Continuing a five-year partnership in the fight against trafficking and exploitation, Vanguard University and the Orange County Department of Education will jointly host a two-day hybrid conference on human trafficking next month.
Presented by Vanguard’s Global Center for Women and Justice at the university’s Costa Mesa campus, Ensure Justice 2023 will take place on March 3 and March 4, bringing together experts, survivors, law enforcement representatives, educators and community leaders to discuss the latest trends, challenges and strategies for protecting those most at risk.
“Finding a Way Home” will be the theme of the conference, which is set to feature both in-person and virtual presentations, making it accessible to attendees from Orange County and beyond. Students, parents, educators, social workers, service providers, law enforcement representatives, community members and others are encouraged to register in advance at www.gcwj.org/ensurejustice.
“Children with abuse and neglect in their story are more vulnerable to risky behavior that can even result in being exploited through human trafficking,” said Dr. Sandra Morgan, director of the Global Center for Women and Justice. “Prevention is our goal. We need to build guard rails so youth don’t fall over the edge of a cliff. That means exploring resources in our community to keep children safe, strong and resilient.”
Human trafficking is the crime of compelling or coercing a person to provide labor or services, or to engage in commercial sex acts. According to the Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force, more than 1,200 victims have been assisted locally since 2004. For the past five years, OCDE has teamed up with Vanguard’s Global Center for Women and Justice to host annual Ensure Justice conferences.
The latest event will bring a specific focus to children and youth who face housing insecurity, have experienced multiple foster care placements or have had to navigate other challenging systems. Ensure Justice 2023 will further examine how to build robust community engagement with the necessary resources to support children and youth at risk.
This year’s keynote speaker is Katherine Givens, who leads Twelve 11 Partners, a survivor-led nonprofit. Givens also serves on the White House Advisory Council on Human Trafficking and was recently profiled in People Magazine’s Jan. 19 issue on human trafficking survivors. The Hon. Craig E. Arthur, presiding Juvenile Court judge for the Orange County Superior Court, will also be a featured presenter.
Convening top experts
As co-sponsor of the conference, the Orange County Department of Education will provide several additional speakers who will share their expertise on the challenges facing youth, including homelessness, the foster care system and substance abuse.
“Human trafficking has been described as a modern-day form of slavery that affects millions around the world, and the need for communities to act is urgent,” said Orange County Superintendent Dr. Al Mijares. “Continuing OCDE’s partnership with Vanguard University, Ensure Justice 2023 will convene top experts who will equip educators, child care workers and families with proven strategies to prevent these heinous crimes and provide the safest learning environments for all students.”
Vanguard’s Global Center for Women and Justice is a nonprofit that focuses on the prevention of human trafficking with interdisciplinary studies programs, integrated research, victim-survivor advocacy and education on issues impacting vulnerable and at-risk populations. Founded in 2003, the organization is celebrating its 20th year.
OCDE provides direct instruction and support to students through its own alternative and special education programs, and it oversees programs and services that are critical to the operations of local school districts and community colleges. These supports include professional development, high-speed internet access and security, legal and fiscal guidance, payroll services, and student enrichment.
To register for Ensure Justice, or to learn more about the conference and its speakers, visit www.gcwj.org/ensurejustice. And you can watch highlights from last year’s conference in the video below.