Connecting Sex Trafficking Survivors to Education and Jobs in Atlanta

Posted March 25, 2024
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Two young Black women — dressed professionally — sit side-by-side on a sofa in an office setting. They peer down at a laptop, while one holds a notebook and pen.

Well­spring Liv­ing, a grantee of the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion, is a non­prof­it that serves sur­vivors of sex traf­fick­ing and those at risk for exploita­tion. Based in Metro Atlanta, a city with one the high­est rates of human traf­fick­ing in the Unit­ed States, the orga­ni­za­tion pro­vides ther­a­peu­tic ser­vices, edu­ca­tion and employ­ment sup­port to its clients.

Atlanta has the largest income inequal­i­ty in the nation,” says Chris­t­ian Mur­phy, chief exec­u­tive offi­cer of Well­spring Liv­ing. That means wide­spread pover­ty, home­less­ness and oth­er fac­tors leave young peo­ple vul­ner­a­ble to sex traf­fick­ing. The stereo­type of traf­fick­ing is a kid­nap­per with a van, but often, the vic­tim is a child or young adult who has been exploit­ed because they do not have anoth­er way to sur­vive. We help par­tic­i­pants by pro­vid­ing tools and resources to devel­op the courage to move for­ward and the con­fi­dence to succeed.”

Sup­port­ing Sur­vivors of Exploitation

Well­spring Liv­ing’s ser­vices focus on men­tal health, life skills and case man­age­ment for sur­vivors and those at risk of exploita­tion. For exam­ple, its Women’s Acad­e­my, Well­spring Liv­ing focus­es on two areas:

  • Adult Edu­ca­tion. Par­tic­i­pants in the pro­gram receive sup­port as they obtain GEDs. 
  • Career Readi­ness. Par­tic­i­pants also can access pro­fes­sion­al devel­op­ment train­ing and apply to paid appren­tice­ships with cor­po­rate partners.

Because 72% of Women’s Acad­e­my par­tic­i­pants are moth­ers liv­ing in pover­ty, the pro­gram reduces bar­ri­ers to par­tic­i­pa­tion by pro­vid­ing trans­porta­tion assis­tance, meals, child care stipends and hous­ing vouch­ers. Wrap­around ser­vices — includ­ing group coun­sel­ing, finan­cial lit­er­a­cy, enrich­ment events and cook­ing class­es — also are offered to par­tic­i­pants. To date, the Women’s Acad­e­my has served more than 880 sur­vivors and expects to serve between 70 and 100 sur­vivors in 2024.

Improv­ing the Qual­i­ty of Trau­ma-Heal­ing Services

In 2023, Well­spring Liv­ing intro­duced sev­er­al pro­gram updates to bet­ter address the chal­lenges fac­ing par­tic­i­pants and improve the qual­i­ty of its exist­ing ser­vices. These include:

  • Improve­ments to access. The pro­gram start­ed offer­ing open-enroll­ment options to increase acces­si­bil­i­ty to edu­ca­tion, career and well­ness services. 
  • Sub­stance use recov­ery sup­port. Young peo­ple vic­tim­ized by sex traf­fick­ing expe­ri­ence trau­ma and often strug­gle with sub­stance use. Well­spring Liv­ing became licensed to imple­ment the evi­dence-based Sev­en Chal­lenges com­pre­hen­sive coun­sel­ing pro­gram, which empha­sizes thought­ful deci­sion mak­ing about alco­hol and oth­er drug use. 
  • Post-pro­gram sup­port. To sup­port grad­u­ates as they tran­si­tion out of the pro­gram, Well­spring Liv­ing now offers more com­pre­hen­sive case man­age­ment ser­vices and greater access to safe, secure hous­ing, includ­ing tran­si­tion­al liv­ing apart­ments for women and children.

Ulti­mate­ly, it’s the sur­vivors we meet that are doing the hard work,” says Mur­phy. We just help them believe in them­selves and start to dream again.”

Learn more about the well-being of youth and young adults in Atlanta

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