January 22, 2024

Reaching More Victims of Human Trafficking

Since becoming the statewide provider for human trafficking victim services in October 2020, Covenant House New Jersey (CHNJ) has been reaching more victims of human trafficking through research and advocacy work. During that time, we have served more than 400 survivors of human trafficking. CHNJ seeks to serve survivors of human trafficking and youth experiencing homelessness in a variety of ways. One of those ways is through the Covenant House Action & Research Tank (CHART). CHART conducts research, develops evidence-based strategies, and seeks solutions for complex problems. One component of CHART’s work is providing training & technical assistance to outside entities in order to improve services for victims and youth. CHART is designed as an action research tank. As an action research tank, the work we do makes a difference in the lives of those we serve, so part of our goal is to share what we learn. 

Working with the Office of the Attorney General

CHNJ is the statewide provider for human trafficking victims services through the Office of the Attorney General (OAG). Our goal is to identify and provide comprehensive, effective, and caring services to as many survivors of human trafficking as possible, but we cannot do that work alone. In order to meet that goal, we work with partners who we know are interacting with victims – other social service providers, hospitals, and law enforcement. To do that work, we have to help these other professionals identify and serve victims. One of the ways we do this is by partnering with the OAG throughout the year to provide training to law enforcement. In December, our Senior Director of Services, Rolidel Czekajlo, partnered with the OAG and Homeland Security to provide a full day training to detectives working with human trafficking victims. Roliidel says, “We were able to train law enforcement on how to work with people impacted by trauma, the importance of connecting victims to support, and how to conduct an interview. Law enforcement officers are often the first ones interacting with victims, and those first steps are so crucial to the experience of a victim.” 

Rolidel Czekajlo, Senior Director of Services

Working with Medical Professionals

Hospital staff are another group who are on the front lines of identifying victims of trafficking. Research has shown that victims often interact with a medical professional during their trafficking experience. These victims rarely disclose their victimization to their medical provider. CHNJ provided trainings this year to the Emergency Nurses Association on identifying human trafficking. We have also worked with hospital systems to develop protocols for identifying and responding to human trafficking. “We’re really excited about this work”, says Kaitlyn Zedalis, Associate Director of Research, Learning, & Advocacy for CHART. “We know that medical professionals are often the ones interacting with victims, and providing them training offers crucial opportunities for intervention.” 

Kaitlyn Zedalis, Associate Director of Research, Learning, & Advocacy for CHART

Working Beyond New Jersey

Our work in this area stretches beyond New Jersey’s borders as well. Our team continues to serve as consultants for the National Human Trafficking Training and Technical Assistance Center (NHTTAC). This year they supported a residential program that is about to open in New Mexico in developing their policies and service plans. We continue to support the Covenant House Federation, with 34 locations across North America, on developing a screening protocol for human trafficking and providing support to victims. We’ve presented our Labor Trafficking by Forced Criminality research to various groups. Two of our staff members were panelists at the National Human Trafficking Prevention Summit. 

Our training and technical assistance work is growing. In FY23, more than 2000 individuals received training on human trafficking from CHNJ.  You can see our summary report on the training we have done here.  

This Human Trafficking Awareness Month, we remain dedicated to pioneering human trafficking research and advocacy by not only serving victims, but also by expanding our reach to having a broader impact on victims everywhere. If you are interested in our training and technical assistance services, please email chart@covenanthouse.org