Legislative Committee Approves In-Home Care For Sex Trafficking Victims


A state legislative committee has approved a new approach for dealing with minors who are the victims of sex trafficking. The bill would make it possible for a court to order residential treatment for a teen who has been forced into prostitution.

If passed by the Legislature, the bill could cost state taxpayers as much as $17 million, because it would require the Department of Children and Families to establish residential treatment centers across the state to handle as many as 150 teenaged sex trafficking victims each year.

Bill co-author Rep. LaTonya Johnson of Milwaukee says it’s time for the state to commit significant resources, not just to penalize traffickers but also to heal their victims.

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“To make sure that these children aren’t sentenced for a crime but are recognized as victims and are given the protection and the services they need,” Johnson said.

Johnson says it’s unlikely there will be as many as 150 victims referred for treatment each year. She says the bill would cost taxpayers closer to $2 million, not the $17 million estimated by the Department of Children and Families.

The head of the department’s Division of Safety and Permanence, Fredi-Ellen Bove, says a pilot residential program is up and running in Dousman where five former teen prostitutes are getting treatment. She says it costs more than $300 per day per patient to help them overcome their trauma and prepare for a new life.

“Simply sending children into the child welfare system without the resources to help them heal will not solve the problem we’re all trying to solve,” Bove said.

The Republican co-author of the bill, state Rep. Joel Kleefisch, says it’s time for the state to put its money where its mouth is to help child sex trafficking victims.