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CenHTRO Announces Recipients of Faculty Research Seed Grants on Domestic Human Trafficking

Friday, November 19, 2021


The Center on Human Trafficking Research & Outreach (CenHTRO) announces two members of the University of Georgia School of Social Work faculty as winning recipients of its inaugural
Faculty Research Seed Grants on Human Trafficking in the U.S. and Across the Globe, supported by the UGA Office of the Provost.

Clinical associate professor Dr. Kate Morrissey Stahl and associate professor Dr. Allison Dunnigan will each receive seed grants for research projects on human trafficking in the U.S. that focus on, respectively, interview methods for Native youth and resources for Georgia-based courts and law enforcement.

The seed grants serve as launchpads toward acquiring external funding from national and international sources.

“We are thrilled to provide these resources for faculty to apply their expertise to the pressing needs of trafficking victims and survivors, and to enable collaborative research and action on human trafficking in the U.S.,” said Dr. Lydia Aletraris, CenHTRO research coordinator and associate research scientist in social work. 

“The CenHTRO Faculty Research Seed Grants will strengthen the body of evidence around impactful programming for survivors and will allow faculty at UGA to be more competitive in subsequently securing external grant support for human trafficking research and programming, both in the U.S. and abroad,” Aletraris said. 

Morrissey Stahl’s research project—“Developing a Methodology for Trauma-Informed Interviews of Native Child Victims of Human Trafficking”—will provide critical information on safe practices to conduct interviews with Native youth victims of sex trafficking, including youth who are gender diverse, such as Two Spirit. 

Little is known about how to conduct sex trafficking research with Native youth in safe, ethical, and respectful ways. The project aims to develop trauma-informed and culturally aware research methods and disseminate best practices to protect Native youth survivors of sex trafficking. Dr. Bridget Diamond-Welch of the University of South Dakota, Dr. Katie Edwards of the University of Nebraska—Lincoln, and Dr. Anna Kosloski of the University of Colorado—Colorado Springs will serve as co-principal investigators. 

Faculty Seed Grants

Dunnigan’s research project—
”Developing a Comprehensive Training Protocol for Stakeholders Serving Trafficked Youth”—will provide support to Georgia-based stakeholders responding to domestic minor human trafficking (DMST) and the commercial and sexual exploitation of children (CSEC). Stakeholders include, but are not limited to, court and law enforcement entities in Chatham and Gwinnett counties. 

Providing support from a social work and legal perspective, the project aims to develop a human trafficking toolkit for Georgia jurisdictions and offer ongoing support to courts and law enforcement for human trafficking cases. By training law enforcement, social workers, and legal professionals involved in DMST and CSEC cases, the project will improve the quality of services for child trafficking survivors and at-risk youth and their families. UGA faculty Emma Hetherington (Law), Dr. Rachel Fusco (Social Work), and Dr. Jennifer Elkins (Social Work) will serve as co-principal investigators. 

“The CenHTRO Faculty Research Seed Grants on Human Trafficking in the U.S. and Across the Globe builds on our work to enhance human trafficking across implementation science across the globe,” said Dr. David Okech, CenHTRO director and professor of social work. 

“We already support external researchers to do research in Costa Rica, Brazil, Morocco, Pakistan, Tanzania, and Tunisia. This opportunity, through the UGA Provost's Office, enables us to use those lessons in helping junior or mid-level domestic researchers to do work in the U.S.,” Okech said. “We congratulate Dr. Dunnigan and Dr. Morrissey Stahl for the award and look forward to supporting them as they expand their research efforts in the U.S.”