The Sun-Sentinel used a tweet by Governor Ron DeSantis’ deputy press secretary about U.S. border security to promote a series of reports on human trafficking. It did not end well for the newspaper. Earlier in day, when asked why he was not visiting the border, President Joe Biden said it was “because there’s more important things going on.”
DeSantis deputy press secretary Jeremy Redfern offered his view on the border. Redfern tweeted, “This is a humanitarian crisis caused by the Biden Administration’s open border policies, but I guess there’s more important things to do.”
For some reason, David Schutz of the Sun Sentinel used Redfern’s tweet to promote a human trafficking investigation entitled, “Innocence Sold.”
Schutz tweeted “Speaking of important things to do right here in Florida…” along with links to the Sun Sentinel stories.
On Tuesday evening, the DeSantis administration responded. “[T]his reporting is inaccurate and only serves to delegitimize and sow doubt in state agencies working tirelessly to eradicate child trafficking in Florida,” Redfern wrote.
Here is full statement from Redfern:
“Florida takes sex trafficking and the exploitation of children extremely seriously. Our agencies are working diligently to eliminate this scourge from out state. Unfortunately, the Sun Sentinel failed to engage in genuine conversation with state agencies before writing this story.
Most recently, state agencies are supporting legislation in the upcoming session to increase and codify additional penalties for human trafficking. Additionally, in 2017, DCF was charged with reviewing the Human Trafficking Screening Tool and making recommendations for its improvement. The final phase of this three-part review is now complete, and DCF is actively reviewing recommendations that have come out of this process for implementation.
While the Sun Sentinel’s reporting cited that “removing kids from homes make them more likely to be trafficked,” of the 1,876 human trafficking reports received by DCF in FY 21-22, over 77% listed the child as living at home. The public needs to be aware of this fact. Nonetheless, DCF takes all reports of human trafficking seriously and has made tremendous strides to reduce the number of children placed in non-relative care or licensed foster home. As a result of their work, the number of teens entering out-of-home care has steadily declined over the last ten years.
The Sun Sentinel attributed the movements of females in foster care to the likeliness of them being trafficked but greatly inflated the number of times children in the foster system are moved, claiming girls are moved an average of 27 times during their time in the system. DCF never verified this number and exhausts all efforts to keep a child in their home before moving them into the care of others. Of note, DCF mentioned in their response that females ages 13-17 who have been victims of human trafficking are moved fewer than six times within the Department’s care.
Your reporting also failed to highlight that, nationwide, most children who run away are recovered. Of the missing child reports filed between July 1, 2022, and, September 30, 2022, 98% were resolved by November 7, 2022. This resolution rate is a testament to the success of law enforcement and other who are working to recover these vulnerable children.
When publishing this series, the Sun Sentinel chose not to include these statistics, among others, and instead published statistics from activist organizations that cannot be verified by state, local, or federal policing agencies. The series mischaracterized the government institutions that serve vulnerable young women instead of reporting on the real reasons that children fall victim to these schemes: the abuse and neglect that led them to the state’s care. Thus, this reporting is inaccurate and only serves to delegitimize and sow doubt in state agencies working tirelessly to eradicate child trafficking in Florida.”