LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders signed an executive order to address human trafficking on Feb. 14.
According to the executive order, the Secretary of the Department of Human Services will coordinate with the governor’s executive cabinet to develop an approach to address human trafficking, support the victims and prosecute the criminals.
The order says the governor’s executive cabinet and their designees will work with the Secretary of the Department of Human Services to assist in fulfilling the goals and objectives the order.
According to the executive order, the Department of Human Services will undertake the following duties:
- Evaluate current state agency policies and procedures related to human trafficking prevention;
- Evaluate data from across the state government related to human trafficking;
- Evaluate best practices from across the country to combat human trafficking
- Develop a statewide protocol for ensuring a coordinated approach to identify human trafficking victims, investigate human trafficking, access and provide specialized services to victims and identify missing youth who are at risk of human trafficking;
- Work in partnership with local law enforcement, the Attorney General’s Office, state circuit and district judges, juvenile probation officers, Children’s Advocacy Centers, federal partners, human trafficking advocacy non-profits, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and service providers.
The executive order says the chief Data Officer and Chief Privacy Officer of the Division of Information systems will coordinate with the governor’s cabinet secretaries to clear the way for the sharing of all relevant data related to human trafficking victims and to the objectives of the order.
According to the order, within six months of the effective date of the order, the Department of Human Servies will present to the governor the following:
- A recommended standardized screening tool that may be implemented by state agencies, non-profits, and private industry to help identify victims and provide the necessary resources to assist them.
- Updated human trafficking training and educational materials provided to local school districts.
- The materials will provide a list of quality local, state, and national resources for students, parents, counselors, or school personnel to consult for information on human trafficking and include strategies for the prevention of human trafficking.
- An analysis of current statutory language and department rules related to the confidentiality of victim records, including recommended revisions to ensure that agencies can share data and information across systems to better prevent, identify, and serve victims.
- Updated state protocol for assisting victims of human trafficking with applying for federal and state benefits and services, which will be made publicly accessible and will be shared with the governor’s cabinet.
The executive order says Arkansas lacks a consistent uniform screening and identification process for human trafficking, which has resulted in underreporting of cases.
“It is the policy of this administration to pursue a coordinated and integrated approach to safeguard children and prevent human trafficking in Arkansas by supporting victims and prosecuting human traffickers to the fullest extent of the law,” the order states.