Two $25K Innovation Grants Awarded by Prevent Child Abuse America to Prevent Human Trafficking in New Jersey and Advance Positive Fatherhood Project in Ohio

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Chicago—Prevent Child Abuse America (PCA America) announced today two new $25,000 innovation grants, one to focus on preventing human trafficking in New Jersey and another to promote positive parenting through a groundbreaking fatherhood initiative in Ohio. The grants are an integral part of the organization’s ongoing efforts to provide the safe, stable, and nurturing relationships and environments that enable children, families, and entire communities to thrive.

“Prevention happens in partnership, and our robust nationwide state chapter network resides at the heart of our work to ensure that all children and families get what they need to succeed,” explained PCA America President & CEO Dr. Melissa Merrick. “Dedicated state-level leadership and staff, as well as the numerous local partners they collaborate with, allow us to both extend our primary prevention efforts broadly and tailor them to meet the specific needs of diverse communities across the country. For instance, the project spearheaded by our New Jersey chapter addresses the very serious problem of human trafficking in the state.”

Given its proximity to many large cities, New Jersey is a prime target for human traffickers to recruit adolescents. Young girls and boys, targeted under the pretenses of love or a “job opportunity,” are forced and coerced into a dangerous, exploitative and traumatic life. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the problem: experts project an increase in human trafficking due to the loss of jobs, increase in poverty and uptick in children’s activity online, where predators are continually trying to recruit adolescents through social media platforms.

“In recent years, the focus in our state has been on programs that identify victims and provide services after they are rescued,” according to Rush Russell, executive director of Prevent Child Abuse New Jersey (PCA New Jersey). “Unfortunately, there remains little support for research-based strategies to prevent trafficking among our most vulnerable youth before it happens. This grant provides an opportunity to increase our prevention efforts, proactively protecting youth before they experience the trauma of sex trafficking and suffer its lifelong repercussions.”

Specifically, the PCA America innovation grant will allow PCA New Jersey to create a comprehensive web-based training series on minor sex trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation of children and adolescents. This high-quality trauma-informed tool will be customizable to the needs of schools and other youth-serving organizations, addressing human trafficking prevention through interactive, engaging trainings that provide professionals, community members and youth concrete strategies to interrupt the recruitment of youth into trafficking. Additionally, PCA New Jersey will offer a comprehensive “Preventing the Trauma of Trafficking” toolkit for professionals, parents and youth to help them put those prevention strategies into action.

“This is a great example of our commitment to reshaping how child abuse and neglect prevention is addressed in the United States,” added Merrick. “We want to continue to shift from reactive, after-the-fact programs and processes to deliberate, forward-thinking approaches that support child and family well-being holistically. Ohio’s Father’s Feelings project also illustrates this.”

The Ohio Children’s Trust Fund (OCTF), the Ohio chapter of Prevent Child Abuse America, will utilize its grant to expand the Father’s Feelings study into Southeast Ohio, which combines short questionnaires into casual conversations about new dads’ experiences and in-person visits designed to improve caretaking strengths and parent-child relationships. Undertaken in partnership with OhioGuidestone and its center of excellence for clinical research and quality performance, the Institute of Family & Community Impact, the study also includes using a proprietary play-based research model that helps lower parental stress and increases childhood resiliency through playing games.

“Becoming a new dad can be both exciting and overwhelming at the same time. However, most people don’t think about providing postpartum support for fathers,” said OCTF Executive Director Lindsay Williams. “Because fathers are instrumental in child rearing, we want to make sure they have the resources they require to be successful caregivers, too. The Father’s Feelings project is helping us to understand and address their specific needs in a meaningful way.”

To learn more about the Father’s Feelings study, please visit:

About Prevent Child Abuse America

Prevent Child Abuse America is a leading champion for all children in the United States. Founded in 1972 and headquartered in Chicago, we are the nation’s oldest and largest organization dedicated to the primary prevention of child abuse and neglect, working to actively prevent all forms of child abuse and neglect before they occur. Our success is founded on a nationwide network of state chapters and nearly 600 Healthy Families America home visiting sites, which directly provide parents and caregivers a wide variety of services and resources that help children grow up to be productive, contributing members of their communities and society. Our comprehensive approach is informed by science—we translate and disseminate innovative research to promote proven solutions that our vast network then puts into action. And we raise public awareness and advocate for family friendly policies at the national, state and local levels to support transformative programs and promote the conditions and contexts that help children, families and communities across the country thrive.

Charles Mutscheller
Chief Communications Officer

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