“LAW IN YOUR LIFE”
“How Public Education Can Use Civics Courses as a Way to Make Our Students Better Citizens”
Kristen Morrow, Attorney
Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
Chair, The Missouri Bar Advisory Committee on Citizenship Education
Question 1. We hear about how the U.S. compares to other nations in math and science education—how are we doing in civics education?
Question 2. Kristen, I remember when I was an 8th grader, we had to take the Constitution test to see if we could graduate and go on to high school. We were all scared about that test. Is that what educators mean when they talk about civics education?
Question 3. You are a former government teacher—I am a former alderwoman and mayor, and so I also believe that it is a 2-way street. Government is for everyone, but there has to be that buy-in on both sides. There has to be that participation from both sides so that it’s more than just rote memorization of the Constitution—it’s about how to apply that in a real-world application.
Question 4. (For instance) To know how to talk to your alderperson—or to know how to ask about street repairs—or how to talk to your city administrator about how to file a complaint. There are many things to know. It’s (civics) about more than learning all the rules of the Constitution.
Question 5. And it is so easy to say “they” quote-unquote…. “Well, they haven’t done this.” You might, as a citizen be complaining about the wrong department (if you don’t know civics).
Question 6. Kristen, you are the chair of the Advisory Committee on Citizenship Education for the Missouri Bar. Why is The Missouri Bar involved in supporting civics education in our public schools?
Question7. What can adults do if they recognize that they weren't paying attention during social studies class and they really don't know much about the principles and structure of our government?
Question 8. In this day and age, it’s not always easy to say, “Well I’ll just go attend a city council meeting.”
Question 9. As a former elected official myself, it always concerned me when people would say, “Can I attend the city council meeting?” It’s open to everyone—it’s your government. You have a right to be there. And if you can’t be there, electronically there are web pages, all minutes are open to the public—and ask to see the minutes, read them online, and then email your elected official and say, “I didn’t understand that vote”…or “Explain how we arrived at that topic on that particular meeting.” They should be knowledgeable.
“LAW IN YOUR LIFE”
“Protecting Family Treasures & Nursing Homes”
Rusty Fracassa, Attorney,
McCormick & Fracassa
Elder Law and Special Needs Attorneys
Question 1----What happens to a person’s property and savings if he or she has to be cared for in a nursing home?
Question 2 ----Then someone in the family or a caretaker would be in charge of the person’s property or savings to make sure those bills are paid?
Question 3 ----Nursing homes are expensive. How can a lawyer help a person to legally and ethically not lose everything they’ve worked for to pay for the last years of their life in a nursing home?
Question 4----Sometimes a loved one goes to a nursing home but it’s not for old age. It may be for a degenerative disease or even a car accident that would send a young person to a nursing home. Are there any ways to plan for these life-changing events?
Question 5----Hopefully, growing old is inevitable. How can we financially plan to protect the family treasures we hold onto now if we go into a nursing home? Not personal belongings but those items that do have significant monetary value?
Question 6----Do you, as a special attorney for elder law and special needs, have many meetings with siblings who might have opposing opinions on what to do with family treasures when Mom or Dad goes into a nursing home?
Question 7----Bottom line is…plan ahead, right?
Text Transcript of Audio Interview
Shelley Tucker: Welcome to the Law in Your Life, a Missouri Bar podcast for the public. I'm Shelley Tucker. Our guest is Russell Fracassa, an attorney whose practice focuses on elder law and special needs. He's with the law firm of McCormick and Fracassa of Liberty, Missouri. Rusty, what happens to a person's property or savings if he or she has to be cared for in a nursing home?
Rusty Fracassa: One thing that it is going to be used for is what they've been probably saving it for all of their life, at least the current generation, and that is that proverbial rainy day. It's going to be used for No. 1, their current care in the nursing home, and No. 2, if they've retained their home, it's going to be used to continue to maintain that home even though they may not be living there.
Shelley Tucker: There's someone in the family or there'll be a caretaker who will be in charge of the person's property or savings to make sure those bills are paid?
Rusty Fracassa: Well, ideally, yes. The first thing to do is always, whether it's somebody in their 30’s or 40’s or somebody that's going to be older than that, is if they have someone available is to have a durable power of attorney in place. Then that person feels somewhat of an obligation and they're going to take care of the business. That provides an avenue also for the elderly person. Now, sometimes that stuff just seems to be able to get done, which is never usually a good option. So, if there's no durable power of attorney in place then really the only other option if somebody cannot -- due to physical reasons or mental reasons -- take care of their business, then that's when there needs to be a conservatorship through the probate court. If there's nobody available to serve in that capacity then every county has a public administrator that takes over that duty
Shelley Tucker: That’s understandable. We know nursing homes are expensive. How can a lawyer help a person to legally and ethically not lose everything they’ve worked for to pay for the last years of their life while in a nursing home?
Rusty Fracassa: Well really it's just that lawyers can help to plan because we’ve been through it many, many times before and seen many different scenarios and basically know the different options that are available that the law provides. The first and foremost of course is always advanced planning -- the durable powers of attorney and long-term care insurance are important. Long-term care insurance is important because it's not just the nursing home that provides for but it's also in‑home care or assisted living that it provides for. The next thing that we can do kind of goes along with just knowing what's available because of dealing with it so much. And that is (exploring) the different avenues available to not necessarily preserve the estate for the children just to increase their inheritance but also to continue to care for the community spouse or to kind of cut off or round off those rough edges of being in the nursing home and only living off of $30.00 a month for incidentals or little things to make life a little easier at the end of the stage.
Shelley Tucker: Sometimes a loved one goes to a nursing home, but it's not for old age. It may be for a degenerative disease or even a car accident that would send a young person to a nursing home. Are there any ways to plan for these life-changing events?
Rusty Fracassa: Well really it seems to keep coming back to the durable power of attorney and long-term care insurance. Really what's nice in living in a society that does provide, and I know there are arguments that it doesn't provide enough, although I think some taxpayers may think that it provides too much, but there are avenues available, such as for any wartime veterans there's certain benefits available through the Veterans Administration, and then there's also Medicaid which in Missouri is called MO HealthNet.
Shelley Tucker: Hopefully growing old is inevitable, but how can we financially plan to protect those family treasures, not personal belongings, not what we see around us day to day, but those family treasures that we hold on to now if we go into a nursing home. Those items that do have some significant monetary value.
Rusty Fracassa: The one that I think of immediately that we see a lot is the family farm that has been passed down through many generations. The first issue is for it not to be depleted during a spouse’s nursing home stay. There are a lot of ways to be able to transfer that over to the community spouse that are available. Some of those are that if it’s an ongoing business providing income to the family then that is an exempt resource. The income will be considered but the asset itself won’t be considered. Also you might try qualifying the nursing home resident for Medicaid. If there are monetary items such as cash or CD’s or stocks or bonds, there is also, as long as you have a community spouse, ways that you can increase the amount that is allowed for the community spouse to keep. I think that’s very important because typically, not always, but typically it’s the 85-year old grandmother who cannot earn any more money and her Social Security is very low because she’s always cared for the family. Now, her household income has dropped significantly if her husband’s income is going to the nursing home, and with some different limitations half of the assets are going to go away. So we could do things such as transfer the assets to the community spouse and she can purchase an annuity. That no longer is an asset but now it is an income stream. Now it can’t just be any annuity, that comes along with just knowing what the law says and what the local practices are, because there are certain criteria for that. Another option is, is if there is a disabled child. The law allows for any assets to be transferred to a disabled child and it doesn’t have to be a child who is receiving Social Security disability. It can be somebody who is just qualified as disabled, which just as many lawyers have clients determined to be disabled through the Social Security Administration. We can do the same thing through Medicaid. And that’s another very popular option.
Shelley Tucker: As an attorney for elder law and special needs, do you have a lot of meetings with siblings who might have opposing opinions on what to do with the family treasures or the property when mom or dad might go into the nursing home?
Rusty Fracassa: If you're preserving assets to be later inherited, people don't seem to argue as much about that. They always seem to be pretty positive even though the children will always says I just want Mom to spend all the money to go on trips. At least with the world's greatest generation, which is the age bracket that's we're speaking about today, that's not their desire. Their desires are to know that money is sitting in the bank and to be able to pass it on to the children. And so there's not a lot of arguing, it doesn't seem, in that fashion. And I suppose that's one of the reasons that they come to a counselor -- in order to be able to work out some of those differing ideas in a more objective way. So that is not as common as what I think we see on TV.
Shelly Tucker: Bottom line is “plan ahead.”
Rusty Fracassa: Yes.
Shelly Tucker: And there are resources out there, The Missouri Bar can help out and also law firms such as yours can help out as well.
Rusty Fracassa: Very much so, yes.
Shelly Tucker: Our guest has been Rusty Fracassa with the law firm of McCormick and Fracassa, elder law and special needs attorneys in Liberty, Missouri. The Law in Your Life provides general information about the law for the public for your specific legal needs. Remember you can only get legal advice from your attorney. We hope you've enjoyed this segment. If you have any suggestions for future podcast topics let us know at movar.org. I'm Shelly Tucker for the Missouri Bar and Law in Your Life
Gail Berkowitz…………ON Pre-Nuptial Agreements
Law Firm of “Berkowitz, Cook and Gondring” of Kansas City
Question 1. HOW COMMON ARE PRENUPTIAL AGREEMENTS?
Question 2. WHY IS THAT?
Question 3. SOME PEOPLE WOULD SAY THAT IF YOU HAVE TO DO A PRENUPTIAL AGREEMENT, MAYBE YOU DON’T TRUST THE PERSON YOU ARE GOING TO MARRY. YOUR THOUGHTS ON THAT
Question 4. BY DOING A PRENUPTIAL AGREEMENT ARE YOU ALREADY PRE-PLANNING YOUR DIVORCE?
Question 5. ARE PRENUPTIAL AGREEMENTS ONLY FOR CELEBRITIES AND VERY WEALTHY COUPLES?
Question 6. WHAT SORT OF THINGS SHOULD PEOPLE PUT INTO A PRENUPTIAL AGREEMENT?
Question 7. SO IT’S PROTECTION OR A MATTER OF STRATEGIC PLANNING?
Question 8. WHAT ABOUT CERTAIN THINGS YOU CAN’T PUT INTO A PRENUPTIAL AGREEMENT?
Question 9. ARE PRENUPTIAL AGREEMENTS RECOGNIZED AS CONTRACTS IN MISSOURI, OR IS THERE A STATUTE THAT RECOGNIZES THEM?
Question 10. WHAT DO YOU SAY TO THE ROMANTICS AMONG US, WHO SAY, LOVE WILL TAKE CARE OF EVERYTHING?
Question 11. SO THE BRIDE AND GROOM WOULD SIT DOWN WITH THEIR ATTORNEY PRIOR TO THE WEDDING AND MAP OUT A PRENUPTIAL AGREEMENT…..?
Text Transcript of Audio Interview
Shelley Tucker: Welcome to law in your life a Missouri podcast for the public. I'm Shelley Tucker. Our guest is Gail Berkowitz of Berkowitz, Cooke and Gondring of the law firm in Kansas City. We're discussing prenuptial agreements. How common are prenuptial agreements?
Gail Berkowitz: More and more common. I would say in terms of first marriages probably less common; a second marriage is certainly far more common.
Shelley Tucker: And why is that?
Gail Berkowitz: Most people in their first marriages are marrying younger, they don't have a lot of assets to be concerned with although families where there has been inheritance or there is a concern for an inheritance in that - the near future, you might find that the parents are supportive of a prenuptial agreement.
Shelley Tucker: Well Gail some people might say that - you know, if you have a prenuptial agreement or you go into a marriage with a prenuptial agreement, maybe you're not trusting the person that you're going to marry. Your response on that
Gail Berkowitz: I wouldn't agree with that at all. In fact, I think often times if a prenuptial agreement is being drafted properly both the spouses are receiving counseling. They're really going to be discussing some financial issues that they might not have considered. Prenuptial agreement don't forget not only deal with what occurs upon a divorce but also what occurs upon a death of either party.
Shelley Tucker: By doing a prenuptial agreement you're not already preplanning your divorce at all, are you?
Gail Berkowitz: I assume there are some people who do go into it with that in mind but that would really be the minority.
Shelley Tucker: Are prenuptial agreements only for celebrities or as you said very wealthy couples?
Gail Berkowitz: Absolutely not. Particularly people who again have been married previously and they may have children from their prior marriage and they would like to protect that there would some other assets that would be set aside for their children.
Shelley Tucker: What are some things that we should put into a prenuptial agreement?
Gail Berkowitz: I'd like to look at prenups as two very distinct issues. One is what would occur upon death and what would occur upon divorce. A lot of people put into their prenups issues regarding maintenance which is what we used to refer to as alimony but more than that it's really to look at what occurs with assets that either party has brought into a marriage or anticipates inheriting during the marriage and how they would like to preserve those for either their children again from a prior marriage -
Shelley Tucker: - It's a protection and it's - it's really strategic planning, isn't it?
Gail Berkowitz: Absolutely. And we often ask our clients to work with an estate planner.
Shelley Tucker: What about certain things you can't put into a prenuptial agreement?
Gail Berkowitz: Anything that relates to your children would be inappropriate because a court would retain jurisdiction to make any decisions relating to your children. My law partner and I have often questioned when a prenuptial agreement does address the lack of support for a spouse particularly when one spouse has been the only - or tends to be the only breadwinner in the family and that makes me very uncomfortable.
Shelley Tucker: Are prenuptial agreements recognized as contracts in Missouri or in some states? Is there a statute that recognizes prenuptial agreements?
Gail Berkowitz: Kansas has passed a uniform act. Missouri does not have the uniform act but they are considered to be contracts as long as you meet all the qualifications. Those qualifications are that both parties have had an opportunity to be represented, that there has been a full disclosure of all the assets, and that there has been what we call consideration. In other words, those parties are receiving a benefit from the contract. Kansas has adopted the uniform act and so long as you can reflect or show that both parties were adequately represented, and that is a gross generalization, but it is much easier to uphold than in Kansas because of the act than it is in Missouri. There are far more qualifications in Missouri.
Shelley Tucker: What do you say to the romantics among us who say that, you know, love will just take care of everything in a marriage?
Gail Berkowitz: Well luckily nobody asks me that question, they have already made the decision by the time they come to me. Again, I think a prenuptial agreement is approached by both parties as a way to not only plan for the future but also to raise issues for today. I think it is a very good mechanism for that.
Shelley Tucker: How much would one cost? I mean, just go to your attorney as you are getting ready to get married, the bride and the groom, sit down with their attorney before they get married and set this up, right?
Gail Berkowitz: Preferably far before the wedding. First of all, you don't want somebody who is the day before the wedding having to deal with these issues, but it is shocking how many times it does occur. And that is one of the issues to be reviewed in Missouri to determine if the document was conscionable. But both parties would have their individual attorneys, preferably six to seven months before the marriage would be ideal. Your attorney is going to bill you on an hourly basis.
Shelley Tucker: Our guest has been Gail Berkowitz with the Kansas City law firm of Berkowitz, Cook & Gondring. The Law in Your Life provides general information about the law for the public for your specific legal needs. Remember, you can only get legal advice from your attorney. We hope you have enjoyed this Pod Cast . If you have any suggestions for future Pod Cast topics, let us know at mobar.org. I am Shelly Tucker for the Missouri Bar and Law in Your Life.
“LAW IN YOUR LIFE”
With Brandi Byrd, Attorney, The Copeland Law Firm, Columbia
Question 1...Why is paternity still a legal issue? With DNA testing, don’t we know for sure who the father of a child is?
Question 2...What’s the best route? For the man to request that DNA evidence and resolution or for the woman to do that?
Question 3...If a man fathers a child, what sort of legal responsibilities does he have?
Question 4...We’ve talked about a man finding out through DNA that he’s the father, what are the consequences that a woman and child face if the woman doesn’t determine legally who the father is?
Question 5...What if DNA testing reveals that a man is not the father of t hat child?
Question 6...What is your advice to any woman who is unmarried and ready to have a child?
Question 7...If someone has questions about paternity, the legal side of paternity, where should they go first?
Text Transcript of Audio Interview
Shelley Tucker: Welcome to Law in Your Life, a Missouri Bar podcast for the public. I’m Shelley Tucker. Our guest is Brandi Byrd, an attorney with the Copeland Law Firm in Columbia and we’re discussing paternity issues. Brandi, we’re talking about paternity. Why is paternity still a legal issue? With DNA testing don’t we know for sure who the father of a child is?
Brandi Byrd: We may know for sure who the father is but paternity is still a legal issue because it’s not necessarily enough to show through DNA that he is the father. He won’t have legal rights to the child until he is legally established as the father of the child. So if the parties are married at the time of the birth or at the time of conception then there’s a legal presumption that he’s the father and he has those rights. But when you have a case where the parties are not married then the father does not have those same legal rights until he is legally established as the child’s father by some means. By the same token, he also doesn’t have the responsibilities that he would otherwise have so it’s in the child’s best interests and the mother’s too and the father’s as well to have him legally established as the father through a paternity action or if they are in agreement, then by an affidavit acknowledging paternity in order to ensure that the child is supported.
Shelley Tucker: What’s the best route? For the man to request that DNA evidence and resolution or for the woman to do that?
Brandi Byrd: Well it really depends on the particular facts of the case. If the father is wanting to ensure that he’s got those rights, then I would suggest that he go ahead and move to get this legally established. But if the father’s kind of wanting out of the picture and the mother wants to make sure that he’s responsible for supporting the child, then she’s probably going to be the one that does that.
Shelley Tucker: If a man fathers a child what sort of legal responsibilities does he have then?
Brandi Byrd: He has a duty to support the child, to provide for the child’s basic needs and care and this is going to include things that we generally call child support but more specifically may or may not include things like health insurance and other costs. It really depends on the particular facts of the case. He may also be required to pay for some of the costs of prenatal care, birthing expenses, retroactive support depending on when that order is made, things like that. Again, it’s all dependent upon the particular facts of the case.
Shelley Tucker: We talked about a man finding out through DNA that he is the father. What are the consequences that a woman and child face if the woman doesn’t determine legally who the father is?
Brandi Byrd: Well this really depends again on the facts of the case. For the mom the consequences are going to be being a single parent, supporting the child on her own, raising the child on her own without another parent in the picture -- of course yshe may have other people in her life, may move on and get into a relationship with someone else who takes that child on. But there’s definitely the potential there to be a single parent, which is not going to be easy. In some situations it may be better for her and for the child to do that. If the mother is not able to support the child on her own and she ends up asking for public aid or assistance, she’s likely going to have to be required to reveal the father’s identity anyway because they’re going to want to recoup some of the money that’s paid because it’s really a parent’s job first and foremost to support a child. As far as the child is considered, what I would say really matters here: children are the true innocents in these situations and that’s why it’s the court’s main goal to do what’s in the best interests of the child, sometimes even to the detriment of the parent. Legally speaking, if the father is not determined, the child loses the support that that father would otherwise provide, including possibly health insurance coverage, etc. The child also loses the right to inherit from the father, things like that. Practically speaking, and more importantly in a lot of cases, assuming the father is not legally determined and not otherwise in the picture, then the child loses the relationship that he would otherwise have with his father and even the father’s extended family. The reality is that this child is going to have questions about that as the child gets older.
Shelley Tucker : What if DNA testing reveals that a man is not the father of that child?
Brandi Byrd: In circumstances where the parties were not married and the father has not otherwise acknowledged paternity, then as long as there has not otherwise been a legal determination if he is the father, then that’s going to be evidence to support his claim that he’s not and that he should not be responsible for that child. I’m sure we’ve all heard of the extreme circumstances where a father is determined as the legal father , then years and years later, it’s found out that he was not genetically or biologically the father of that child but was still responsible. There are actually some things going on to change certain laws and kind of change the outcomes of those situations. But that’s something that’s still going on right now. For the most part, if there has been no order and he’s determined through DNA that he’s not the father, then he’s probably not going to be responsible for the support of that child. Now that doesn’t mean that he might not choose to support that child -- this may be a situation where he wants to be the father anyway and just because he’s not biologically the father doesn’t mean that he and that woman cannot agree that he will practically speaking be that child’s father and take that responsibility on legally as well.
Shelley Tucker : What’s your advice to any woman who is unmarried and ready to have a child?
Brandi Byrd: This is really a question that comes down more to personal morals and ethics than to a legal question. I’ll defer to the woman’s personal decisions based on her specific situation for the most part. But from a legal standpoint I definitely would not advise getting married for the sole purpose of having a child. If you have someone you want to co-parent with and you don’t necessarily want to be married to that person I would just advise that they both seek a legal determination of the father to protect mom, to protect dad and to protect baby. On the other hand there may be a woman who just wants to be a single parent and if she’s in a position where she feels that she’s better suited to become pregnant through a method like artificial insemination, that’s her choice, and she may not have to worry about things like co-parenting, and sharing custody, but she’s also going to face raising the child on her own and answering the child’s questions as the child gets older. Another woman may be in a position where she’s not able to support the child on her own and that’s going to leave her with a few more ethical and moral considerations and decisions to make. But, again, if she asks for support later and became pregnant through more conventional means and knows who the father is, then she will likely be required to reveal the father’s identity if she does seek public aid or assistance. My best advice to a woman who is unmarried and ready to become a mother is to think about her situation, whether she wants to be single, a single parent or co-parent with someone else and most importantly to think about the child and what’s going to be best for the child in his her future.
Shelley Tucker: If someone has questions about the legal side of paternity, where should they go first?
Brandi Byrd: Well they’re going to want to find a family law attorney who deals with paternity. There are resources through The Missouri Bar; you can Google that; You can look in the yellow pages; or you could go to The Missouri Bar web site and search for an attorney. I do believe the Missouri Bar has that LawyerSearch online database. There’s also The Missouri Bar Lawyer Referral Service. They can contact The Missouri Bar to be directed toward a family law attorney
Shelley Tucker : Our guest has been Brandi Byrd, an attorney with the Copeland Law Firm in Columbia. The Law in Your life provides general information about the law for the public. For your specific legal needs remember you can only get legal advice from your attorney. We hope you’ve enjoyed this segment. If you have any suggestions for future pod cast topics let us know at mobar.org. I’m Shelley Tucker for The Missouri Bar and the Law in Your Life.
“LAW IN YOUR LIFE”
With DR. DEB HUME, Assistant teaching professor in the Masters of Public Health program at the University of Missouri-Columbia----Co-Chair of the Central Missouri “Stop Human Trafficking” Coalition
Question 1...What is human trafficking?
Question 2...How would someone fall victim to Human Trafficking?
Question 3...Is it possible that the person who made your bed in a Missouri hotel is actually a slave?
Question 4...How many human trafficking victims are there in the U.S.
Question 5...What would happen to a victim of human trafficking if he or she reported their situation to the police?
Question 6...What should we be on the lookout for to identify possible victims of human trafficking?
Question 7...What should we do if we believe someone is in dire straits?
Text Transcript of Audio Interview
Shelly Tucker: Welcome to the law in your life. The Missouri Bar podcast for the public. I'm Shelly Tucker. Our guest is Dr. Deb Hume, assistant teaching professor in the master's of public health program at the University of Missouri Columbia. She is also the co‑chair of the Central Missouri Stop Human Trafficking Coalition. Dr. Hume tell me about human trafficking, -- how do you describe that?
Dr. Hume: Human trafficking is basically modern-day slavery. It's profiting from the forced labor of other people, and there are two prominent types: sex trafficking, which is when someone is commercially profiting from the sex act of someone else. They're forcing that person to work in prostitution, pornography, strip clubs, dancing, whatever it happens to be, by the use of force, fraud or coercion. If that person is not an adult, if that person is under 18 years old and they're forced into the commercial sex industry they're considered a victim of human trafficking regardless, even if there was no force, fraud or coercion. If they're under 18 it is considered human trafficking. The second type, labor trafficking, is when someone is forced into working in a hotel, working in a restaurant, working domestically in a home as a servant or a housekeeper or nanny where again force, fraud or coercion was used. That person is working involuntarily. They've been forced to pass a debt; they've been forced because someone is threatening to harm their family; in some form their work is not freely chosen and they're not free to leave.
Shelly Tucker: How would someone fall victim of human trafficking?
Dr. Hume: Probably the most common situation is where someone is in a vulnerable situation. They're desperately needing work. They may be homeless. They may be a runaway child or in the case of international trafficking, it's a family that's impoverished and someone's promising to provide their child with an education and a good job. Almost always there's some sort of fraud involved. Someone's telling you that I've got a job for you; I can give you an education; I can do this for you; and it turns out to be something entirely different.
Shelly Tucker: Dr. Hume is it possible that the person who made your bed, for instance, at a Missouri hotel is actually a slave?
Dr. Hume: Unfortunately, it is possible. There's a recent case in Kansas City where a number of people that work for this job service were indicted as a labor trafficking organization in putting them to work in hotels, motels, factories and so on, and profiting from their labor. The people who thought they were coming to the United States legitimately for work were then enslaved by this labor organization.
Shelly Tucker: How many human trafficking victims are there in the U.S.?
Dr. Hume: That's actually kind of hard to say. The U.S. Department of State estimates that about 18,000 to 20,000 are trafficked into or through the United States every year.. The United States is one of the largest destination countries, having one of the highest demands for trafficking. Other countries are more likely to be countries of origin. We happen to be one that is bringing trafficked individuals in to work. There's also the problem not just of international trafficking but a problem of U.S. citizens being trafficked. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that as many as 100,000 children in the United States are at risk for sex trafficking -- runaway kids, throw away kids, children who happen to be at the mall and someone tells them all, you know, I'll teach you to sell makeup and you can make a lot of money, and then they're tricked into prostitution. So we have both international victims -- 18,000 to 20,000 perhaps per year -- and domestic victims as well. And of those 18,000 to 20,000 brought in, probably half of those are children as well. This is happening to children all over the world including children in our own country.
Shelley Tucker: If someone who is the victim of human trafficking tries to report their situation to the police what would happen to them?
Dr. Hume: It depends. If the police are trained and know what to look for, or if the police are familiar with human trafficking, there is protection both under federal law and under Missouri state law for victims of human trafficking. That person would be released from the situation and provided with a T‑visa, a visa that’s for trafficking victims in particular that would allow them then to access job services and remake their life in the United States if they wanted to or return to their own country if they wanted to. The key piece is getting law enforcement trained so that they recognize what might be happening because a lot of times the person who is coming out of such a situation is probably not going to say I’m a victim of human trafficking. They probably are going to look like they might even be involved in criminal activity if they are involved in prostitution, or if they don’t have their documents and if they’re a foreign born victim, they may be arrested and deported. But if the law enforcement is trained , they may start looking for those clues that are sort of beneath the surface and which indicate that it’s a human trafficking situation.
Shelley Tucker: What should we do to be on the lookout for and to help identify possible victims of human trafficking?
Dr. Hume: Things to look for are large van loads of people that seem to be under someone’s control, maybe stopping at a rest stop or stopping at a truck stop. The one thing that traffickers do is if they have a group of victims either in prostitution or in labor is that they may frequently move them from place to place to make detection more difficult and also to keep those victims isolated and confused. The victims may not even know where they are in the United States If an individual seems particularly submissive or if they’re very fearful if you try to speak to them and they seem afraid that they’ll be seen talking with someone or if someone else tries to speak for them, tries to control what is said or what they’re allowed to say, if there are signs of physical or emotional abuse, all of those things could indicate something else -- but they also can be signs of trafficking. So it’s a matter of keeping your eyes and ears open , and looking for additional information.
Shelley Tucker: What should someone do if he or she thinks someone is in dire straits?
Dr. Hume: In central Missouri what we’d ask you to do is call one of three numbers. The first one is the Columbia Police Department tips line, 573‑875‑8477, that’s 875‑TIPS. The Columbia Police Force is aware of the problem and would notify the correct authorities so that an investigation could proceed. The second one is the FBI office in Jefferson City. They also are, are aware and trained. That number is 573‑636‑8814. The final number is the national hotline, and at this hotline they have interpreters so if someone is not an English speaker they could call this number and an interpreter would be arranged. Tthat number is 1‑888‑373‑7888.
Shelley Tucker: Our guest has been Dr. Deb Hume, assistant teaching professor in the Masters of Public Health Program at the University of Missouri, Columbia. She’s also the co-chair of the Central Missouri Stop Human Trafficking Coalition. The Law in Your Life provides general information about the law and the public. For your specific legal needs remember you can only get legal advice from your attorney. We hope you’ve enjoyed this segment. If you have any suggestions for future podcast topics let us know at mobar.org. I’m Shelley Tucker for the Missouri Bar and Law in Your Life.
More Recent Articles