Human Trafficking Prevention

The Human Trafficking Prevention goal is to equip vulnerable youth with skills and knowledge that lead to a more positive lifestyle, helping prevent them from becoming victims of human trafficking.

Youth are the heart and future of our communities, and we believe they deserve every opportunity for a happy, healthy, and successful future.

Human Trafficking Prevention 

The Foundation’s decision to include sex trafficking prevention as a focus area, particularly the prevention of the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC), was made in an effort to address what we saw as a critical and important need in a region that has become a hub for these devastating crimes against children and youth. 

Although awareness of this issue in the St. Louis region has grown considerably in recent years, the problem of human trafficking as a regional public concern remains a relatively new concept. We found that it is not uniformly clear to what extent the broader community understands the problem, nor is it clear what resources have been developed to educate the public about where to go for help. While there are a number of anti-trafficking coalitions operating in the St. Louis region, as well as some prevention work that has begun over the last several years by local organizations, more is needed.

MMF seeks to support holistic and collaborative approaches to prevention, training and survivor services.  Programs should include a comprehensive, public health approach to human trafficking through primary, secondary or tertiary prevention with a targeted focus on the highest-risk youth populations.

The Daughters of Charity Foundation of St. Louis, now Marillac Mission Fund, completed a study in November 2016 on the need for human trafficking prevention in our region, particularly the prevention of the commercial sexual exploitation of children and youth (CSEC). The report is known as “Understanding Community Needs and Priorities for Preventing Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children and Youth: A Funder’s Framework for Addressing Prevention.” 

As a result of this informative report, Marillac Mission Fund began meeting with other funders in the region and this led to the creation of the Missouri Collaborative Against Human Trafficking (MCAHT).  Over the last two years, this funder collaborative has supported ground-breaking research to develop an action plan aimed at eliminating Missouri's status as a top destination for labor and sex trafficking.  This work is being completed in three waves: a comprehensive, statewide resource manual, a statewide needs assessment to identify current gaps in services, and a strategic plan that proposes solutions based on top needs and collective priorities.  The needs assessment,  "Human Trafficking in Missouri and Metro East St. Louis: Provider Based Needs Assessment and Demographic Snapshot," can be downloaded here.  It is expected that any organization planning to apply for a grant from Marillac Mission Fund in the Human Trafficking Prevention focus area will have reviewed this needs assessment before applying to ensure alignment with the findings of the study.

Statement of Need:


Human trafficking is a form of slavery involving the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act. Every year, millions of men, women, and children are trafficked in countries around the world, including the United States. According to Homeland Security, it is estimated that human trafficking generates many billions of dollars of profit per year, second only to drug trafficking as the most profitable form of transnational crime.

Human trafficking is a hidden crime as victims rarely come forward to seek help because of language barriers, fear of the traffickers, and/or fear of law enforcement. Traffickers use force, fraud, or coercion to lure their victims and force them into labor or commercial sexual exploitation. They look for people who are susceptible for a variety of reasons, including psychological or emotional vulnerability, economic hardship, lack of a social safety net, natural disasters, or political instability. The trauma caused by the traffickers can be so great that many may not identify themselves as victims or ask for help, even in highly public settings.

The focus of MMF grant-funded programs should demonstrate an increase in knowledge, skills and collaboration for prevention, and an increase in support and stability for high-risk youth and youth survivors. Projects can include the following:

Prevention Programming:   Prevention should be viewed across a spectrum of first-time prevention, intervention and survivor services to prevent first-time and re-entry, and a systems-based approach to tackling CSEC risk factors.  While both high-risk and lower-risk youth will benefit from prevention and awareness efforts, prevention for those youth at higher risk of CSEC should be a priority.  This includes a focus on addressing the key risk factors that create greater youth vulnerability to sex trafficking such as poverty, homelessness, family instability, racism, etc. 

Training & Education: Sex trafficking victims undergo significant trauma and victimization, so training is needed for social service and health care providers as well as law and order professionals on how to best engage them at the ground level.  Training and education for those who are the first point of contact with sex trafficking victims or potential victims will help ensure that trafficking cases are properly identified and managed, so that chances for a victim to receive necessary help and for a trafficker to be properly prosecuted are increased.  Training is needed to shift from treating a trafficked individual as a criminal to recognizing them as a victim as well as learn how to better interact and engage with young people. There is no one-size-fits-all training model.  Ideally, training should be relational in nature and customized to the specific group being trained.  This type of training has already occurred in several organizational departments within the health care and law enforcement sectors, but it needs to continue with stakeholder groups across the region in a consistent and ongoing manner.   

Survivor Services: Programs exclusively for sex trafficking survivors are in demand, especially more bed space that is safe and immediately accessible for the youth including the LGBTQ individuals and males.  Services include securing mental health and psychiatric care for victims, particularly those with substance abuse issues, which must be treated first.  Survivor services should incorporate promising practices for survivor intervention and recovery.  Promising practices for survivor services include: survivor led, developed and/or informed programming, trauma-informed care, peer to peer support, culturally competent services and providers, survivor-specific services, listening to youth voices, and engaging with them respectfully.  Residential programming that includes many of the above promising practices has also shown greater success with survivor recovery than outpatient care.

All proposals should reflect an understanding of the following in the program design:

1. Address prevention from a holistic, all-inclusive perspective, which should include primary, secondary and tertiary prevention with a more targeted focus on the highest-risk youth populations—African American girls, LGBTQ youth, homeless youth, Latina youth, low-income youth, immigrant and refugee youth, youth aging out of foster care and in foster care, etc.

2. Programs that increase understanding of survivors as victims of trafficking rather than offenders, Address the survivor services, prevention of first-time trafficking and/or re-entry.

3. Address the systemic risk factors of sex trafficking as an important part of the prevention ecology (i.e., poverty, racism, homelessness, poor performing schools, among others).

4. Collaborate across stakeholder groups, particularly those who work directly with high-risk youth and youth survivor populations such as middle and high schools, to engage willing youth (survivors, at-risk, homeless, etc.) to share their experiences and insights regarding CSEC and its prevention.  What would be of the greatest help to them regarding sex trafficking prevention?  How can youth be involved in prevention?  Youth must be included in the dialogue and development of trafficking prevention efforts, as well as in the intervention.