CFSTC Hosts Human Trafficking Trainings throughout North Dakota


Alyssa Walker

Document Type

News Article

Publication Date


Campus Unit

College of Nursing & Professional Disciplines


The oil boom in North Dakota has been a shot in the arm of the economy, has recharged the state’s business development, and has provided for the lowest unemployment rate in the country. The drilling of oil in western North Dakota has brought a number of benefits to the state, but with an influx of people and lack of resources to address social impacts, the oil boom has also brought with it an increase human trafficking in the state, including the trafficking of vulnerable children.

According to the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, human trafficking or “sex trafficking,” is defined as the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for a commercial sex act. Vulnerable children, such as children with a history of running away from home, can fall prey to this exploitation. The Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) is the exploitation of a child under the age of 18 for remuneration in money, goods, or services, or the promise thereof, to the child or a third person or persons for the sexual use of the child. The University of North Dakota’s Children and Family Services Training Center (CFSTC) recently hosted four training sessions in December across the state of North Dakota aimed at educating social workers, domestic violence agencies, juvenile court personnel, law enforcement agencies, and social services agencies in better understanding CSEC and how individuals and agencies can work to assist children who have survived human trafficking.

Erin Knowles Wirsing, the DELTA Program Manager for commercially sexually exploited children in Devereux, Florida, facilitated the one-day program which took place in Grand Forks, Minot, and Dickinson (due to inclement weather, the Jamestown session was cancelled). Over 450 people registered to attend one of the four trainings that took place throughout the state. The trainings, which were broken up into four hour increments were entitled, Human Trafficking 101 and 201. Human Trafficking 101 focused on helping attendees learn about what CSEC is, identify pathways and precursors to CSEC, identify survivors of CSEC, and gain an understanding of effective service provision. Human Trafficking 201 guided participants through ND and Federal laws related to human trafficking and CSEC. Participants practiced strategies for working with survivors of CSEC, and they also learned how to recognize and address the secondary trauma that is often associated with this work.

The Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act, which is a federal law, requires states to address the issue of sex trafficking by developing, coordinating, and training the workforce about human trafficking. North Dakota also passed a state law which further requires human trafficking training. The responsibility for training those who work with vulnerable minors is that of the Children and Family Services Division of the North Dakota Department of Human Services. The Department of Human Services contracted with the CFSTC to provide human trafficking training and resources to social service personnel and others who work with this population.

Social service workers, law enforcement, and those who work closely with children are critical to the identification of a child who has been commercially sexually exploited. They often are in situations where they are the first person to speak with a child that is being taken into foster care or other social services programs. It is critical that social service personnel ask the right questions and understand the signs of a child who has potentially experienced CSEC. The CSEC training taught participants about various considerations that they must keep in mind when working with vulnerable children. These considerations include choosing a comfortable space that is conducive to confidentiality to speak with the child, and considering how questions are asked to the child to ensure safety and a non-judgmental tone.

In addition to the human trafficking training, the CFSTC has also been working with North Dakota FUSE, a statewide anti-trafficking coalition, to develop online resources for human trafficking training which would further the reach of those service workers that are trained. FUSE also hosts a yearly Statewide Summit on Human Trafficking.