Making Referrals for Trafficking Victims and Survivors


Making Appropriate Referrals for Victims and Survivors of Commercial Sexual Exploitation and Child Trafficking


It is important for victims and survivors of child trafficking to receive comprehensive services as part of their care. Developing working relationships with local agencies who provide a variety of services will help in the referral process in order to meet the needs of each trafficked youth. Being able to describe staff and services that are being referred can help create a “warm hand-off” so that youth feel more comfortable working with a new organization.


Resources that can be useful for trafficked and/or commercially sexually exploited children and youth to connect with include:

  • Local organizations specialized in services for survivors of human trafficking, domestic violence, and sexual assault;
  • Child Advocacy Centers (CACs);
  • Immigrant and refugee organizations;
  • Health services (general practice, reproductive health, hospital services, etc.);
  • Mental health services (in-patient, outpatient, and crisis stabilization);
  • Counseling services and trauma-focused therapy;
  • Housing (short term, long term, and transitional);
  • Legal services;
  • Immigration services;
  • Services provided by home country’s embassy;
  • Translation services;
  • Faith-based community support;
  • Educational and/or vocational training;
  • Social service navigators and advocates;
  • Peer support groups;
  • LGBTQ services.


In order to prevent causing more harm to a youth, it is important to vet any involved agencies before making a referral. Youth-serving professionals should first consider the particular expertise of other agencies in the community. Service providers should be able to be competent and experienced in both working with vulnerable youth in a trauma-informed way, as well as having expertise that will meet the youth’s needs.


Factors that should be considered include the agencies’:

  • Awareness and experience around commercial sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking;
  • Level of professionalism and quality of care;
  • Non-discrimination policies and cultural sensitivity;
  • Confidentiality policies;
  • Procedures for obtaining informed consent;
  • Security and safety of the agency location and premises;
  • Language capacity;
  • Experience with trauma-informed care;
  • LGBTQ services; and
  • Location and accessibility.


Youth Hesitation

If a youth seems hesitant about a particular referral, explore this. It may be that the youth is fearful about the location of the service provider or has transportation issues. Perhaps the youth has received services from this provider before and it didn’t go well, or maybe he or she has heard rumors about this provider. Allow youth the space to explore these concerns rather than forcing him or her into accepting a referral.


When a referral is in the best interest of a youth take the following steps:

  • Identify those client needs that cannot be met through your agency or would be better met through specialized service provision elsewhere.
  • Find trauma-informed, culturally appropriate services by reaching out to local anti-trafficking task forces and coalitions who provide services to survivors of child trafficking or CSEC.
  • Ask new contacts for details about their experience and service options. Contact the provider in the presence of the youth so that s/he can ask questions.
  • Discuss each referral option with your client. Weigh each option with the youth, giving consideration to any potential risks to safety.
  • Establish contact with a representative from the agency chosen by your client who has familiarity with trauma and child trafficking or CSEC.
  • Provide information on the youth’s need, special considerations in relation to the trauma they have already experienced, and any relevant paperwork that the service provider will require to offer services. Do not share details with outside providers without the informed consent of the survivor.
  • Visit the agency with your client before arranging services. This is called a “warm hand-off.”
  • Continue to escort the youth to appointments if desired by the youth.  


The National Human Trafficking Resource Center operates a National Contacts Referral Database, which contains more than 3,000 unique contacts for anti-trafficking practitioners and organizations in the field. Call 1-888-373-7888 or text BeFree (233733) for direct assistance from an NHTRC representative.


If a Referral will Not Be Made

  • Maximize your impact on the survivor at each encounter. Offer empathetic support and aim to meet his or her basic needs (food, shelter, clothing, sa
  • fety) whenever possible.
  • Provide information about the crime of trafficking, available support services, including hotline numbers, and information on whom to call in the future should the youth decide to access services later.

IOFA Twitter Feed

RT @Holly_A_Smith: Dignity Health publishes Manual 2 share info/materials. Healthcare & Human Trafficking Response

Contact IOFA

International Organization for Adolescents
53 West Jackson Blvd.
Suite 1357
Chicago, IL 60604 USA
T: 773.404.8831

Socialize with IOFA