Local

Wichita State expert part of national training to fight human trafficking

Karen Countryman-Roswurm, right, executive director of Wichita State University's Center for Combating Human Trafficking, discusses a new state law designed to fight the problem, as Gov. Sam Brownback, lower left, and other supporters watch. (March 22, 2013)
Karen Countryman-Roswurm, right, executive director of Wichita State University's Center for Combating Human Trafficking, discusses a new state law designed to fight the problem, as Gov. Sam Brownback, lower left, and other supporters watch. (March 22, 2013) File photo

Karen Countryman-Roswurm, who directs Wichita State University’s Center for Combating Human Trafficking, will serve Wednesday and Thursday as an expert on trafficking at a training gathering at the White House.

She will attend the National Convening on Trafficking and Child Welfare and train people from all 50 states about how to better protect children, WSU said in a statement.

She will talk to child welfare officials about identification, assessment and data collection, and help them meet new federal mandates that came about last year when Congress passed the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families act. The states must develop a plan to address the new mandates intended to help children and youth at risk for or subjugated to human trafficking.

Several mandates come due soon. So the White House and other agencies are gathering child welfare officials to train them, said Bailey Brackin, outreach coordinator for the WSU center.

By September, all 50 states need to require all their child welfare agencies to have developed policies and procedures on documenting services for children in their care who were victims of child sex trafficking, Brackin said.

There is also language in the new law requiring how states document information on a number of other issues, including runaways. Runaway children are vulnerable to child sex traffickers.

Countryman-Roswurm was a teen runaway from foster homes and from the Wichita Children’s Home for several years in the early 1990s, after her mother died when Countryman-Roswurm was 13. Despite that many runaways fall into drugs and crime, she managed to hold jobs, had an apartment and took college classes.

At 17 she became a street outreach worker at the Wichita Children’s Home, helping get teen runaways off the streets. She saw human trafficking among some women she tried to help.

While she was still a teen herself, a teenage girl she was trying to help got into Countryman-Roswurm’s car to talk with her. The girl’s pimp forced his way into her car, beating the girl and hitting Countryman-Roswurm.

Police at the scene treated the girl as though she was a prostitute, rather than a child crime victim, Countryman-Roswurm said.

That kind of official behavior came to an end last year when the Kansas Legislature passed a law, written by Attorney General Derek Schmidt, that mandated that child victims of human trafficking be treated as victims. Schmidt has said Countryman-Roswurm helped shape and bring about that law.

By last year, Countryman-Roswurm had earned three degrees at Wichita State University, including a doctorate in psychology, and she has become a nationally known advocate for victims of human trafficking.

Reach Roy Wenzl at 316-268-6219 or rwenzl@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @roywenzl.

  Comments