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SAFE CENTRAL: Children’s Advocacy Network works to combat trafficking in Central Louisiana

Published: Jan. 28, 2021 at 5:54 PM CST
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ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - The Children’s Advocacy Network (CAN) plans to be proactive in keeping kids safe from child traffickers.

Since 2018, the agency has responded to 79 confirmed and high trafficking cases. But, they believe the numbers could be greater due to underreporting.

One of CAN’s primary focuses is educating people about the dangers of traffickers, how often it occurs and how to prevent it.

“There’s a common misconception when people think of human trafficking,” Rachel Austin, a child trafficking coordinator for CAN, said. “They think of strangers coming and kidnapping children and taking them across the border. That’s not what happens.”

Austin said the most common form of trafficking in Central Louisiana is familial trafficking, meaning children are being trafficked by members of their family.

“They don’t think of family members harming someone in that way,” Austin said.

Another part of the puzzle is working hand-and-hand with survivors of trafficking.

“One of the things specific to child trafficking is that there are increased health risks, mental health risks and poor social adaption,” CAN executive director Wade Bond said. “But all of this can be fixed.”

Bond said one of their primary goals is to meet the behavioral needs of the survivors. He acknowledged that the COVID-19 pandemic has made it tougher to keep children safe.

“There is a decreased opportunity for children to have access to safe parents and safe adults,” Bond said.

Bond also said growing social media and internet use fueled by the pandemic has made “access to children increase significantly.” He encourages parents to actively monitor their child’s internet history.

Bond also said it’s important to bring more people to the table. CAN plans to form a human trafficking task force with law enforcement and community agencies to address human trafficking later this year. They’re also working on community awareness events.

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