Introducing our 2018/2019 Grant Partner: CAST
When I asked Kay Buck, CEO and founder of Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Trafficking (CAST) about the work she gets to do daily, she proclaims “My job is such a blessing. I have the opportunity to work with survivors every day. I think that’s what makes CAST unique — that we work long term with survivors so we are able to form that trust and see them through to success.” CAST’s work is indeed unique — they are not only the nation’s largest provider of comprehensive life-changing services to survivors but also fierce advocates for groundbreaking policies and legislation. After benefiting their Transition Age Youth (TAY) program at our 2018 “You Can Do Anything in a Dress” 5k, we were honored to invite them into further partnership for our Dressember 2018/2019 campaign. This year our grant will focus on their empowerment programs including legal services and case management. I had a chance to talk with Kay about the importance of these programs and was honored to have her share inspiring stories with me of their clients! I hope you will enjoy our conversation.
In our last blog feature on CAST, we talked about how CAST came to be from the inspiration of the El Monte Sweatshop case. What would you tell people who have a hard time believing that slavery still exists in America?
I think the El Monte case is a good mirror for us. We were shocked that 72 Thai workers were being held against their will for 7 years. Since then we have handled so many other cases involving many different types of workers. Indeed modern slavery is very alive today. If you were to look at our intake records, you would see how our operations have scaled tremendously because we’re seeing more and more survivors needing our help.
This year, our 2018/2019 Dressember grant is focused on CAST’s empowerment programs which includes case management and legal services. Can you explain to us the importance of case management in the work you do?
Empowerment services are a continuum of care. It’s about meeting people where they are at in their state of emergency. This means shelter, medical appointments, etc. Once someone is stabilized enough and safety issues are taken care of, then case management is front and center. Case management is looking at the whole person and helping them figure out the goals they want to achieve. For some it’s continuing education, for some its a drug/alcohol rehabilitation programs, for others it’s reuniting with their families. It basically means they are helping survivors set and achieve their goals.
We’ve been learning just how important legal services are for survivors. How does CAST provide legal services for their clients?
In surveys that have been taken by survivors, legal services are continually one of the top 3 services they deem as important and making the biggest impact. Legal services solve a very specific problem and this can look different from survivor to survivor. For some it’s an immigration remedy. For other clients it is family law, custody, etc. For others it is expunging records for crimes they were forced to commit. Unfortunately our systems are not yet to a place where they label victims of trafficking as victims, which means that many times they are still held accountable for crimes. If they can get their record expunged, they can get a job, get an apartment etc. It’s crucial.
Can you tell us about your amazing legal team?
We are fortunate to have 10 full time attorneys on staff. In addition we have a robust pro bono attorney program working with over 30 firms nationwide. Thousands of people need legal services, case management, and shelter so this is important for us! We now have 3 senior level attorneys who are able to service in the capacity of training and technical assistance. Something exciting to note is that we were recently awarded an agreement from the State Department to scale up our efforts to provide a very intensive and focus training to private attorneys and case workers on human trafficking We’re building capacity for legal services around the country.
Located in Los Angeles, you work with a diverse population. Can you explain to us why Los Angeles in general is a target area for human trafficking?
Whole trafficking networks operate in L.A. It’s a port city so that’s convenient for traffickers. It’s also a sprawling county and city with a lot going on and a lot of different industries. Criminals can stay under wraps. Finally, the economy is huge in L.A. and as we know human trafficking is about profit. That’s why L.A. is a magnet.
Can you tell us about some of your inspiring clients?
One survivor who is inspiring me lately just graduated from a CAST program this year and graduated from Paul Mitchell schools! She struggled a little bit in terms of finishing school which is normal because of the trauma they have to integrate into their lives. There are always barriers/challenges they have to overcome. By working with our team at CAST, she was able to graduate recently and when she did, she called us and said “I DID IT” and was so excited. We are so excited for her because we know there were a lot of extra challenges she had to overcome. For us that’s the measure of success when a client says they’ve reached their goals. To make it better, she just got a job with a fantastic salon in L.A. She’s going to do AMAZING.
Another group of people I’m inspired by are two survivors from Asia. They graduated from our program and received legal case management, comprehensive care, shelter, etc. We were able to get them their T-Visas and work authorizations. For awhile they weren’t sure how to make a living wage in such an expensive city like L.A. They decided to go into business together and developed a model to make and sell sushi. Now they have their own business that is operating in one of the major grocery chains. Their sushi is delicious! They’re doing so well and supporting themselves completely and their families financially.
Is there anything else you would like to share with us about the work of CAST?
I’m thankful to the City of Los Angeles, the Garcetti Administration, The County Board of Supervisors -- we get so much partnership and support. I’m not sure if we would be as successful without that partnership with the city and county of L.A. We have a great community to call home.
Finally, I would like you to know that out of all of this violence and manipulation can come some strength and resilience and fantastic outcomes. Survivors, yes they have to always deal with the trauma, it’s a continuous struggle. At the same time they are great examples of how with support and resilience, you can manage it and you can be successful. It’s not about the trauma. It’s about overcoming the trauma to be successful. Our clients are really great examples of that.
My conversation with Kay Buck left me feeling a new sense of admiration for the work they do and an added motivation to continue making work like CAST’s possible. Join me and thousands of others this Dressember and make a difference for trafficking survivors all over the world.
Raise your voice against slavery this December!
Commit to wearing a dress or tie every day in December. You'll challenge yourself, expand your knowledge on modern slavery, and be equipped to lead your community in the fight to end human trafficking. Registration is open for Dressember 2018 and fundraising has already started! Be a part of the impact for our local and global partners by creating your campaign page today!
About the Author
Madeline considers herself a bit of a nomad, having split her time between three continents over the past few years. Now, digging her roots down in Southern California, Madeline spends her time crafting content for the Dressember campaign, doing yoga and exploring National Parks with her husband.