Health and Human Rights Program at Berkeley Human Rights Center receives major grant to continue research supporting Bay Area youth at risk of commercial sexual exploitation

April 12, 2023

Health and Human Rights Program at Berkeley Human Rights Center receives major grant to continue research supporting Bay Area youth at risk of commercial sexual exploitation

The UC Berkeley Human Rights Center’s (HRC) Health and Human Rights Program has been awarded a $1.3 million grant from the Department on the Status of Women (DOSW) to expand research and development of new interventions for youth in the San Francisco Bay Area who have experienced or are at risk of commercial sexual exploitation (CSE). 

The HRC team, led by Program Director Julie Freccero, will build on their multi-year partnership with the San Francisco Safety, Opportunity, and Lifelong Relationships (SF SOL) Collaborative, a coalition of agencies funded by the California Department of Social Services. Together, they aim to develop a continuum of care options for youth impacted by CSE and trafficking in San Francisco. With funding renewed for an additional three years, Freccero and her team will continue working with the San Francisco Department on the Status of Women, Freedom Forward, and other local nonprofit partners to advance evaluation of the Family and Me (FAM) foster care pilot. FAM is an innovative model of family-based foster care for CSE-affected youth which began in 2020. FAM 2.0, the next iteration of the model of care, was revised and improved based on HRC’s evaluation. 

The model now includes three main components: 1) peer support groups and specialized training for caregivers in CSE, harm reduction, and trauma-informed care; 2) a secondary caregiver to create a shared model of caregiving; and 3) access to fast and flexible funding to meet the immediate, diverse needs of this community of youth. The FAM model of care can be applied to any foster family agency to improve support for CSE-affected youth and their caregivers. FAM 2.0 will be piloted with Seneca Family of Agencies this year and later expanded to other foster care agencies. If the model is a success, it has the potential of being rolled out across California and beyond.

The HRC team is also excited to work with the City of San Francisco and nonprofit partners to develop a new model of emergency housing to meet the immediate needs of youth currently in situations of trafficking or commercial sexual exploitation who may not be ready to transition directly into a family-based foster home. This was a major gap identified in the previous FAM evaluation. 

“Most of the youth who were identified and referred to FAM did not have stable housing—they frequently changed foster care or congregate care placements, at times were unhoused, or in some cases, living with their exploiters,” said HRC’s Julie Freccero. “Young people in these situations were often not ready to transition into a family home setting, and it was challenging for FAM providers to connect with them and engage them in services. We recommended developing a short-term, harm-reduction-focused model of emergency housing where youth can access services, a safe place to stay, and stabilize before moving into a more structured home setting.”      

This new model of emergency housing, currently under development, will be piloted in 2024 and evaluated by HRC. In addition, HRC will partner with Freedom Forward’s Helping Young People Elevate (HYPE) Center to conduct youth-centered research to inform CSE prevention efforts and support services.

This new and ongoing research builds on an in-depth evaluation of the FAM pilot conducted by HRC between 2020-2022. Throughout the evaluation period, Freccero and her team issued a series of reports with recommendations to adapt and improve the program throughout its implementation. The final, comprehensive FAM report issued in December 2022 synthesizes learning from three previous reports, presents key findings from the final pilot evaluation, and offers recommendations for local and state policymakers and practitioners working to better address CSE of children and youth. Key recommendations are summarized in an author-published blog post.

The Health and Human Rights Program at the Human Rights Center promotes the health and protection of marginalized communities affected by conflict, forced displacement, and violence. Through applied research and technical assistance, we partner with local and international organizations to develop new tools, guidance, and evidence-based interventions.

Media contact:

Maggie Andresen, HRC Communications Specialist: +1 845 608 4997