NYTimes: Treating Traumatized Girls

Dawne Mitchell, Juvenile Rights Practice Head, sets the record straight with a New York Times letter responding to a recent story about residential treatment centers, facilitates that are supposed to provide adequate care for young victims of sex-trafficking but routinely fall short.

The New York Times
Dec. 11, 2017

To the Editor:

“2 Homes for Sex-Trafficking Victims Struggle to Keep Residents Safe” (news article, Dec. 7) highlights the difficulty of working with girls in residential treatment centers. However, it fails to note that these facilities are too often dumping grounds for vulnerable and traumatized adolescents who have been repeatedly failed by the child welfare system.

Tragically, these “treatment” facilities often provide little treatment, particularly for sexually exploited girls, but instead further isolate them from their families and communities, too often for years on end. That these youths go “AWOL” to families and friends, and even their exploiters, should surprise no one. They crave meaningful, supportive connections, which are rarely available in the treatment centers.

Intensive, community-based wraparound services are a far better alternative for these youths, providing an opportunity to develop healthy long-term relationships and facilitating a transition to independent living. Without sufficient resources, residential treatment centers serve as a warehouse at best, and at worst as a pipeline into the criminal justice system. These youths deserve better.


The writer is the attorney-in-charge for the Juvenile Rights Practice of the Legal Aid Society.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.