Whole Child Leon (WCL) is the newest addition to the Voices for Florida Open Doors Outreach Network. This partnership will provide services to children and young adults ages 10 to 24 in the Big Bend area who are victims of sex trafficking.
The coverage area includes Leon, Franklin, Gadsden, Jefferson, Liberty, Madison, Taylor, and Wakulla counties, according to Robyn Metcalf, Open Doors statewide director, but WCL will emphasize service to the Tallahassee community. WCL expects to start delivering services in August.
“We see an urgent need to support these children and young adults not just here in Leon but in the neighboring counties as well,” said Courtney Atkins, Executive Director of Whole Child Leon. “Through our extensive community relationships and behavioral pediatric health work, we believe WCL is able to provide comprehensive, high quality care to these young victims.”
The Open Doors Outreach Network’s service model consists of survivor mentors, regional lawyers, and clinicians who provide 24/7 support to victims. These positions work together to provide emergency stabilization, customized wellness plans, ongoing support, and more. WCL will hire one person for each position in the coming months.
“Whole Child Leon has a long track record of helping unserved and underserved children in our community. This partnership is yet another example of how Whole Child Leon is meeting the needs of children and connecting them to vital services and resources in our area, ”said Florida Sen. Loranne Ausley, a founder of Whole Child Leon.
In 2019 alone, the National Human Trafficking Hotline received nearly 900 reports of human trafficking in Florida. Over 19% of these reports concerned minors. In a single investigation in 2020 alone, the Tallahassee Police Department made 178 human trafficking arrests.
The average child trafficking victim is only 12 to 14 years old. Both boys and girls are victims. There are certain factors that can affect a child’s vulnerability to trafficking, including foster care, running away, and homelessness.
“We are excited to work with Whole Child Leon to serve children and young adult victims of sex trafficking in the Big Bend area,” said Dan Stengle, CEO of Voices for Florida. “Her many years of experience working with vulnerable children in the Big Bend region and her commitment to the success of sexually trafficked children are impressive.”
Founded in 1976, Voices for Florida is a statewide nonprofit with a long history of working with others to create transformative change for vulnerable children. The organization specializes in driving innovative service models based on promising practices and insights from the hardest hit.
For more information, visit voicesforflorida.org or Wholechildleon.org.
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