Jessica Valadez

  • Hosted by National Center for Youth Law
  • Sponsored by California ChangeLawyers, Salle Yoo & Jeff Gray
  • Service location Oakland, California
  • Law school University of California, Hastings College of the Law
  • Issue area Indigenous Peoples' Rights
  • Fellowship class year 2020
  • Program Design Your Own Fellowship

The Project

Jessica aims to support tribal communities and child welfare systems to prevent, identify, and address the commercial sexual exploitation of native youth in California through legal advocacy, education, and collaboration.   

Centuries of eradication, erasure, and assimilation-based policies sought to separate and destabilize native families. As a result, a deep mistrust between native communities and local, state, and federal governments developed. These policies have resulted in native youth facing higher than average rates of addiction, suicide, health disparities, and low academic achievement. One of the most pernicious remnants of this systematic oppression is the ongoing commercial sexual exploitation (CSE) of native youth.  

Despite legal and policy changes across the state, recognizing that CSE is an issue of child abuse, little has been done to address this issue among native youth. Jessica aims to bridge the gap between local and state governments and tribal communities so youth can receive access to culturally appropriate legal services 

Jessica’s experiences as a parentified minor and first-generation woman of color drive her to advocate for youth and other vulnerable populations.  

Fellowship Plans

Jessica will begin her Fellowship by building relationships with survivors of CSE and tribal stakeholders to better identify needs and priorities. Jessica will then use these priorities to foster inter-agency collaboration and drive system reform through improved data collection and developing statewide policies and guidance documents. Additionally, Jessica will draft a model protocol between tribal governments and child welfare agencies, law enforcement, and courts to clarify roles and responsibilities, open channels of communication, and intervene on behalf of youth who are experiencing or at risk of exploitation. 

Collaboration between tribal communities and local governments is essential to effectively address the needs of CSE tribal youth. Bearing witness to survivors’ lived experiences and using these experiences to drive policy is a crucial step in addressing this pressing issue.

Jessica Valadez /
2020 Equal Justice Works Fellow

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Sponsor: Dakota Plains Legal Services, Lannan Foundation