- The Engage Together Initiative helps move people from information to mobilization in practical, collaborative, and strategic ways in their own communities.
- Five biggest internet risks for youth: posting personal experiences, expressing negative emotions, sending pictures of themselves to others, searching the Internet without proper parental controls, and messaging strangers.
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Dave [00:00:00] You’re listening to the Ending Human Trafficking podcast. This is episode number 202, Engage Together: A Model for Collaboration.
Production Credits [00:00:09] Produced by Innovate Learning, maximizing human potential.
Dave [00:00:30] Welcome to the Ending Human Trafficking podcast. My name is Dave Stachowiak.
Sandie [00:00:36] And my name is Sandie Morgan.
Dave [00:00:38] And this is the show where we empower you to study the issues, be a voice, and make a difference in ending human trafficking. And Sandie, we’re all about getting together and collaborating, right?
Sandie [00:00:51] That’s right.
Dave [00:00:51] The P for partnership and today’s guest is going to be just yet another conversation of just the power of doing that. I’m so glad to welcome Alana Flora today from the Alliance for Freedom, Restoration, and Justice. She is the chief operations officer and oversees the daily programmatic efforts of the AFRJ, which includes building relationships with those working in the field to understand what is working well, where there are challenges and help create innovative solutions that bridge gaps. Alana connects regularly with many different sectors, professionals, and individuals seeking to learn how they are strategically positioned to engage. In addition to her role as chief operations officer, she also directs the Engage Together Initiative. Prior to her work with AFRJ, Alana served as a Court Appointed Special Advocate for Children in foster care, a substitute teacher, and a nonprofit volunteer. After earning her bachelor’s degree in English Literature, she pursued her JD during which time she interned with the local juvenile justice system, studied international human rights abroad, and focused on efforts to assist families in need. Alana we’re so glad to welcome you to the show!
Alana [00:02:03] It’s a pleasure to be with you guys.
Sandie [00:02:05] Well, I’m excited to have you on the show. Alana, I’ve known you about 10 years. I’ve loved following your pathway to really being a change maker in our communities and I just love that about you! And you make it to Ensure Justice almost every year, that’s commitment.
Alana [00:02:25] Yes. We love everything that you put together, and the speakers, and the diversity of sectors that you bring to that conference. And so it’s a joy and a privilege to get to attend and I continually learn every time I attend.
Sandie [00:02:37] Well, it’s really fun because we do intentionally try to pull in different sectors and I know that is what the Engage Together Initiative is about too, pulling people together. Do you want to give kind of a little summary of that before we get into what we’re going to talk about today?
Alana [00:02:56] Absolutely. So Engage Together our mission and vision is to end human trafficking and to also protect the vulnerable. And so we want to help move people from information to mobilization in practical and strategic ways. And so our work really began as we were building and mapping relationships with people that were in the field and so we were talking with law enforcement, and schools, and agencies, and taskforces, and providers, aftercare providers. And we were learning who is doing what, and what was working, and what wasn’t working, and what were successes for communities and for these providers. And so throughout these conversations, we were constantly being asked, “Does this resource exist?” or “have you seen anyone that has done this?” or “do you know someone has overcome this challenge?” And so that’s really where Engage Together came out of is responding to that need in the movement. And we call it Engage Together because, as you know, we need everyone to work together to combat human trafficking and then to also in their community be collaborating across sectors. So all the resources that we create help individuals understand how they’re uniquely positioned and then also to work collaboratively and strategically as a whole community and that really relies on knowing who is working in their community so that they can partner and come alongside.
Sandie [00:04:17] So that kind of jogs my “I want to ask you more questions” nerve. And so I’m going to ask a couple. First of all what are the challenges to collaboration?
Alana [00:04:31] A lot of times you have people that are working in the field and they’re doing such excellent work but they often don’t know who else is working in that same space. So if that’s an after care provider, if that’s a prevention program, if that’s a protocol that’s being developed. Sometimes they’re working so hard in the field they just don’t know who else is working there and so there’s that collaboration piece that they don’t know who to collaborate with and then they don’t know maybe who to trust in that space. And so that’s certainly one challenge is people in the field don’t know each other who might be working and so we try to help alleviate that by bridging those connections and relationships and illuminating those resources that exist. And I think another challenge is that people don’t know how to engage. So they learn about human trafficking or vulnerability issues like foster care or homelessness or runaway youth and they just don’t know where they fit. So then they don’t know how to collaborate. They don’t know what strength they have or where their community is strong and where they could fill a gap and so that’s a lot of what we exist to help. But also what we’re seeing as we work across the country those challenges.
Sandie [00:05:39] OK. And I could just ask more questions about that, but that’s not our topic today. Although, on another conversation we’re probably going to have to do a conversation about trust between partners. That would be a really good conversation. Okay, so June is Internet Safety Month and I follow a lot of social media, different organizations. And your social media posts just captured my attention partly because it was simple and to the point and partly because it was so so much in my mind lately. I have been teaching a lot in the community and citing last year’s statistics that 80 percent of human trafficking happens online. And then I saw a new report two weeks ago that had substantial evidence, 87 percent. And I met a young woman who was trafficked to Southern California from Brazil on the Internet. She thought she was getting a job and anybody looking for a job, where are they going to start? Nowadays, they’re going to start online. And so many times the risk factors are just dreams. So I want to talk about your social media post and your strategy of five risks for youth online. And you want to talk about how that started? And then we’ll go through the five points.
Alana [00:07:20] Yeah, absolutely. So Engage Together we focus on all forms of human trafficking, but we also want to make sure that we’re including those issues that are upstream. And human trafficking is often an end result of a lot of things that are left undone or unaddressed. And so helping people understand those connections and intersections like you said, and that would include Internet safety. And we find that no matter where we go in the country whether I’m talking to a prosecutor, or I’m talking to a survivor, I’m talking to a parent social media and the Internet often is interlaced with their story. And so it’s so important that we’re equipping communities; we’re equipping not just parents and not just youth, but also those that are working with youth. If it’s an after school program or a youth group to understand the importance of Internet safety and how that is intersecting with their youth, both on tactics and then also the dangers and risks. And then the warning signs of what to look for because I think that what I see so often is parents just don’t understand the complexity and the dangers that are out there, like you said.
Sandie [00:08:28] So what would be the five biggest risks that you guys have identified?
Alana [00:08:33] So as we’re talking with people that are working in the field. One would be posting personal experiences and that could be including a location. So if they are out at an ice cream shop or are they saying a good experience. Hey I just won this accolade or I’m having a really hard day and I’m frustrated. A danger too is when youth are posting pictures that are giving a lot of their locations. That would be one. The second would be expressing negative emotions that they’re feeling maybe towards themselves or towards someone else. And they’re feeling lonely, and isolated, and maybe someone doesn’t understand them, there’s things going on at home and they say no one really gets me, no one sees me. So that’s one of one of the risks. Taking pictures of themselves and then sending it to others. And that’s a risk because we don’t know who is on the receiving end or we don’t know what that person does with it. And so that’s important to understand that the pictures that we take and that our kids are sending could very much end up in the hands of those that shouldn’t have them. Another is searching the Internet without proper parental controls or even at school libraries having the right filters. Kids are going to restaurants and if there’s not filters, they’re at risk for being exposed to really harmful content, violent content, and very explicit content. And the last would be talking to strangers while playing online games or messaging apps and becoming friends with those strangers that are on social media.
Sandie [00:10:12] So those risks all sound like OK, I could make a set of rules for my household based on these but then the problem is that the Internet isn’t something you can see and your kid, your son your daughter, can be on online and you’re fixing dinner or mowing the lawn and you don’t realize that they’re at risk. So do you have to stop everything and sit over your kids shoulder?
Alana [00:10:45] One of the things that parents can do if they’re not able to sit and and monitor that. And that’s not very practical, right? For a lot of parents to do that or school personnel to do that. Is really knowing what apps and Web sites are out there and then knowing what your kids are actually on and for some having those Loggins or passwords is an appropriate step so that they can monitor if those messages are coming in and really talking to youth and helping them understand the dangers and understanding the connection and the risks of what happens. Creating a safety plan is really important so that youth knows these are good boundaries and these are things that are healthy and good in a friendship and friends that ask me to do these things online, that’s not really a friend. So while parents can’t maybe 24/7 monitor like you said over their shoulder, they can really set up some guidelines and conversations and security measures with their children.
Sandie [00:11:42] The second risk factor about posting negative emotions, there is growing literature about a sense of loneliness and isolation among our youth. And youth already tend to be emotionally very variable, it’s that whole limbic system that is very reward based and easily changes. You know 14 year old Sally is mad at her best friend when she gets home from school and 15 minutes later you can’t get her out of the room because they’re on the phone together. And that kind of emotion means that kids may post things that are emotional and then the repercussions come later and they just don’t understand the connection between those things. So is there a way that we can deal with, besides making rules, because what we are beginning to understand is that kids when they’re with you they’re following the rules but when they’re not with you they may not be following the rules. So they may not post on the app that you have the password to, but they’re posting someplace else. And how do you advise parents and family members on that particular risk factor.
Alana [00:13:06] Trying to help them to understand what that risk factor is and not demeaning a lot of those feeling sometimes. Like you said, a lot of youth are feeling lonely, isolated, misunderstood, and angry and they’re going to immediately go to have someone try to relate and post that on social media. And so helping them understand that that’s a risk one for bullying someone that not everyone is going to be empathetic to that unfortunately. And when you post it out there that someone can take that and then they can post mean comments and they can start to really move into the cyber bullying space. And so helping youth to understand that while it’s a good thing to share emotions, who is this someone that you can trust and who is a safe person that you can talk to about that rather than putting it out for someone to use against you. Or on the other side, you see where traffickers a lot of times are scouring the internet. I’ve heard case after case from prosecutors of traffickers looking for those types of vulnerabilities where someone is meeting someone to affirm them. And so equipping a youth to understand when we post things like that someone can come in and manipulate that and so we’ve put ourselves at risk for that. And so education is the biggest thing and that’s what Net Smartz does a wonderful job out of that the Center for Missing and Exploited Children and helping create resources that allow youth to understand from their peers because a lot of times peers want to hear from other peers, maybe not from a parent.
Sandie [00:14:41] Yeah, like 90 percent of the time.
Alana [00:14:45] Yeah. A lot of youth I’ve worked with, they don’t think I know anything. But the beauty of some of these resources that are created they are peer to peer and they are real stories and they can create relatability so that youth says, “I identify with that and I can see myself in that situation.” And so maybe that is true and there’s value in those peer resources.
Sandie [00:15:06] We’ll post a link to NetSmartz.org because I do believe that is significantly valuable. I’m also becoming more convinced that if we are able to monitor our kids, that’s a really good thing. But for some kids there isn’t anybody monitoring them, there isn’t anybody watching. And so how are we monitoring the kids that our kids hang out with. And I’ve had a couple of conversations with moms who they’re not worried about their kids, but they’re worried about their kids’ friends and because they check their kid’s social media, they see the kids who are posting those negative emotions, those huge vulnerability flags that a predator would easily jump on. And they begin to build a safe community. And I think that’s a really valuable tool because on the Website, you talk about how the perpetrators, the traffickers, use empathy to build relationships to become very relatable. And that’s what these kids are looking for is relationship. And so how can we begin to be just as smart as the traffickers, not just fending off what they might do but actually being proactive and being part of our kids’ community because if our kids’ community is safe our kids are safe.
Alana [00:16:44] Absolutely and I think that’s where it branches out beyond just parents. And when I talk with educators I say educators and whether that is the school resource officer, or the after school program, or the actual teacher, or the Boys and Girls Club mentor, or a pastor. You are having intersections with a youth and you’ll begin to identify a lot of red flags and warning signs and there’s a lot of great resources that walk you through what some of those warning signs can be and so as parents are building that community with other people that are intersecting with their kids or their kids’ friends. Because you’re right, I talk with a lot of moms that go I think I’ve got everything covered, but you know when my son goes over to that friend’s house are we equipping that friend? Or PTA, are we creating resources so that parents throughout campus know and teachers because they’re the ones spending a lot of times with kids and they’re going to be able to see a lot of the repercussions that come from the dangers of online safety, whether that’s cyber bullying or whether that is exploitation or trafficking. There’s going to be a physical warning signs that they can begin to look for. So the more people that can be educated and know who to connect with is a really great way to build that community response.
Sandie [00:18:02] I love that you mentioned school resource officers and PTA, Parent Teacher Associations, because I do believe that a community of parents can build a safer community and NetSmartz, again great resource, they actually have training materials specifically designed for parents. And you don’t have to be a super presenter or anything you sign up, you download the PowerPoint, you can print the PowerPoint so that the script is next to each slide, and if you want to you can read it to your friends, but it’s everything you need to start building a community of parents that are all taking care of their young people.
Alana [00:18:53] Absolutely and the great thing is National PTA has signed a declaration saying that they’re going to address human trafficking and then several states and local PTA have. And so that’s a great inroads. And for, you know we talked to people a lot of times when maybe it’s the youth group or an after school program that says we’re not really ready to tackle human trafficking or we don’t think we have human trafficking in our area, and we always say let’s start with Internet safety. And that’s already something that you know PTA have signed on for it. This fits right within what you guys have already decided that you’re going to take a stand on so it fits nicely in for some of those programs that are looking to engage and equip to keep their kids safe.
Sandie [00:19:34] So National PTA has signed on to this. So that means a parent isn’t going to come and find resistance. They’re going to find oh yay we have a volunteer who will help us do this.
Alana [00:19:45] That would be the hope, it’s up to each PTA and what they’ve taken on. But at a national level they have taken on human trafficking. And as you know Internet safety is so connected to that. And so that’s a really great inroads exactly with the resources that you have said from NetSmartz to begin that.
Sandie [00:20:02] Absolutely. And I know you’ve heard me talk about this before, but remember I’m a nurse and I just can’t resist. We have to look at this from a public health model and Internet exploitation is a huge issue now. And so if we look at a public health model then if we know something might be a problem we have to develop a response to it, and then we practice it. So the easiest model for public health is kids who eat candy will get cavities, right? So we develop a protection strategy. Oh yay. We give kids toothbrushes and then we tell them that you need to do this once a year during Internet Safety Month, right? No, we do it every single day. And Internet safety should begin at three years old. I see kids with their parent’s phones in the shopping cart. And the idea that NetSmartz has materials with little clicky that are age appropriate for a very young age. We start now and we prevent problems down the road. And you won’t have the big dental bills that you’ll have if you wait to start teaching them to brush your teeth when they’re 10 years old, right?
Alana [00:21:23] Absolutely. Absolutely. And that’s the beauty of those resources that they’re creating that foundation so that as youth are growing and their access to different levels of internet and social media they have that foundation to build upon. And just as you said too, it’s not something we can just focus on at one time because the Internet and apps are constantly changing and tactics are changing, we have to stay up to date so that we can be most effective.
Sandie [00:21:51] So another resource that you have on the Website is B4UClick. And I’ve never been there before. Tell us about that one.
Alana [00:21:59] Yes. So B4UClick is very similar in that they’ve got videos, they’ve got tip sheets, they’ve got resources that are peer to peer, they’ve got games that youth and kids can play that are gonna be age specific, much like NetSmartz. And so it’s another peer to peer resource so that people can understand what does it when I’m online and someone messages me or what is it when I’m using this app and someone says Hey let’s move over to DM, which I recently learned is direct messaging.
Sandie [00:22:27] I already knew that and I’m older than you, wow.
Alana [00:22:32] Yeah! So what happens is you have people that are publicly talking and then someone will say let’s move over to private messaging and then that’s when you start building you know a predator will start building a kind of trust and relationship. But these videos, both by NetSmartz and B4UClick, will walk a youth through understanding what’s the danger in that or ya that happens to me. So it’s a series of media resources to equip parents, educators, and youth of all ages on online safety.
Sandie [00:23:01] OK. And now I’m going to learn to say it correctly Before You Click, instead of be four you click.
Alana [00:23:06] Yeah.
Sandie [00:23:08] You didn’t laugh though. I’m really impressed with that. So the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, now hotline center, run by Polaris. They also have some resources, tell us about that.
Alana [00:23:24] They conducted as part of a larger study on intersections of human trafficking and then different enterprises so they looked at hotels and transportation. And then one of the things they looked at was social media and they did a wonderful study on looking at what are warning signs. What are tactics? How are traffickers using social media to lure and to groom? And they put together a wonderful resource and it helps you also understand what platforms are being used and then what human trafficking is using that platform. So very much like you said earlier, labor trafficking. You know someone in another country or even here in the US might see a post on a social media site or on an app that tells them that you can have a better job and they can get relocation paid back and you know if you just come and work here and so they’re clicking on that and then they’re getting down a path. So what’s really neat about the report is it shows you. Is it Facebook, is it Instagram, is it Twitter, is it all these other sites and then is it used in hotel trafficking, is it used in agriculture. Trafficking is you know based on the typology report that Polaris put out. So it’s a very informative way. And another aspect that they highlight in this report is how survivors have been able to use social media in a positive way. It was used against them and then how they’re being able to leverage it for positive media, whether that’s awareness whether that’s connecting with other survivors.
Sandie [00:24:51] I’m sure all of our student researchers that are listening to this will go straight to that link to check it out. So thank you for that. OK today you were at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Can you give us a two minute summary of the most exciting things happening there?
Alana [00:25:11] Yes it was an honor and a privilege to get to be with Nick Mick. They do wonderful work and they work on a lot of different issues and so I got to even learn some things today which was really exciting. They work on all the missing cases related to children and youth and then they also work on exploitation and they work on abductions. They work on family abductions or if it’s someone that’s a non familial or relational they are able to have resources for families and this was really exciting. Today I got to learn more about their family advocacy team. So a lot of times when a child goes missing they’re exploited or they’ve been trafficked, family members are having to understand what does this mean? How do I deal? How do I process this child coming back into my life? What does this look like? Or what are the logistics? And so they have a wonderful program that works nationally to support those families. And another interesting fact I learned too was that in 2018 they received their cyber tip line that they run, over 18 million reports.
Sandie [00:26:19] Wow!
Alana [00:26:19] So yes it just confirms that Internet safety and what’s happening online is absolutely something we have to be talking about in our communities at any level because on two fronts one the harm that is being done to you but then also just what youth are exposed to. Part of what that cyber tip line, anytime you see an image that is going to be of child abuse or enticement, someone that’s trying to lure a child, you can report those images there and they create a database and they’re able to work with law enforcement. So it’s a wonderful resource that they offer.
Sandie [00:26:57] Wow. Well Alana Flora, we could talk for hours but our podcast time is up so we will have to do this again. I just loved learning so much from you. I love the enthusiasm and the positive approach that together we can do something. So thank you so much for coming on this show.
Alana [00:27:19] Absolutely. Thank you so much for having me.
Dave [00:27:22] Thank you so much, Alana. Sandie, you know so much of what we’re doing together in this community, certainly within the Global Center for Women and Justice and with all the partnerships is learning together. And Alana is a great example of that of continuing to learn and continuing to grow. And we’re inviting you to take that first step as well, is to hop online and to download a copy of Sandie’s book, The Five Things You Must Know, a quick start guide to ending human trafficking. And that really is to go along with our mantra of helping you to study the issues, so you can be a voice, and ultimately make a difference. When you download the guide, you’ll learn the five critical things that Sandie and the Global Center for Women and Justice have identified that you should know before you join the fight against human trafficking. You can get access to that by going over to endinghumantrafficking.org. That’s also a great place to reach out to us if you have comments or questions about any of the past episodes or you can send an email to email@example.com. And we will be back. See you in two weeks for our next conversation.
Sandie [00:28:34] Thanks, Dave.
Dave [00:28:35] Thanks, everyone. Take care.