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Safe House Certification: A Need for Elevated Standards of Care 

“Even in “The Life (of trafficking)” there are standards (albeit unethical, immoral, and illegal). It is time to implement a housing standard of care for survivors of human trafficking. This is vital to hold service providers accountable and prevent further exploitation.” – Dr. Marlene Carson, U.S. Survivor Advisory Council on Trafficking & Founder of The Switch 

Safe house programs that serve trafficking survivors are crucial in the fight against human trafficking. They provide a safe and supportive environment where survivors can receive the care and services they need. This holistic approach empowers them to recover from the trauma they have endured and rebuild their lives. Not all safe house programs are created equal, however, and it’s important to ensure that they are using evidence-based practices to effectively support survivors. Safe House Certification elevates programs providing ethical, safe, therapeutic, well-resourced, and sustainable residential programs to survivors. 

What are evidence-based practices? 

Evidence-based practices are interventions that have been thoroughly tested and proven to be effective through scientific research. These practices are grounded in sound theoretical frameworks and are supported by empirical evidence. They have been shown to produce positive outcomes for individuals who have experienced trauma, including those who have been trafficked. 

Why is it important for safe house programs to use evidence-based practices? 

First and foremost, survivors of trafficking have unique and complex needs that require specialized care. They may have experienced multiple levels of interpersonal violence, including physical, verbal, and sexual abuse. They may have substance use disorders and psychiatric and physical disabilities. These challenges, among others, are barriers to rebuilding their lives. Evidence-based practices are designed to address these specific needs and help survivors achieve long-term recovery and stability. 

Second, using evidence-based practices helps ensure that safe house programs are providing the highest quality care possible. These practices have been tested and proven to be effective, so using them helps ensure that survivors are receiving services that truly work. Practices that are not evidence-based have the potential to be ineffective, but beyond that, they also present a risk of survivors being further harmed or retraumatized. 

Third, certification of safe house programs that use evidence-based practices provides a level of accountability and transparency that is crucial to ensuring that survivors are receiving the care and support they need. Certification provides an external validation that the program is providing high-quality care that is consistent with these practices. It allows those seeking placements for survivors, including survivors reaching out on their own behalf, to identify programs that have that accountability and transparency. 

In 2021, Safe House Project worked alongside industry experts, including lived experience experts, program directors, mental health experts, healthcare professionals, and academics to develop Safe House Certification. Certification offers programs the ability to evaluate themselves against evidence-based practices to inform their continued growth and development. Safe House Certification evaluates organizations serving survivors of trafficking in residential programs based on (1) organizational structure and compliance; (2) programming and services; (3) governance and executive leadership; (4) financial management; and (5) specialized services. After the organization completes their application and site visit, their evaluation is sent to an independent Certification Review Board, where industry experts make a final determination on certification status.  

Kathleen Arnold, Executive Director of The Lampstand, says, “everyone thinks that their program is providing excellent services. However, going through certification allowed The Lampstand to see how our program matched up to other programs. Throughout the process, we received validation as well as valuable feedback from Lived Experience Experts. Knowing that our program has been carefully vetted gives us the confidence and peace of mind that our safe home is facilitating healing & hope for the children who come through our doors.” 

Ultimately, safe house programs play a critical role in empowering trafficking survivors to rebuild their lives, but not all safe house programs are created equal. It’s important for these programs to use evidence-based practices to ensure that survivors receive the highest quality care possible. By using evidence-based practices, safe house programs can improve outcomes for survivors, ensure accountability and transparency, and provide survivors with the care and support they need to achieve long-term recovery and stability. Certification ensures that trafficking survivors who have endured the worst this world has to offer are given the opportunity to heal and grow in a safe environment that will not add to their traumas. 


By Brittany Dunn, Co-Founder & COO of Safe House Project, TWG Client