There has been a steady increase in the number of organizations dedicated to aftercare and other forms of assistance for victims of human trafficking. However, many well-meaning organizations, governmental and non-governmental alike, may fall far short of the ideal care of their charges, and may not even meet the minimum standards. Many countries around the world do have minimum care standards for the care of children and adults in foster homes and institutions but these policies often lack specificity and enforcement.
An unfortunate example happened recently: a girl (with multiple risk factors for HIV) in a shelter had a mental melt-down and started to cut herself with a mirror she had broken. In attempting to stabilize her a staff member got cut with a piece of the broken mirror that the girl had used to cut herself. The girl was stabilized but now the crises was addressing the risk of HIV transmission to the staff member. Without sharing details, the lack of a robust protocol for testing and protection raised the crisis of possible transmission to an unnecessary level.
Components of caring for survivors include such things as shelter facilities and staffing, child protection, educational and vocational services, case management, and health care. The Hands That Heal curriculum by the Faith Alliance Alliance Slavery and Trafficking is an excellent overview of these components that provides a sound foundation to their work.
There is a great need to take these basic minimum standards (if they exist) and solid principles and develop robust practical standards and protocols. This process involves engagement at the national level all the way down to working with the house parents of shelters.
Barriers to developing and adhering to a set of minimum standards of care include knowledge of what the standards are or should be, funds to implement them, and the technical resources to implement them. Many organizations lack basic protocols for how to manage preventive health care or dealing with medical problems – urgent or otherwise. many still do not understand the importance of and proper scheduling of blood tests for diseases such as HIV, Hepatitis B, and syphilis.
Relentless is currently working with nation-wide coalitions in Thailand and Cambodia to address these gaps by developing a set of minimum standards and protocols to ensure the best care and protection of the residents as well as the staff of these shelters.