Developing Protocols and Guidelines on Human Trafficking for Your Healthcare Facility

Developing Health Provider Guidelines and Sample Protocol on Human Trafficking


New research shows that trafficking victims and survivors seek services from health providers. This document provides guidance on how to develop Guidelines on Human Trafficking that create a victim-centered approach to identification, treatment, referral, and other responses to human trafficking.

Clinic Statement

Develop a Statement of Interest that reflects the clinic’s commitment to addressing human trafficking. Here is a sample statement for a Health Provider that wishes to develop Guidelines on Human Trafficking:

____________________ Clinic is committed to establishing a set of programs and guidelines that will meet the unique needs of human trafficking survivors. It is our policy to protect and serve those who have been trafficked with a victim-centered and trauma-informed approach.


Clinic Guidelines on Human Trafficking should be developed in the context of a larger human trafficking identification and response program. Every Clinic needs a Human Trafficking program because human trafficking is occurring in virtually every community in the United States. Victims of sex and labor trafficking are seeking services from health providers and health providers need to adopt a victim-centered approach to identify them and refer these victims to appropriate services. Guidelines on Human Trafficking can be used by health providers as a step-by-step guide for recognizing and responding to trafficking victims.


Some health providers have guidelines in place for other issues – domestic violence, sexual assault, suicidal patients, substance abuse overdose, but only recently have providers begun to develop guidelines for identifying and responding to trafficking victims. Guidelines should be scalable to the size and type of clinic. This How-To Guide outlines the steps to drafting and adopting Guidelines tailored to your hospital or clinic. It is critical for each clinic to have Guidelines in place that address various aspects of the day-to-day work, from waiting room, to intake, to examination, and follow-up. Guidelines can outline the steps needed to complete a specific task and ensure that staff accomplish the task based on specific guidance.1

Developing Guidelines for Human Trafficking will allow your Clinic to:

  • Clarify procedures, roles, and responsibilities around identification, response, referral and appropriate reporting of clients who are suspected or confirmed human trafficking victims
  • Develop specialized training to enhance staff responses to trafficking victims
  • Improve staff ability to identify and respond appropriately to clients who are trafficking victims
  • Understand and arrange for specialized referral responses to the needs of trafficking victims, including medical, legal, mental health, substance use, and other kinds of services and treatment
  • Address the special safety concerns (for the victim and the staff) that may be a part of assisting a victim of trafficking
  • Distribute human trafficking educational materials to a victim who may not be ready or able to disclose victimization or accept assistance
  • Establish holistic referral system to ensure that a youth who has been trafficked can obtain essential services your program may not provide
  • Establish rapport with military law enforcement agencies to protect runaway and homeless youth and to prevent predators and exploiters from trafficking youth for forced labor or commercial sex

The Elements of Guidelines on Human Trafficking:

The elements of a set of Guidelines on Human Trafficking should include the following:

Intake: As client comes in

  • Carry out usual intake procedures
  • Consider signs and indicators of human trafficking
  • Be aware of trauma-informed and victim-centered approach

If Signs and Indicators are Present:

  • Create Safe Space, Separate Client from Overbearing or Dominating Relative or Friend
  • Provide the basic health service requested
  • Ask further questions to try to uncover client’s true problem
  • Be aware of Incremental Disclosure Issues in Human Trafficking

If Human Trafficking is Uncovered:

  • Call National Human Trafficking Hotline 1-888-3737-888
  • Call Local Anti-Trafficking Organizations
  • Assess for Safety
  • Assess for Mandatory Reporting (e.g., child sex trafficking)
  • If Perceived Immediate Danger, Call Military Criminal Investigative Organization (CID, NCIS, OSI, DCIS)

If Human Trafficking is Suspected:

  • Refer Client to Existing Community Resources
  • Ensure that Client Feels Comfortable and Understands
  • Arrange for Follow-up Visit at a Future Date

Note that in order to fulfill all the elements of a good set of Guidelines, it will be important to identify community responders to various aspects of human trafficking. These may include:

  • The National Human Trafficking Hotline
  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
  • State Child Protective Services Program
  • Local human trafficking social service agencies and Local Human Trafficking Coalitions
  • Local law enforcement and/or FBI taskforce, including police, sheriff’s office

Sample Human Trafficking Protocol

Select the button to download a sample of Guidelines that can be used as a template for your hospital or clinic.