#minorsextrafficking | ‘Save the Children Walks’ shine light on child trafficking in the area

PRINCETON — On Friday evening and Saturday afternoon, Braveheart Children’s Advocacy Center and Central Illinois Trafficking Awareness teamed up for Save the Children Walks in Princeton.

Approximately 50 people attended and the walk was to show support for Braveheart as well as to bring awareness to child trafficking that is occurring in the community.

Braveheart Executive Director Jackie Diediker explained, “Here in our area children are being trafficked and exploited by people they know. It may be by family members or other caregivers. These caregivers are exchanging their children’s sexual services for room and board or drugs. The kids do not realize what is happening.”

Many people believe that child sex trafficking only happens when a child goes missing. Children that are sexually trafficked and exploited often go unidentified and never receive the services that they need to begin healing. Both groups are working towards making people in the community aware of these issues and teaching people to be a voice for a child.

What is Braveheart?

Braveheart is a Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC) located in Prince­ton that provides services for children located in Bureau, Henry, Marshall, Putnam and Stark counties.  In the mid-1990s, in Henry County, five children died by the hands of their parents or caregivers. Braveheart was created to help with this problem and in 2009 a satellite office came to Princeton.

A CAC is a child-focused model that coordinates the investigation and treatment services for children involved in allegations of abuse. A CAC connects victims to the services they need to help them heal and move forward after abuse or trauma.

Braveheart utilizes a multi-disciplinary team which consists of the state’s attorney’s offices from all five counties, local and state law enforcement from all five counties and the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services in addition to the staff at Braveheart which includes a counselor and children’s advocates.

The main benefit of having a multidisciplinary team is that Braveheart brings everyone to the child.  

According to Diediker, “Interviews are recorded in a child-friendly facility so that the child only has to answer the questions and tell their story once. Then the other members of the team can watch the interview remotely.”

Braveheart also provides forensic interviews, mental health services, access to specialized medical services, case management, community referrals, advocacy, professional training and community outreach.

All services are provided free of charge. Braveheart is 75-80% funded from state and federal grants. The rest of the money is raised through local fundraising efforts. Braveheart is currently attempting to purchase a building in Princeton but have had to cancel all of their fundraisers due to the pandemic.

For more information or to make a donation, contact the Braveheart Satellite Office in Princeton at 815-664-8224.

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