Centers for Youth & Families: The Human Trafficking Progam

By Kim Meyer-Webb | Photography by Sarah Oden

Wendy Hannah’s tenure with Centers for Youth & Families spans nearly two decades; the organization is a client of the Hatcher Agency where Wendy works. She quickly realized the essential services meet the needs of so many families and believes continued support for the organization is critical. Her recent commitment as a member of Centers for Youth & Families Foundation Board of Trustees makes her an ardent ambassador for the Centers for Youth & Families Human Trafficking Program – an epidemic that is often overlooked.

   Wendy remembers her initial introduction to the program. “Centers for Youth & Families President & CEO Melissa Dawson established it for juveniles because there are actually children in Arkansas that are victims of human trafficking,” she explains. This revelation resonated with Wendy. “I never really had something that touched me enough to get involved with and dedicate my time. I have been trying to slow down at work and praying that God would bring something into my life.  God has a funny way of answering your prayers with what you might least expect, but what is just right for you.” What began as a professional endeavor has become more personal as Wendy considered the nature of this crime. “Human trafficking is about predators preying on children’s insecurities and breaking their spirits. It can happen to anyone. It could happen to someone you know.”

   Centers for Youth & Families is the oldest continuously-operating nonprofit organization in Arkansas. From its beginning as the Children’s Aid Society to The Centers that served more than 4,000 Arkansans last year, the mission is steadfast – building healthy children, families and communities. It’s a mission that Wendy believes all Arkansans can support.

   The Human Trafficking Program, under the leadership of Katie Crosby, complements the CFYF continuum of services for families, which include specialized prevention, intervention and treatment that promote emotional + social wellness. The Human Trafficking Treatment Center is comprised of a team of qualified, mental health professionals who help rehabilitate traumatized children, adolescents and young adults. Wendy notes that the program is national and welcomes victims from outside of Arkansas, but many clients are living in the state. “The biggest surprise to most people is the fact that we have this program for juveniles in Little Rock and that children in Arkansas suffer from the tragedy of human trafficking.  Most people think about human trafficking from what they have seen in movies.”

   For more than a century, Centers for Youth & Families has been building healthy communities throughout Arkansas. Through its comprehensive programs and services, CFYF continues a legacy of providing resources that reflect the organization’s values: family, respect, excellence and hope. Wendy adds that now more than ever, “Children who are victims of human trafficking, who would otherwise have zero access to the help they need, can find care and support at Centers for Youth & Families.”

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