Office of the Governor's Child Sex Trafficking Team October Newsletter

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Greetings, All -

In this month’s newsletter you will find information on the 88th Texas Legislature, a recent Human Trafficking Rescue Alliance (HTRA) operation, learning opportunities, and a collection of resources to support you in the field.

As we look back on the amazing work of service providers, law enforcement, and the Texas Legislature this year, a common theme emerges: Texas remains unwavering in its commitment to see a state that is one day truly free from commercial sexual exploitation. The Child Sex Trafficking Team recognizes that the term “free” holds different meaning for each of us. For some it may mean the release of another’s power, others may define it as the development of sustainable autonomy. Below we hear from Survivor Leader Karla Solomon, who has graciously shared her definition of freedom and a resulting call to action.

…the absence of exploitation is not enough to make you free. Freedom can only endure if you continue to have control over your own choices and actions after liberation. Without financial security and the resources necessary to sustain freedom, simply liberating the victims of human trafficking just isn’t enough. Many ask what can we do to help survivors. Let me first say that not one organization can solve this issue, not one organization can serve every victim, its impossible, its gonna take partnerships and collaborations between these organizations and law enforcement and communities to stand up and support these organizations to truly make a difference. Individually I would ask what is it that you already do or have talent in that you could potentially utilize to assist someone else in this space? — Karla Solomon, Director of Outreach & Training, Mercy Gate Ministries

With Gratitude,

The Child Sex Trafficking Team

The 88th Texas Legislature

Bill Signing

The regular session of the 88th Texas Legislature concluded on May 29, 2023, which saw a staggering 8,153 bills filed. We are pleased that a significant number of human trafficking-related bills were passed and went on to be signed into law by Governor Abbott. These bills incorporated the vast majority of the Texas Human Trafficking Prevention Task Force’s Legislative Recommendations, including the addition of a child grooming statute, increased penalties for traffickers that use excessive force, added protections for victims with disabilities, and driver’s license flags for individuals convicted of human trafficking.

Recorded Webinar: Updates from the 88th Legislative Session

The Child Sex Trafficking Team and Brody Burks, Assistant Attorney General with the Office of the Attorney General's Human Trafficking and Transnational/Organized Crime Division, take a deep dive into important human trafficking updates from the 88th Legislative Session.

Watch this Webinar

Community Spotlight


Left to Right: CSTT Regional Advisor, Kellye Turner, HPD Vice Commander, S. Zia, HPD Vice/HT Unit Sergeant R. Medel, HPD Vice/HT Unit Lieutenant A. Merritt, HPD Vice/HT Unit Sergeant A. Gracia

Operation Back to Harris County

The Human Trafficking Rescue Alliance (HTRA) – Southern District of Texas (SDTX), is a multi-agency taskforce comprised of federal, state, and local law enforcement along with area social service organizations from the region with a shared mission to rescue victims of human trafficking and to stop people from engaging in activities that promote human trafficking. From July 26-28, 2023, this dedicated team worked an intense, but highly successful three-day anti-trafficking operation. 

The Houston Police Department served as lead agency for Operation Back to Harris County. Other participating law enforcement agencies, social service organizations and non-government organizations (NGOs) included:

  • Brazoria County Sheriff’s Office
  • Demand Disruption
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • Fort Bend County District Attorney Office
  • Harris County District Attorney's Office
  • Harris County Sheriff’s Office
  • Missouri City Police Department
  • Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office
  • Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission
  • Texas Department of Public Safety
  • The Houston 20
  • YMCA International Services

A snapshot of the results from Operation Back to Harris County:

  • Five (5) adult victims of human trafficking were identified and referred to a victim advocate social service organization for assistance.
  • One (1) juvenile victim of human trafficking was identified and taken to Texas Children’s Hospital and subsequently released to DFPS.
  • Five (5) suspects were arrested/charged for Felony-Prostitution-Buyer.
  • Four (4) possible traffickers were identified, and charges are pending for each.
  • One (1) firearm was recovered.
  • Ten (10) cell phones were extracted during this operation for evidentiary purposes.

The Texas Model for Care Coordination Grant Program, FY2024-25

On October 2, 2023, the Office of the Governor’s Public Safety Office issued a Request for Applications (RFA) for the provision of care coordination services to Commercially Sexually Exploited Youth (CSEY) in Texas. Care Coordination is a key component of the Office of the Governor’s Child Sex Trafficking Team Model to serve CSEY. 

Funding will be used to provide personnel and associated direct operating expenses to implement and maintain a 24 hour a day, 7 days a week (24/7) care coordination response. Applicants must meet all requirements of a Care Coordinator as listed in the RFA. While local children’s advocacy centers currently serve as Care Coordinators in most of the counties where Care Coordination is active, other organizations are also allowed to apply for this opportunity.

Full details regarding this funding opportunity may be found in the RFA, which is posted to the Funding Opportunities page of eGrants. The deadline to submit an application is December 2, 2023.

Learning Opportunities

Creating a Community Action Plan for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse

National Criminal Justice Training Center

October 24-25, 2023

Join other child-serving professionals to create a plan of action for preventing child sexual abuse of youth in your care. Learn the signs and symptoms of child sexual abuse, mandated reporter, and stakeholder responsibilities. Identify strengths and weaknesses of current prevention practices, and develop an action plan, using the Strategic Prevention Dashboard, for your organization. This course is open to all members of child serving organizations such as preschool, after-school care, summer camps, church groups, athletic associations, or others responsible for the care of minors.

Register for this Webinar


Save the Date: Creating Survivor-Informed Housing Programs

Freedom Network

November 9. 2023

This webinar will address the importance of incorporating survivor voice & choice into anti-trafficking housing programs, including the benefits and challenges that may be encountered. It will also explore the significance of integrating survivors' and lived experience experts' voices into housing programs' practices. 


Responding to Sextortion Related Offenses Against Children

National Criminal Justice Training Center

December 6, 2023

Sextortion using technology is an increasing trend seen by law enforcement. Sextortion refers to the crime where someone employs an abuse of power, usually a threat to expose explicit images, in order to coerce a person to do something. This 1-day training will identify the methods and tactics used by offenders and describe why youth are vulnerable to these tactics. The training will explain the long-term impact of these crimes on victims, offer a victim-centered response, and provide information on reporting these crimes to law enforcement, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the electronic service provider(s). This course will conclude with identifying effective Sextortion prevention messages for youth, parents, and educators.

Please note that spots for this training fill up quickly.

Register for this Training


2023 Conference to Combat Human Trafficking

The Borders, Trade, and Immigration Institute (BTI Institute), a Department of Homeland Security Center of Excellence, the Center for Immigration Studies, and the Institute for Homeland Security

December 12-13, 2023

The purpose of the conference is two-fold: (1) To present new research and innovative technologies that may be used in efforts to halt human trafficking; and (2) to identify areas for future research and to develop viable solutions through technologies and enhanced capabilities to counter human trafficking and smuggling.

Registration deadline is December 1, 2023

Register for this Conference

Innovation Challenge to Prevent Human Trafficking Among Women and Girls

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health Office on Women’s Health (OWH), will award up to $1.8 million to organizations with successful innovative and life-changing approaches to address human trafficking prevention among women and girls in the United States.

OWH invites applications for this national competition that will award existing programs demonstrating effectiveness in:

  1. Preventing human trafficking and/or improving health outcomes related to human trafficking among women and girls;
  2. Sustainable program practices; and
  3. The ability of the program to be expanded and/or replicated.

The competition has two phases with a total prize pool of up to $1.8 million. The deadline for Phase 1 submissions is February 1, 2024. 


internet safety 2

Internet Safety Handout

The Children's Assessment Center has developed this four-page handout for communities that discusses warning signs of online exploitation, prevention tips, internet safety and education resources.

View Handout


Sextortion Victim Resource

Sextortion Victim Resource is a two-page guide created by the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force to help victims of sextortion navigate next steps after exploitation. Service providers are able to customize this guide to include local resources.

View Resource


Adult Survivors' Rights Guide

The Office of the Governor's Sexual Assault Survivors' Task Force created the Adult Survivors' Rights Guide with a purpose to empower survivors of sexual assault by providing them with an accessible overview of their rights, informing them about the systems designed to serve them, and promoting access to appropriate and timely care.  

View Guide


Sexual Assault Exams and Accompaniment

The Children's Advocacy Centers of Texas (CACTX) and the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault (TAASA) created this four-page document to equip individuals serving sexual assault survivors with information on statutory rights of survivors, forms of medical accompaniment, and the types of advocacy.

View Resource


Transition-Age Youth Life Skills Study Guides

The Transition-Age Youth (TAY) Life Skills Study Guides were created by the Texas Network of Youth Services (TNOYS) to provide systems-involved youth with a comprehensive, central resource to help in their transition to adulthood and independent living.

View Guides


Human Trafficking School Safety Protocol (HTSSP) Toolkit

The HTSSP Toolkit is a step-by-step guide that schools and school districts can use to plan, develop, and implement a HTSSP for students and staff. The HTSSP Toolkit features links to various resources and trainings on how to help students who experience disability, homelessness, poverty, and other risk factors for trafficking. It also includes a sample HTSSP development timeline and checklist.

View Toolkit


Resources for Sexual Assault Response Teams (SARTs)

The Office of the Governor's Sexual Assault Survivors' Task Force has made resources for Sexual Assault Response Teams available on its website. Please visit the webpage to see new additions provided by the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault including, "Example Notification Document for Sexual Assault Survivors" and "Framework for Writing the SART Biennial Report."

Report Human Trafficking

If you believe a someone is in immediate danger, call 911.

iWatch Texas – Tips made to iWatch are investigated by the Texas Department of Public Safety.

National Human Trafficking Hotline – Call the toll-free hotline at 1-888-373-7888. Tips made to the hotline are reviewed and routed to local law enforcement. This hotline also offers 24/7 confidential support for survivors. 

Texas Child Abuse Hotline - Report child neglect and abuse, including sexual exploitation of a child, to the Texas Abuse Hotline at 1-800-252-5400.