As of the end of January, the City had raised enough money to fund the initial year of operations for a pilot residential recovery program for prostituted children, the first of its kind in the state.
The total cost for the two-year pilot program is nearly $1.5 million. To date, the City has raised $1.2 million, including $150,000 from the Gates Foundation, $10,000 from the Women’s Funding Alliance and $10,000 from the Dorsey & Whitney Foundation. Stone Gossard and Mike McCready of the Seattle rock band Pearl Jam are among a number of major private donors.
Funding for the project was originally planned to come from King County, but that funding was sharply reduced last fall because of the county’s budget shortfall. Seattle City Councilmember Tim Burgess and the Seattle Human Services Department turned to private funders to make up for the loss of county funds.
The new program will provide residential recovery services for prostituted youth age 14 to 17 in King County. The Seattle Human Services Department will contract with YouthCare to serve up to 20 prostituted youth per year in a homelike setting with around-the-clock staffing. Specialized prostitution recovery services will include counseling for traumatic stress, chemical dependency treatment, survivor support groups and health education. Clients will also receive medical care, life skills training and support for education, job skills and job placement. United Way of King County will fund a two-bed shelter program as part of the recovery program.
The inception of the program dates back to 2008, when the Human Services Department commissioned a study by researcher Debra Boyer, Ph.D., who estimated that there are between 300 and 500 prostituted children in King County, some as young as 13 years old. Prostituted children are subject to severe physical and psychological abuse from pimps and “johns.” They often experience mental illness and substance abuse problems. Recovery from the resulting trauma requires extensive and highly specialized services provided in a safe setting.
The Human Services Department was also recently awarded a special grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to fund a prostituted youth advocate who will be located at YouthCare.
Private donations to fund the second year of the project are still being accepted. Donations are tax-deductible and checks should be made out to the City of Seattle Prostituted Children Rescue Fund and mailed to the City of Seattle Prostituted Children Rescue Fund, c/o Seattle Human Services Department, PO Box 34215, Seattle, WA 98124-4215. The City also accepts credit card donations to the fund which may be made by calling the City of Seattle’s Treasury Department at (206) 684-3911. Ask that your contribution be deposited in the Prostituted Children Rescue Fund.