New fellowship serves juvenile trafficking victims
Some of Ohio’s most vulnerable minors are benefiting from a new public service fellowship at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law.
The Greif Fellowship in Juvenile Human Trafficking is devoted to providing legal representation and advice to child victims of human sex and labor trafficking in Ohio.
The state has the unfortunate distinction of being a leader in the number of victims affected by this lucrative, black market business. Nearly one-third of all trafficking victims in Ohio’s major metropolitan areas entered the commercial sex trade before their 18th birthday, according to an Ohio Attorney General’s Office report. Many are homeless and have dropped out of school – increasing their susceptibility to those who would do them harm.
Juvenile victims can face serious legal issues once they become involved with a trafficker, ranging from the equivalent of adult criminal charges to running afoul of child protective services for placing their own children in risky situations and environments.
The Moritz College of Law, supported by a $250,000 gift from the Greif Packaging Charitable Trust, will hire, train, and maintain a one-year fellowship for the next four years. Fellows will be supervised by Professor Kimberly Jordan, the director of the Justice for Children Project who joined Moritz in 2011 after an impressive career in juvenile legal services.
The fellow will provide quality representation in a full range of criminal and civil legal matters affecting juvenile human trafficking victims, carrying a caseload of up to 50 youth clients at a time. Additionally, the fellow will assist in obtaining protection orders from the court to ensure victims’ safety from their traffickers, helping undocumented victims adjust their immigration status, and keeping families together in cases where victims have children.
The first Greif fellow is Nikki Trautman Baszynski ’13. Prior to law school, Baszynski was a founding teacher at the Columbus Collegiate Academy, one of the highest-performing public middle schools in Columbus, and is a Teach for America alumna. At Moritz, she founded two student groups, the Education Law Society and SPEAK, which aims to enhance diversity and create an open dialogue about diversity issues in the college. The Ohio State University awarded her the prestigious Distinguished Diversity Enhancement Award in 2013.
In her first weeks as a Grief Fellow, Baszynski worked to develop relationships with county courts, juvenile attorneys, coalitions, task forces, agencies, and nonprofit organizations to find juvenile human trafficking victims in need of legal help. She already has received referrals from around the state.
“Finding juvenile victims is much harder than one would anticipate,” Baszynski said, “because they often view their traffickers as ‘boyfriends’ and have been manipulated into distrusting the people who could help them. Gaining their trust to keep them from returning to the people who exploit them will take great effort.”
In addition to reaching out to legal aid and social service organizations, Baszynski has spent time collaborating with homeless shelters, churches, food pantries, health care providers, and more to raise awareness that free legal help is available for juvenile human trafficking victims.
On Jan. 20, the college kicked off its inaugural Human Trafficking Awareness Week, which included a host of events and initiatives educating the Columbus legal community about what can be done to help the victims of sex and labor trafficking.
Individuals or organizations interested in referring potential clients should call (614) 292-3326 or visit go.osu.edu/greif. If you think someone is a victim of human trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.
Posted in: Winter 2014, Feature Story