HRSA Project TeamUP Community Partner Spotlight: Free to Thrive

with Jamie Beck - President and Leading Attorney at Free to Thrive

begin quoteA lot of therapists are not well equipped to serve human trafficking survivors because they have experienced complex trauma which can make caring for these individuals difficult and complex. We simply need more people to go into this line of work.

What is Free to Thrive?

Free to Thrive provides legal services and support to human trafficking survivors. We provide services through our legal clinic, which is mobile, holistic, and trauma informed.  It is mobile, meaning that we meet clients in confidential locations around San Diego (prior to COVID-19). It is holistic, meaning we don’t just look at a single legal need, but we look at them as whole people. Legal people have a lot of “non-legal” needs. We partner with organizations around San Diego to provide them with their basic needs and beyond (food, clothing, safety, housing, education, employment, mental and physical health). Free to Thrive is also trauma informed, meaning we do our best to ensure that our clients are not retraumatized throughout the legal process.

Why have Project TeamUP and Free to Thrive partnered together?

            Free to Thrive has partnered with Project TeamUP to offer parenting workshops to our clients. Many of our parents struggle with basic parenting skills, and students at USD are equipped to help with that and it’s very exciting. Alongside that, Dr. Golubovic has expertise in trauma and substance use, which directly intersects with our work at Free to Thrive. It all started with a conversation of “how can we partner together” and we came up with a Trauma Training for students. Trauma and Substance Use are often looked at with two different lenses, which doesn’t make sense, since we know that these two issues often correlate. This training is really geared towards bridging the two together, and I’m very excited about it.  

Can you talk about the population you serve at Free to Thrive?

            Human trafficking survivors are all unique. Most of our clients are women, and the majority of them have children. Over 60% have a mental health diagnosis such as PTSD, depression, and anxiety. Individuals who experience human trafficking frequently experience some form of mental health impact. Most of our clients are poly-victims, meaning they experienced many forms of victimization in their lives. Survivors are preyed upon and their addictions often make them more vulnerable. Oftentimes, their exploitation includes getting them addicted to substances to keep them in the space, and then many survivors cope with their trauma through continued substance use. Oftentimes, we will see that what brought them to be exploited, what kept them a victim, and what helps them cope, are all linked to substances. Trauma manifests in different ways, but our clients often lack basic skills in life because they were trafficked during a vulnerable developmental stage. We have a high number of clients who are LGBTQ+,  foster youth, and/or have a history of criminalization. Most of our clients are also BIPOC, only about a quarter of our clients are white. The intersection of racial justice and human trafficking is very apparent in our population.

Advice for Students

            We need more clinicians focused on trauma and what it means to be trauma-informed. We need therapists who understand this client population. A lot of therapists are not well equipped to serve human trafficking survivors because they have experienced complex trauma which can make caring for these individuals difficult and complex. We simply need more people to go into this line of work. My hope is that students involved in this project will be inspired by our clients and want to work with them in the future. Attend our trainings, donate to our organization if you can, and offer pro-bono work to these clients if you are in private practice.  

Jamie’s Role:

            Jamie Beck’s title is President and Managing Attorney of Free to Thrive. Jamie founded the organization in 2017. Jamie’s role as President is that of a governance role. She manages the day to day operations of a non-profit, which means supporting the board of directors, overseeing finances, fundraising, compliance, Human Resources, and all the other administrative pieces of running a business. In her Managing Attorney role, she oversees all of Free to Thrive’s legal services. She oversees the attorneys, who each have an individual role within the organization. Jamie oversees case rounds of every new client regarding what their experience has been, while also providing her attorneys with support and guidance to help them best meet the needs of each individual client. 

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5998 Alcalá Park
San Diego, CA 92110