so something needed to be done at these ports of entry.”

Novicki, along with Sandy Skelaney, Kristi House’s program manager for their Commercially Sexually Exploited Children’s program, Project GOLD, and Dawn Thompson, the center’s assistant executive director and education specialist, developed a training program in collaboration with ECPAT International.

The adoption of the program into Miami International Airport and PortMiami training curriculum was achieved through the unanimous passage of local legislation sponsored by Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz and co-sponsored by Commissioners Esteban Bovo and Audrey Edmonson – all of whom immediately recognized and understood the need for implementing this training initiative.

“I’m relieved knowing the girls and boys we serve will now get help,” Skelaney said. “We’ve had several cases where our clients escorted by their trafficker had tried to find help in an airport bathroom or by making eye contact with one of the ticket agents – to no avail. Now, everyone in Miami International Airport and PortMiami is an advocate for these children and will recognize the signs and hear their silent cries for help.”

The training program will disseminate the training to all airport personnel who may come into contact with a possible child trafficking victim by training port workers to recognize the subtle symptoms of trafficking. The initiative also includes the airing of 30-second Public Service Announcements throughout Miami International Airport TV monitors with a message to traffickers and child-victims.

“The Aviation Department is extremely proud to partner with Kristi House to provide this groundbreaking training at MIA,” said Ken Pyatt, Miami-Dade Aviation Department Deputy Director. “As one of the top entry points in the country for human trafficking and the first U.S. airport to provide this training, we hope to spearhead a movement that spreads across the nation.  With more than 300 airport and airline employees already trained, we believe we can make a difference in stopping these heinous crimes.”

“PortMiami continues to undergo training focusing on the warning signs of human trafficking. In conjunction with Kristi House, the Port is establishing an alliance with the cruise lines, the International Longshoremen Associations, Miami-Dade Police Department and private security firms, as well as other local, state and federal law enforcement agencies to further expand awareness and prevention of human trafficking,” said Port Director Bill Johnson. “We remain committed to train all PortMiami employees. We are very proud to be pioneers in this life-saving training.”

“It is truly unprecedented that a program of this magnitude and scope could be presented, approved and executed in one year. This is a true testament to the commitment our county, state and federal leadership has in keeping our children safe from this 32 billion dollar sex trafficking industry,” said Novicki. “We are incredibly grateful to Commissioners Diaz, Bovo and Edmonson for their incredible vision and support. We are equally grateful to the commitment and support of our state legislators; Rep. Nuñez, Rep. Fresen and Sen. Flores for their success in the passage of the Florida Safe Harbor Act which further aides these children, as well as to the unwavering support of Sen. Marco Rubio and Mrs. Jeanette Rubio in their anti-human trafficking efforts.”

Nelson Diaz, Kristi House Board Vice President stated: “This is a collaborative effort and an opportunity for all of us to be part of the solution. Our Community Relations Director, Natalie Brown, has just secured a federal grant from the National Children’s Alliance (NCA) in order to continue to supervise the trainers at the airport and seaport as they continue to phase two where the trainers are able to become trainers. This initiative is a momentous first step in combatting this epidemic and a call to action. Our goal is to take this duplicable program nationally and truly protect our children from these traffickers.”

You too can join this movement! Kristi House offers training on recognizing victims of commercial sexual exploitation of children every month. For more information or to register for training, visit the Kristi House website at www.kristihouse.org.