Human Trafficking: A Primer for PTAs

January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. While you may not think that human trafficking is an issue in your community—a 2017 poll in Illinois indicated more than half disagreed that it was happening in their area—in fact, Illinois ranks 11th in the nation in the number of cases of human trafficking.

What is Human Trafficking?

When most people hear about human trafficking, they tend to think of sex trafficking. In terms of reported cases, sex trafficking is the most predominant form of human trafficking in Illinois, but labor trafficking occurs as well. The latter may involve forced domestic work, construction, agricultural work, traveling sales crews, or begging rings.

Human Trafficking in Illinois

In 2018, the state of Illinois released its Illinois Human Trafficking Task Force Report. The report investigated the issue of human trafficking in Illinois and made recommendations for ending the practice. Among the findings from the report are:

  • 970 children in Illinois had been trafficked between 2011 and 2017.
  • The average age of those children was just under 14 years old.
  • Female children make up 87% of those trafficked.
  • African American children account for 53% of the children trafficked in Illinois, while white children account for 42%.

Human traffickers recruit children much like sexual predators do. Common methods include:

  • Meeting the need for food, clothing, and shelter, particularly with homeless children
  • Promises of love, romance, and acceptance
  • Offers of independence, luxury items, and cash
  • Flattery, lies, and manipulation
  • Exploiting a position of authority
  • Exploiting vulnerability or desperation

Resources for PTAs

PTAs can play a role in working to end human trafficking by providing educational and awareness events. Holding such an event would support the National PTA Resolution on Child Trafficking that was adopted at the 2009 National PTA Convention. Keep in mind that this is not an easy topic to discuss, and your PTA should consider providing babysitting so that parents can learn and discuss the issue without children present. Here are some resources to help you host an event.

National Human Trafficking Hotline

In addition to the hotline itself (888-373-7888, texting HELP to BEFREE (233733), or e-mailing, the website includes a large resource library, including a US Department of Education report on Human Trafficking in America’s Schools. They also have their flyer for the hotline available in 23 languages.

Office on Trafficking in Persons

A part of the US Department of Health & Human Services, the office’s website includes a resource library, handouts for their Look Beneath the Surface campaign, and links to other federal efforts to combat human trafficking.


Illinois Legal Aid Online

As part of their introduction to human trafficking, they have a 30-minute video intended for the general public and a webinar designed for service providers. There is a pre-test and post-test that you can use on either side of showing the video.


Cook County Human Trafficking Task Force

The task force brings together law enforcement, social, and legal service agencies to work on human trafficking cases. They may be able to provide a speaker for PTAs in Cook County.


Department of Homeland Security Blue Campaign

The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Blue Campaign is focused on ending human trafficking. The campaign has a document library and a series of awareness videos. The campaign also provides at no cost printed materials for the campaign (e.g., posters, cards, and pamphlets), but requires a 3- to 4-month lead time to fulfill orders.


Stop Human Trafficking—Eastern Missouri & Southern Illinois Network

Provides a Human Trafficking 101 training for organizations and has several fact sheets that could be used as handouts.


National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

The center has a page of resources dedicated to the issue of child sex trafficking.


Youth Collaboratory

Created in partnership with the Wichita State University Center for Combatting Human Trafficking and the US Department of Justice Office of Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention, this online portal provides a toolkit of 20 modules focused on the commercial sexual exploitation of children. Each module explains what is known about the topic, what it means, and how it can be put into practice on the individual, program, and community level.


US Department of Justice Office of Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention

This office serves as the federal government’s point of attack regarding human trafficking of children. The site provides links to many other federal and non-governmental resources on the topic.

5 Tips to Get Your Volunteers to Follow Through

Running a PTA is not an easy job, and managing your volunteers effectively is one of the hardest parts. As a PTA leader, you can do everything you can to make your volunteering for your PTA a pleasant experienceand thank your volunteerswhen they’re done, and still sometimes struggle with that volunteer who doesn’t get the job done when they said that they would. Here are five tips to help you get your volunteers to follow through.

  1. Create the plan together.We often come up with a plan for an event, break down the tasks, and then ask for folks to sign up for specific jobs. That approach can work for events that your PTA has been doing for a long time where you know what jobs need to be done. When trying something new, however, include many of your potential volunteers in developing the plan. Doing so helps everyone feel they have a stake in the event’s success. Even your long-time events could benefit from this treatment every few years to keep the event from getting stale.
  2. Break down the tasks to provide small wins.When you’re creating your plan, be sure that there are several milestones along the way that your team can celebrate. Those small wins help a group learn to work together, and the little victories along the way help to reenergize everyone and prevent burnout. Be sure to provide micro-volunteering opportunities for those who don’t have a lot of time available but want to help.
  3. Set clear deadlines and track your progress.Now that you’ve created your plan and broken down the tasks, have those handling each task set a specific deadline for themselves (within the time requirements for steps that depend on that task being completed first) so that they own it. Deadlines should be as specific as possible—not “the first week in May” but “May 3” or even “May 3 by 5pm.” If someone misses a deadline, follow up with them immediately to see if they are waiting on information from someone else, need some support or assistance, and have a new deadline for when the task will be done.
  4. Have everyone partner up.People tend to follow through more when they know that someone else is there to help them pick up the slack if life makes it difficult to get a job done and that they’ve got someone else’s back as well. Having folks pair up on tasks makes it less likely the ball will get dropped.
  1. It’s okay to fire a volunteer.We all feel grateful that people are giving their time to our PTA and understand that sometimes life gets busy in ways you didn’t expect. But a volunteer that is unreliable or isn’t following through does no one any good. Yes, they’re good people (maybe even one of your best friends) or they’re just really busy, but these days, we are all really busy. It’s okay to send an e-mail saying, “Hey, I saw you missed the last two deadlines for [task]. As you know from our plan, if we don’t have [task] done by [deadline], [these other people] can’t do their [other tasks]. If it doesn’t look like you’ll be able to get this done by [deadline], please let me know so we can take this off your plate. Thanks!” And if the deadline is missed, follow up with “Since you’ve missed the second deadline for [task], I’m going to assume you are no longer wish to be part of making [event] happen. Please let me know if this is not the case, and I’ll add you back into our group communications. Thank you so much for the time, talent, and ideas you’ve shared up to this point. Our PTA appreciates the work you’ve done.”

Remember that your role as a PTA leader is to help your volunteers be successful. It’s not about your title or you looking good. If you focus on their success, then you will look good.

10 Things to Know When Talking About Sex with Your Child

It’s one of those parental responsibilities that many parents dread. It even has a singular name: The Talk. Mark Merrill, founder of iMom and All-Pro Dad, has ten things parents should keep in mind when talking to their child about sex. These touchpoints may help make the process go a little more smoothly.

  1. Fight the fear
  2. Research
  3. Avoid negativity
  4. Don’t patronize
  5. Be vulnerable
  6. Faith
  7. Emotions
  8. The risks
  9. Peer pressure
  10. Constant communication

Also keep in mind that The Talk shouldn’t be just one talk, but an ongoing discussion with age-appropriate information from the earliest, “Where do babies come from?” through young adulthood. Check out the full article for detailed information on each of these ten points. And remember, if your child doesn’t learn about it from you, they will learn about it from somewhere. Make sure that what they learn is consistent with your values.

Photo © 2010 by Dave Parker under Creative Commons license.

Aligning National PTA and Illinois PTA Legislative Priorities: School Meals

As the number of students qualifying for free and reduced school meal programs increases, and the obesity epidemic spirals ever onward, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHKFA) takes on increased interest for PTAs as the act seeks to improve nutritional standards and access to nutritious meals for students.

The National PTA calls for the reauthorized legislation to:

  • Improve and enhance opportunities for parents to participate in the development of local school wellness policies.
  • Maintain, at a minimum, the current school nutrition standards and Smart Snack guidelines.
  • Deliver technical assistance and resources to schools that are not meeting the nutrition standards.
  • Provide federal grants and loan assistance for schools to improve kitchen infrastructure and equipment.
  • Oppose any attempt to “block grant” the school nutrition program, or reduce the number of students eligible to participate in the free and reduced-price school meals program.

Over the past two decades, the Illinois PTA has recognized and responded to the needs of students by adopting positions relating to:

  • Eating disorders and risk of nutritional deficiency as part of the school health curricula (2000).
  • The dissemination of information on the detrimental effects of childhood obesity (2005).
  • Best practices for addressing and treating childhood obesity through local PTA units, councils, districts and regions in cooperation with other like-minded associations and organizations (2005).

We continue to support the National School Lunch Program and the National School Breakfast Program, and Illinois PTA supported the Breakfast After the Bell bill in 2016. Currently, both the National PTA and the Illinois PTA are watching federal legislation (S1064, HR2401) which are designed to remove the stigmatization of students participating in either of the programs mentioned above.

As schools continue to refine developed health and wellness policies, which include nutritional guidelines, the Illinois PTA will continue to call upon school districts to include parents in the decision-making on revisions to health and policies.