The Bridge Program: Shelter and Recovery for Sexually Exploited Youth
This year in Seattle, 300–500 girls and boys will be bought and sold.
Unfortunately, the belief that child prostitution only happens “over there” is just the first of many popular misconceptions. The average age of entry into commercial sexual exploitation in this country is 14–15; these children have been found here as young as 11. Around 90% have a prior history of abuse, neglect, and/or sexual trauma. Now, facing violence from pimps and criminal charges from the legal system, it becomes increasingly difficult to exit this entrapment in horror.
YouthCare's Bridge Program is their best way out. It is the only program in Washington State providing dedicated residential services (including emergency shelter and long-term housing) to minors who have experienced sexual exploitation. We are also able to offer the specialized, wrap-around services these traumatized young people need — including intensive case management, counseling, education in the nation's first public school developed for sexually exploited youth, and employment training and paid internships.
This program was established through a historic partnership led by the City of Seattle and including municipal and county authorities, health professionals and other service providers, foundations, and private donors. This community collaboration is supported by Seattle Public Schools, the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, the Seattle Police Department, and local juvenile justice systems.
The Bridge Program staff have also trained hundreds of community members, law enforcement officials, government employees, service providers, and others on how to identify, respond to, and engage victims of sexual exploitation. For more information about training opportunities, please contact the Bridge Program Training Coordinator at (206) 204-1408.
The Bridge Program is named for Jon Bridge and Justice Bobbe Bridge (retired), both tireless advocates for children’s welfare. It began operation in May 2010.