Alliance Presence in STAR Court Achieves Education Outcomes for Survivors of Trafficking

Five years ago, Los Angeles implemented the Succeeding Through Achievement and Resilience Court, better known as STAR Court, to provide intervention and support to young victims and survivors of human trafficking. Established by Judges Pratt and Groman in partnership with LA County Department of Probation, the specialized juvenile delinquency court supports girls who are charged with prostitution related offenses. A highly trained and specialized multidisciplinary team (MDT) is key to the court’s ability to address the myriad needs of these young victims.

Alliance attorney Allison Newcombe, a former Skadden Fellow and graduate of UCLA School of Law, is present at the STAR Court every week. She participates in the MDT and is appointed by the Presiding Judge to provide civil legal representation for youth, with a primary focus on reconnecting our clients to school and overcoming barriers to independence as they transition into the community. Since Allison joined the team, the Alliance has handled more than 200 STAR Court cases, helping survivors of sex trafficking to achieve their dreams.

The STAR Court initially expected to supervise about 50 youth, but in the past five years, the court has supervised nearly 350 cases, with about 120 active at any one time. The court provides specialized trauma-informed care for the youth it sees, and brings attention to the issue of sexually exploited children at a local, state and nationwide level. In fact, a new law (SB 1322) recognizing children in these circumstances as victims and stipulating that they cannot be charged with prostitution just passed in the Assembly and is now making its way to the governor. A campaign called No Such Thing helped guide public recognition of the fact that there are no “child prostitutes”—only victims and survivors of child rape.

The high school graduation rates for participants in the STAR Court have consistently been over 60% in the past two years, a notable achievement that is higher than the general graduation rate for foster youth. “It is a remarkable accomplishment for a youth who has experienced and overcome extreme trauma and instability to walk across the stage with their class as a high school graduate,” says Allison.

This summer, Allison attended the first-ever United State of Women Summit hosted by the White House Council on Women and Girls, where she took part in workshops around ending human trafficking and protecting women and girls from violence. White House advisor Valerie Jarrett led a session that began with her personal recollection of a day spent at LA County STAR Court. Jarrett noted that her visit opened her eyes to the stark inequities in childhood experience and the importance of fighting for the rights of girls to achieve their dreams. “It’s critical to listen to kids when they ask for help,” Jarrett noted. “LA Probation’s Child Trafficking Team is listening and LA STAR Court can be an example for cities and counties across the country.”