The Clark County Commission today approved contracts with St. Jude’s Ranch for Children and Eagle Quest to provide residential services and therapeutic treatment care for children who are victims of prostitution or at high risk of being commercially sexually exploited.
The funding, approximately $1.5 million for Eagle Quest and $1.3 million for St. Jude’s, will allow the two contractors combined to offer residential care to 18 girls, ages 11 to 17 years old. Funding for the specialized foster homes is being provided through proceeds derived from the forfeiture of property when cases against traffickers are successfully prosecuted.
“For years, teen-age girls who were arrested for prostitution were treated as juvenile delinquents instead of the vulnerable victims of crime that they are,” said Clark County Commissioner Marilyn Kirkpatrick. “These are children who have endured traumas that most of us can’t imagine. With these contracts in place, Clark County is working to wrap young victims of sex trafficking in the specialized care they need in environments that are safe and therapeutic.”
Efforts to treat sexually exploited youth as victims of crime instead of offenders were enhanced in 2019 when Senate Bill 274 was adopted by the Nevada State Legislature requiring that child welfare agencies assess, support, and provide treatment for children suspected of being commercially sexually exploited. Clark County and its Department of Family Services have been working with the Clark County District Attorney’s Office, Nevada Attorney General’s Office and other community partners to build resources and programs in preparation for changes related to the new law, which goes into effect in July 2023. Areas of focus have included investments in training and prevention, staffing and new programs to provide more trauma-informed, victim-centered treatment and housing resources to youth who are in need.
“There has been a significant evolution of thought both locally and nationally on how to serve and support minor victims and survivors of sex trafficking,” said Clark County Deputy County Manager Abigail Frierson, who oversees the County’s Family Services Department. “Clark County has been at the forefront of trying to address this complex problem for several years. Our goal is to serve young girls and boys who come to the attention of our child welfare system to ensure youth at high risk are identified and served before they become victims of sex trafficking and that victims and survivors of sexual trafficking receive the resources and support they need to begin to heal from the trauma they have experienced.”
In 2021, about 400 youth in the community were assessed for risk of commercial sexual exploitation. About 50 youth are currently receiving ongoing services related to treatment or prevention of the crime.
Clark County is a dynamic and innovative organization dedicated to providing top-quality service with integrity, respect and accountability. With jurisdiction over the world-famous Las Vegas Strip and covering an area the size of New Jersey, Clark is the nation’s 11th-largest county and provides extensive regional services to 2.3 million citizens and 45.6 million visitors a year (2019). Included are the nation’s 8th-busiest airport, air quality compliance, social services and the state’s largest public hospital, University Medical Center. The County also provides municipal services that are traditionally provided by cities to 1 million residents in the unincorporated area. Those include fire protection, roads and other public works, parks and recreation, and planning and development.