United Way hosts child abuse and human trafficking discussion at third Powered by Purpose event

United Way of Indian River County’s third Powered by Purpose featured local child abuse and human trafficking experts. Featured speakers were Karissa Bolden, Clinical Manager for Cleveland Clinic’s Behavior Health Outpatient Services, Caryn Toole, Director of Child Welfare for Communities Connected for Kids, and Sarah Marie Henry, Community Development Director for Catch the Wave of Hope.

Hosted at Northern Trust, the event was a chance for concerned citizens and supporters of United Way to learn more about the signs, trends, and impact of child abuse and human trafficking during Human Trafficking Prevention Month.

Panelists noted that child abuse affects families of all socioeconomic levels; there were over 200 known cases last year in Indian River County. “United Way invests in local solutions to prevent child abuse through nonprofit agencies with established best practices,” said United Way of Indian River County CEO Meredith Egan. “Programs that United Way funds are helping to improve parenting skills and offer counseling and resources to local families. Efforts to raise awareness and community engagement are small but significant steps to ensure children and families in our community are safe and can thrive.”

Florida ranks third in the U.S. for human trafficking cases behind California and Texas. In 2021, the state had 781 cases, 7.54% of the U.S. total. Human trafficking is a humanitarian crisis that is a form of modern-day slavery. Human trafficking is a multi-dimensional humanitarian crisis that is a form of modern-day slavery. Victims are trafficked for various purposes, such as commercial sex, agricultural work, or other forms of labor. They can be rich, poor, men, women, adults, children, foreign nationals, or U.S. citizens.

To help combat human trafficking cases, the speakers stressed the importance of recognizing the signs and focusing on prevention, education, and bringing awareness to trafficking. In addition, social media is increasingly influential in human trafficking. Since victims are targeted online, recognizing the signs can be challenging, but parents and caregivers must monitor their children's internet activity and relationships.

The problem and its impact are complex. Education, awareness, advocacy, and support resources are vital to combat this issue. Attendees were encouraged to report any suspected acts of child abuse at 1-800-962-2873 or the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or call local law enforcement.

The Powered by Purpose series hosted by United Way of Indian River County features community leaders and experts speaking about different topics of interest to help attendees learn more about an issue, community challenges, collaboration, resources, and other ways to get involved.

About United Way of Indian River County 

United Way of Indian River County (UWIRC) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that fights for the health, education, and financial stability of every community member. United Way works with local programs to provide resources to individuals and families in crisis today, while working year-round to improve community conditions and create lasting solutions. We are effectively building a strong foundation and improving lives by mobilizing the caring power of our community. For more information about your local United Way, please call (772) 567-8900 or visit our website, http://www.UnitedWayIRC.org.


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