Florida leaders come together to combat heinous reality in our communities
We are in a pressing fight to end sex trafficking, and we must win.
On Tuesday, Dr. Jerry Haag, President/CEO of One More Child, joined Florida Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nuñez and Department of Children and Families (DCF) Secretary Shevaun Harris in a panel discussion to bring awareness and compel action in the fight against sex trafficking.
They gathered in a warehouse at One More Child’s Joe K. Blanton Global Headquarters, which typically houses throngs of volunteers and hundreds of thousands of pounds of food for struggling families. That warehouse, the Harold Clark Simmons Compassion Center, served a different purpose on Tuesday afternoon as state leaders gathered to discuss an enterprise that threatens the physical and emotional safety of Florida citizens, and countless others nationwide and around the globe.
The state of Florida is ranked third in the nation for calls made to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, and sex trafficking is the fastest growing organized crime business and the third-largest criminal enterprise in the world, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
“That is something that, quite simply, Governor DeSantis and I are not satisfied with,” stated Lt. Gov. Nuñez, “so, we have made it a priority to put an end to this modern-day slavery.”
Dr. Haag said the organization is compelled by a God-given mandate to help the weak and the vulnerable. “We cannot sit within our own walls of our faith community and not go out and see the need, meet the need and be a part of the change,” he said.
Human sex trafficking is an ongoing global, national and local war — one that One More Child is working to actively fight. One More Child’s Anti-Trafficking program is engaged in advocacy, prevention, and rehabilitation efforts in 15 countries. Locally and globally, One More Child empowers others through training initiatives that help law enforcement, teachers and government leaders identify warning signs and provide care for trauma survivors. Through its Mobile Teams, One More Child meets with victims at their most vulnerable moments, collecting and distributing tangible resources at community based drop-in centers, and leading educational prevention programs across the nation.
Dr. Haag stated: “It’s also a fight that we have to win, and we are only going to win if we fight it together.”
One More Child has worked to cultivate valuable partnerships with government leaders, child welfare representatives, law enforcement, health care professionals, business owners, and church leaders.These partnerships serve to not only help survivors recover, but to prevent more children from being trafficked.
“Child welfare is not just a department’s responsibility; it is the responsibility of the community at large,” challenged DCF Secretary Shevaun Harris. “If you see something, say something. We can be the change in terms of ending this.”
Other panel participants in Tuesday’s press conference included Florida Department of Children and Families Secretary Shevaun Harris, Senator Kelli Stargel, City of Lakeland Mayor Bill Mutz, Florida Department of Children and Families Human Trafficking Coordinator Sue Aboul-Hosn, Heartland for Children CEO Teri Saunders, and Central Florida Behavioral Health Network President/CEO Linda McKinnon. Also in attendance were representatives from One More Child’s Anti-Trafficking team, including trafficking survivors.
“If we can serve one more child, then it is something worth fighting for,” Lt. Gov. Nuñez said.
Help One More Child and other leaders in Florida end human sex trafficking. For more information, visit www.onemorehild.org/anti-trafficking.
ABOUT OUR ORGANIZATION:
One More Child has a legacy of nearly 120 years of providing Christ-centered services to vulnerable children and struggling families.
At more than 50 locations in 15 countries around the world, One More Child meets the needs of hungry children, sex trafficked children and teens, single moms, foster children and struggling families. In 2021, One More Child impacted 324,467 children and individuals, and provided more than 18 million meals.
WATCH THE FULL PANEL DISCUSSION: