Will SEEN be meeting with the youth?
SEEN Case Coordinators do not engage youth in direct clinical services, but rather coordinate communication and case planning among the many professionals who are providing services to a youth. SEEN can recommend specialized supportive services to ensure that all needs of a youth are met, or assist teams with identifying gaps in a youth’s current system of support. SEEN also provides guidance and consultation to professionals and community members around what to look for when they are worried that a youth is being exploited.
What if I have a suspicion but no real evidence of exploitation?
A 51A is a report of suspected child abuse, and does not require you to have concrete proof that a youth is being harmed. If you are worried about a youth, it is always better to report your concerns than to feel as though you have to deal with them on your own. If your suspicions turn out to be unfounded, you will not get in trouble for filing a 51A report in good faith.
I’m concerned about exploitation, but this youth has not disclosed CSEC or asked for help. What can I do?
It is not uncommon for youth who have experienced sexual exploitation to initially deny that anything harmful took place. Youth may also disclose their situation in parts, or leave out certain details out of fear or out of concern that the person they’re sharing with will judge them or be too overwhelmed by their story to support them. You can still file a 51A report based on your concerns, and the youth can be connected to SEEN and additional specialized supports. In time, they may become more comfortable disclosing their experience.
This youth is involved in concerning activities online but has not met up with anyone in person. Can I still file a 51A on their behalf?
If a child is depicted online in a nude or indecent image, a 51A report should be filed with DCF. Youth can meet exploiters online and are sometimes convinced to meet the exploiter in person. Or they may never meet someone in person, but are exploited via videos or images sent over the Internet or within an app. These tips may help parents determine whether their child is at risk for Internet exploitation, and if so what steps to take to help keep them safe online.
Won’t DCF screen out the 51A report because the trafficker isn’t a caregiver?
As of March 2016, DCF updated its screening and response in cases involving suspected child trafficking. Per the new policy, DCF will screen in suspected trafficking reports whether or not the alleged offender is in a caregiving role. Many exploited youth have caregivers who have worked hard to keep them safe, and who may be upset if they believe a 51A is being filed “against” them despite their efforts. It is helpful to reassure caregivers that a 51A is being filed on behalf of their child due to their risk of harm by another adult.
I don’t know the name of the person who is putting this youth at risk. Will DCF still take my report?
Yes. A 51A report can be filed alleging suspected child trafficking by an unknown perpetrator and this should not impact the screening outcome. It is helpful to provide any details you do have about an alleged offender such as age, nickname, online identifiers, place of work, vehicle information, or gang affiliation to DCF when making your report.
This youth already has a DCF worker. Can’t I just call them about my concerns?
It is always helpful to talk with a youth’s ongoing DCF worker about any concerns you may have. However, it is still important to formally report your concerns through a 51A. Filing a 51A on a youth’s behalf regarding suspected exploitation triggers the multidisciplinary response coordinated by SEEN. This response allows for the concerns to be fully investigated by not only DCF but also the District Attorney’s office and the police.
What happens to the youth after I file a report?
In Suffolk County, when a 51A report is filed for suspected or confirmed sexual exploitation, per MA law and DCF policy, DCF immediately makes a referral to the District Attorney’s office and to SEEN for assignment to a Case Coordinator. The SEEN Coordinator will reach out to all providers and agencies involved with the youth and convene a MDT case conference in order to share information, assess service needs, and identify short and long-term action steps.
What if the youth is missing or ran away?
SEEN Case Coordinators can help multidisciplinary teams plan together around reporting missing youth, sharing information, and recovery planning for when exploited or high risk youth return from missing. SEEN is available 24/7 to assist with coordination.