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Working Together for a Child's Healing

Twelve-year-old Annie (not her real name) was brought to CALICO after her teacher saw bruises on her arm and reported to Children and Family Services (CFS) that he suspected the child was being abused at home. A CFS child welfare worker coordinated with the local police department and contacted CALICO to arrange a multi-disciplinary interview. Initially Annie was reticent about being interviewed, but she slowly opened up and began to share details of her life, as well as the neglect and abuse she suffered. During her interview, Annie reported that her mother regularly hit, slapped and kicked her. However, over the past few months, the abuse had become worse, and fearing for her life, Annie began to run away. During one of the times she ran away, she met and started to “date” an older man– she described how she would sneak out of her home and ditch school to spend time with him.

After hearing Annie’s full account of her mother’s abuse, the child welfare worker placed Annie into a foster home. Concerned about what she heard, the interviewer documented Annie’s high-risk behavior of running away and her history of family instability, which together put Annie in danger of being commercially sexually exploited (most commonly through prostitution). In doing so, Annie’s situation was brought to the attention of SafetyNet, a multi-disciplinary committee made up of prosecutors, probation officers, child welfare workers, victim advocates and case managers from government and local non-profit agencies that works together to identify and create safety plans for youth at-risk of sexual exploitation. At SafetyNet, the team learned that Annie continued her previous pattern of sneaking out to spend time with her older “boyfriend” who was suspected of giving her drugs and coercing her into prostitution. Concerned for Annie, the team developed a safety plan which included a mental-health evaluation and a referral to a specialized program at Westcoast Children’s Clinic that works with sexually exploited minors. Annie’s child welfare worker noted that Annie was refusing to participate in therapy. This behavior is common for minors like Annie; they often do not recognize that they are on a dangerous path and feel they do not need help. Based on Annie’s history and her refusal to accept help, the team adjusted Annie’s safety plan for the likely event that Annie would run away again.

The last time Annie ran away, the team responded quickly, and the local, law-enforcement agency was immediately notified of her disappearance. When she was found, Annie was detained at the Juvenile Justice Center. As advised by SafetyNet, Annie was quickly removed from detention and referred to an out-of-state treatment facility where she spent nine months in a highly structured residential treatment program for at-risk adolescent girls. While Annie was in treatment, the SafetyNet team continued to stay in touch to ensure a successful transition back to Alameda County. Annie’s child welfare worker located a foster parent who had previously worked with girls like Annie, a SafetyNet non-profit partner identified a local counselor who would continue the psychotherapy Annie started in the treatment facility, and Annie was enrolled in school for the coming semester. Three years after Annie’s first contact with CALICO, the team continues to support Annie, who at age 15, reports she is now happy, getting good grades in school and looking forward to the future.

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