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Alliance for Children: ‘Children are lured into sex trafficking, exploitation with internet, smartphones, iPads’

Lifestyle

Photo by 🇸🇮 Janko Ferlič on Unsplash

Child sex trafficking in Tarrant County is rising in tandem with the exposures that students have to the internet, smartphones and iPads, according to a child advocacy organization.

“We’re seeing a lot of abuse situations generated from the internet we encourage parents to know what their kids are doing online,” said Katia Gonzalez, director of training and team relations at Alliance for Children.

Founded in 1992, Child Alliance serves up to 2,500 children who have been impacted by abuse year to year with counseling and other services.

“We still have kids that come in our centers every single day so just having the resources to continue doing our work can be a challenge,” Gonzalez told Dallas Express. “It would be nice to have a day or a week where there are no victims in Tarrant County but that hasn’t happened. The challenge is that no matter how hard we work to prevent it, child abuse still happens and our teams are incredibly busy. “

The center also provides prevention training.

“We really hope that kids don’t need to come through our doors and part of that hope is teaching adults how they can prevent abuse and set up boundaries for children to make sure that children are safe,” Gonzalez said in an interview. “The other aspect of that is when kids are not safe, we teach adults how they can recognize unsafe situations and make a report so that we can take action to intervene.”

Some 6,203 children were victims of abuse and neglect countywide, according to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) 2020 report, and Tarrant County is third only to Dallas and Harris counties when it comes to confirmed child abuse victims statewide.

“Kids are being exploited online by being asked to send pictures and when they send pictures, they get blackmailed for that,” Gonzalez said. “There are a variety of sources where there is actually an internet component to children being victimized.”

Alliance for Children dedicates an entire unit exclusively to Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC).

“The way a parent monitors their child’s sleepovers is the way they need to pay attention to their online world as well because we’re seeing a lot more child sex trafficking cases that come through kids’ online activities,” Gonzalez said.

Child victims of abuse are funneled to the multidisciplinary team at Alliance for Children through law enforcement and Child Protective Services (CPS).

“Rather than having children and families navigate these different systems, they come to Alliance for Children and get the benefit of a whole team that works together on their case cohesively and in collaboration,” Gonzalez added. “Our job is to facilitate a team investigation approach to ensure we’re providing every level of care during that process. Beyond that, we have a family advocacy program to meet the health and mental health needs of the family.”

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