The Washington State Children's Justice Task Force has given a rare grant extension to a program Sunnyside's Promise has developed after determining the program will further the mission of the task force.
The task force was created as part of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act. Its mission is to promote the safety and protection of children.
One aspect of this mission is to develop improvements in the way child abuse cases are handled by the law and justice system, particularly those involving sexual abuse and exploitation.
The program Sunnyside's Promise developed has increased understanding of the nature of gangs and how they are evolving. The results have drawn the interest of both the state and the FBI, according to Sunnyside's Promise Director Mark Baysinger.
He said the particular focus of the program has been gang-related sexual exploitation and trafficking of children and youth, an area that isn't well understood.
Suzi Carpino, whose job as Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking case manager is funded through the grant, said the FBI's Innocence Lost Initiative has studied the approach taken by Sunnyside's Promise in finding victims of sex trafficking and educating the victims and their families on available services.
Carpino said that although there are anti-gang programs in both Yakima and the Tri-Cities, their efforts generally don't cover the Lower Valley.
The program developed by Sunnyside's Promise helps to fill that gap in services in conjunction with a consortium of local groups, said Carpino. The extension of the grant will also support the continuation of the consortium.
The state's task force indicated the insight that Sunnyside's Promise has gained regarding gang activities in the area of sexual exploitation is enough to justify continued funding of the program.
The information has filled a gap in the state's knowledge of how gangs operate that may someday result in more effective methods to prevent gang activity and intervene in gang recruitment efforts.
The funding for the grant has been extended to 2014.