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The Erie County Department of Social Services will receive a state grant of $124,444 to collaborate with the International Institute of Buffalo to provide help for sexually exploited children through the county’s Safe Harbor plan.

The grant from the state Office of Children and Family Services will assist Safe Harbor in increasing community awareness of sexual exploitation and human trafficking, finding victims, providing safe housing and case management for them and helping them with their legal problems. The International Institute’s Victim Services Department has been assisting victims of human trafficking since 2006.

Under the state’s 2008 Safe Harbor for Exploited Children Act, sexually exploited youth are no longer treated as criminals. Instead, they are transferred to local social service agencies for attention to their needs and concerns.