Kate Walker Brown, an attorney at the National Youth Law Center (NCYL), has been recognized by the California Department of Social Services (DSS) with an award for her leadership in improving services and supports for commercially sexually exploited children (CSEC).
Walker Brown is the director of the Collaborative Responses to Commercial Sexual Exploitation Initiative at NCYL and the project director for California’s CSEC Action Team, a group of advocates and government stakeholders that works to improve services and supports for commercially sexually exploited children in the state.
“Through her leadership positions, Ms. Walker Brown has fearlessly addressed child exploitation by knitting together a variety of strategies including legislative advocacy and coalition building,” the DSS Child Trafficking Response Unit said in a press release. “This has included partnering with county agencies, community-based organizations and survivors to implement laws and policies and develop innovative solutions to the trauma impacting children and their families.”
“It was an honor to receive this award on behalf of my whole team and the invaluable leadership and guidance of the survivors of commercial sexual exploitation with whom we work,” Walker Brown told The Imprint in an email. “While we celebrate this recognition, we also know that the work we do is not close to done.”
Walker Brown has worked to change the perception of sexually exploited youth, who many advocates argue are often viewed and treated as criminals instead of victims.
“In any other context our values are clear – when an adult rapes a child, the child is a victim and the adult is the criminal,” Walker Brown wrote in a 2015 op-ed for The Imprint. “When money changes hands and a third party benefits, this same child is criminalized and the adults, more often than not, walk away.”
With her 2013 report, “Ending the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children: A Call for Multi-System Collaboration in California,” she helped lay the groundwork for California state policy to codify the shift to treating exploited youth as victims rather than delinquents. Since 2016, a state law bars California law enforcement agencies from arresting underage sex workers, instead referring them to social services for help and protection.
Walker Brown has worked with law enforcement agencies across the state to develop appropriate response protocols when they encounter youth soliciting sex, including the Los Angeles County First Responders Protocol, which has become a model for law enforcement agencies around the country, according to NCYL. Her team at NCYL also helped to ensure the state’s dependency code was changed to ensure CSEC victims are served by child welfare agencies.
Since 2010, California has recognized January as Human Trafficking Awareness Month, and DSS made the award given Walker Brown part of the month-long recognition of human trafficking issues.
“Our team remains committed to advocating for and implementing the most effective strategies to serve our communities who have experienced commercial sexual exploitation,” said Walker Brown.