In an interview with The Texas Tribune, Kim Grabert, the state’s first director of human trafficking prevention, discussed how the state plans to recover and rehabilitate runaway youth who are sold for sex.
Earlier this year, the Tribune’s Sold Out series examined how state policies — including a severely underfunded child welfare system — failed to help child sex-trafficking victims. Since then, lawmakers set aside a budget increase of more than $500 million for the foster care system and the governor’s office approved new funds for trafficking prevention initiatives — including the state’s first-ever director of human trafficking and child exploitation.
Kim Grabert, who in July came to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services from a similar agency in Florida, said in an interview with The Texas Tribune that she hoped to help multiple state agencies cooperate to help Texas trafficking victims.
We talked with Grabert about what the state is doing to track down runaways, whether online data-mining could help find victims, what should be done about the lack of specialized homes for recovered teens and what Texas can learn from Florida’s example. Below are her answers, which have been edited and condensed.
Texas Tribune: Why was your position created, and what do you see your specific role as being?
Kim Grabert: The position came out of a grant through the governor’s office, and really the position was created so that I can focus all my time on one topic.
My background and my strength is really in all the collaborative team-building and the ability to kind of look at what’s going on everywhere, figure out where we can plug in and where is the opportunity to leverage what’s already existing.
We’re going to introduce a screening tool, so [DFPS will] be using the same one that the governor’s office is using [and that] their grantees will be using, so we can get really good evaluation information out of that.
And then we’re going to be looking at our continuum of care and understanding where there’s opportunities to build specialized placements or specialized services [for trafficking victims], and how can we work with what already exists, through education, to grow the population that they’re serving.
TT: You came here from Florida. In your time here, have you seen things that Florida is doing on child sex trafficking that Texas is not, and are there things that Texas has to learn from other states?
To read the full interview from Edgar Walters on The Texas Tribune: Click Here