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Letter: Judge responds to column on human trafficking

Published: July 27, 2016 12:00 AM

I am writing

to clear up some inaccuracies in Akron Municipal Court Judge Katarina Cook's guest column (July 20, "Judge addresses human trafficking in area.) While it is commendable that the author brought information to light regarding the prevalence of human sex trafficking in our community, her article demonstrates a lack of knowledge of the many efforts made to assist adolescents.

The Summit County Juvenile Court has been working intensely on this issue since the passage of Ohio's Safe Harbor Act in 2012. The Juvenile Court has provided training for staff who provide direct services for youth so that they are aware of the "red flags" that a child could be a potential victim of human trafficking. If a child is exhibiting one of these "red flags," a social worker employed by the Juvenile Court interviews the youth using a tool developed by Shared Hope International, a leader in the field, to determine whether a youth has actually been a victim or is at high risk of victimization. The Court has also provided training for social workers, Guardians Ad Litem and lawyers who work in the Juvenile Court on several occasions. Since January 2013, 28 victims of human trafficking have been identified as well as 26 youth who are at high risk for victimization.

In January 2015, the Summit County Juvenile Court, working in partnership with OhioGuidestone, RAHAB Ministries, the Community Health Center, Summit County Children Services and other child serving agencies in our county, developed a specialized probation department and assigned trained case managers in the Court's Family Resource Center to deal with these youth. Partner agencies made themselves available to provide services such as trauma-focused therapy, case management and mentoring, pursuant to a grant that the Court received through the Ohio Department of Youth Services. Frequent probation reviews have been held since that time.

In June 2016, the Summit County Juvenile Court became the first juvenile court in Ohio to receive its initial certification from the Supreme Court of Ohio as a specialized docket to work with human trafficking victims. The Court also received an innovation grant from the Supreme Court in 2016 to provide additional supportive services.

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Since January of 2015, we have served 38 youth from 19 ZIP codes across the county and have assisted youth ages 12 to 19.

Judge Cook's column misrepresents the lack of judicial leadership and initiative to deal with this crisis and fails to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of the staff of Summit County Juvenile Court and our many partner agencies. I hope to set the record straight and acknowledge the leadership role our county has taken in Ohio in fighting against human sex trafficking among adolescents in the Summit County community.

Judge Linda Tucci Teodosio,

Summit County

Juvenile Court

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