Child welfare workers being trained on sex-trafficking signs
LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico child welfare workers are being trained on how to spot signs of child prostitution after the arrest of two Albuquerque parents suspected of prostituting their 7-year-old daughter.
A subsequent review of the case found 25 prior referrals about the girl and her family dating back to 2004, the Las Cruces Sun-News reported Thursday.
New Mexico Children Youth and Families Secretary Monique Jacobson said this week that the review prompted recommendations for employee discipline and policy changes.
The training is part of the changes, she said. It will teach protective services workers and juvenile justice workers what signs to look out for and dispel myths on sex trafficking.
She admits she didn’t realize how prevalent the crime was when she was selected to lead the state agency in 2015. Before, she thought it only involved adult women who were brought into the country.
“Unfortunately, the kids that we work with are some who are the most likely to end up in that kind of situation, and I don’t think it’s always top of mind for our workers,” she said. “So, we really wanted to get that.”
In the case of the Albuquerque girl, Jacobson said employees who did not respond properly to multiple reports of concern have been suspended, demoted and even terminated.
Sen. Howie Morales of Silver City and Rep. Joanne Ferrary of Las Cruces think that case fell through the cracks because of funding cuts that they say have left the agency understaffed.
Jacobson denied that funding was the problem. She told the Las Cruces newspaper that 100 field workers have been added since she took over the state agency.
She encourages people to report suspected abuse to the phone number ”#safe.”
“The more specific you can be the better,” she said. “If you call us and you feel that nothing’s been done, call again.”
Information from: Las Cruces Sun-News, http://www.lcsun-news.com