Child welfare professionals are now more prepared to stop human trafficking in our area.

Mahoning County Children Services held a training session Wednesday morning at its building in Youngstown. The session was led by Columbus Police Officer Ken Lawson, who has led over 1,300 sexual assault and kidnapping investigations.

In 2003, Lawson was introduced to human trafficking and was moved by its devastating impact on society. In order to raise consciousness about the crime, he made it a professional priority to educate criminal justice and social service professionals about human trafficking and develop appropriate responses to it in Ohio.

Wednesday, Lawson taught the group what human trafficking is and how to recognize it. He said most trafficking victims are U.S. citizens, and many are children. He showed caseworkers how to reach out and pull victims out of a life of abuse.

“What’s that person’s name? What are they feeling? What are they going through? What’s their life like? Immerse them in that experience so they can relate better to the individual when they meet them,” he said.

Lawson said it’s important for the community to work together to stop human trafficking.

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month.

On April 4, Dr. Tanisha Knighton will present “Human Trafficking and Beyond for Caseworkers.” She’s a national trainer with over 15 years of experience as a social worker in Cuyahoga County and is an active member of the Human Trafficking Task Force.