Fontbonne Launching Human/Sex Trafficking Training Program for Social Service Professionals

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Fontbonne University is launching a five-day program for social service professionals involved in the identification, prevention and treatment of human/sex trafficking victims and survivors. The university introduced the program during a press conference Thursday, Sept. 21, at 10:30 a.m. in the East Building of its Clayton, Mo., campus. Missouri congresswoman Ann Wagner spoke at the event, along with Katie Rhoades, survivor, mentor and founder/executive director of Healing Action, a local nonprofit dedicated to helping trafficking survivors heal and rebuild their lives.

Made possible through funding from the Incarnate Word Foundation, Fontbonne’s program will be open to participants from social service agencies across the St. Louis region. The next session is planned for March.

“Offering this unique program to St. Louis professionals is something intrinsically tied to our founding values,” said J. Michael Pressimone, Fontbonne president. “The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, our founders, and the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word have made it their mission to help those less fortunate, and we are proud to continue those healing traditions through academic initiatives such as this. Our long-term goal at Fontbonne is to establish a center dedicated to education, community development and prevention surrounding this critical issue.”

The Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word adopted in 2015 a corporate stance against human trafficking. The organization sought out Fontbonne recently as an educational partner who could deliver a curriculum to local social service practitioners.

“Through this partnership with Fontbonne University, we are working with highly skilled professionals to bring new techniques to social workers in order to address the trauma that human trafficking victims experience,” said Bridget Flood, Incarnate Word Foundation executive director.

The curriculum, developed by Fontbonne’s social work department, will include intervention strategies, advanced clinical training and data collection.

One of the goals of the training is to facilitate community alliances among organizations that have primary access to vulnerable populations. These include homeless shelters, half-way houses, crisis hotlines, youth and adolescent crisis services and treatment centers, domestic violence shelters, psychiatric units, immigrant organizations, faith-based services and sanctuaries.

“There are many great agencies and dedicated professionals trying to address this issue in our region,” said Sharon Jackson, chair of Fontbonne’s social work department. “We think the key to this effort is bringing people and organizations together as one community alliance and providing them with the education, tools and tactics that can effectively put an end to human trafficking in Missouri.”

The course will encompass crisis intervention, stabilization of victims and how to facilitate healthy life styles, life skills and life satisfaction. At various intervals over a 12-month period, data will be collected and analyzed to assess outcomes of the program. The role of spirituality will also be explored.

“We are taking a holistic approach with this training,” said Sister Clare Bass, CSJ. “One of the essential aspects of life is spirituality and how it can play a positive role in the healing process, especially for individuals who have experienced trauma from human/sex trafficking.”

Through the program, Fontbonne social work students will have the opportunity to engage in practicum experiences.

The Advanced Skills Training in Human/Sex Trafficking Program will be held at Fontbonne University. Interested agencies can find more information at