COMPASS Receives $10,000 Grant to Combat the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in Greater Lowell
COMPASS is one of Massachusetts’s leading providers of special education and human services for youth and families in need. In January 2020, it received a $10,000 grant from Circle Health to combat the commercial sexual exploitation of children in Greater Lowell.
Each year, scores of youth in Massachusetts are victims of the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC). This lifestyle forced upon these youth lead to poor long-term health outcomes due to their individual demographics (mainly income, gender, age, and physical environment). For example, youth exposed to CSEC are more likely to experience teenage pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and substance abuse.
To address this ever-growing problem in Massachusetts, COMPASS joined the Lowell Taskforce to End Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children when it was founded more than three years ago in conjunction with several other local service agencies. This group, spearheaded by the Greater Lowell Department of Children and Families (DCF), provides opportunities for trainings, awareness, outreach, and a place for local service providers to expand their collective impact in greater Lowell. According to Scott Stella, COMPASS Program Supervisor, “the sexual exploitation of children is more prevalent than most people are aware of. Due to the internet and social media, it has spread to all communities large and small.”
To help support the growing need for community health programs, Circle Health awards grants to agencies addressing health priorities that were identified in the 2019 Greater Lowell Community Health Needs Assessment conducted by Lowell General Hospital, the Greater Lowell Health Alliance, and the University of Massachusetts Lowell. “The purpose of this [grant] is to increase the overall health and wellbeing in the greater Lowell community and surrounding areas,” reads the grant application from Circle Health.
COMPASS, with support from Greater Lowell DCF, is a recipient of one of the $10,000 grants awarded by Circle Health in January 2020. This partnership will focus on creating positive social environments and awareness for staff, affected youth, and community members about the negative health effects of CSEC in the Greater Lowell area. In doing so, this program will allow COMPASS and Lowell DCF to:
- Expand the number of service providers in Greater Lowell trained in the foundational CSEC curriculum by the accredited service provider, My Life My Choice (MLMC);
- Provide a safe space for identified, high-risk youth in the Greater Lowell area to learn about CSEC and preventative resources and services;
- Increase the number of trained co-facilitators for MLMC programs for at-risk youth to be run consistently and sustainably.
COMPASS Family Specialist Amanda Kelley has been leading the effort at COMPASS to bring awareness and leadership to this topic. “The Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children is a growing, often silent, epidemic impacting the lives of many of our youth,” says Amanda. “This grant will allow us the opportunity to spread awareness, education, prevention and hope to a population silenced by trauma.”
This program will address many barriers to providing adequate and impactful education about CSEC and non-high-risk services to at-risk youth. The program will also continue to leverage relationships in the Greater Lowell community to provide a nationally recognized curriculum to equip service providers with the tools to identify, address, and support youth and families that are involved and/or at risk for CSEC. Margaret Nicholson, COMPASS’ Director of Community Services states that, CSEC is “now pervasive and the long-term effects are devastating for the youth and their families. This grant will allow us to train our staff to work more effectively with the youth involved with CSEC.”
COMPASS will be recognized at the Circle Health Ball in Boston in late March 2020, an event to raise funds and awareness for community health programs.
For further questions, please contact Gregg Grenier, Director of Development and Impact at Gregg.Grenier@compassboston.org.