Jennifer Zielinski +Passionate +Dedicated +Advocate +Executive Director Idaho Anti-Trafficking Coalition

What started your career path?

One of our four kids was adopted from the foster care system 11 years ago. She had significant needs that forced our family to navigate a flawed mental and behavioral health system that kept us in a cycle of crisis. Due to significant needs and family crisis, we placed her in a residential care facility three years ago to stabilize our family and to keep her safe. Within months, she was sexually exploited and abused by facility caregivers, throwing her back into a flawed system. Our experiences with trauma, mental health, high risks, lack of trust, ongoing judgement and false accusations lead me to seek work in nonprofit helping families like ours. Working within a variety of systems, supporting families and partnering with professionals for seven years gave me great insight to identifying the gaps, barriers and needed improvements for families and their children to be successful. Now, as the executive director of the Idaho Anti-Trafficking Coalition, I have an open platform to work on developing a systemic, statewide program alongside amazing community partners and volunteers to develop and implement a system of care for anyone at risk, suspected or identified as a victim of sex trafficking.   

What is your definition of success?

True partnerships! It’s important to learn from other programs by avoiding the same mistakes and implementing their successes. 

What advice would you give to someone who wants to make a difference?

Be authentic! Don’t be afraid of transparency and accountability. Don’t be afraid to push the envelope. Trust your instincts but honor questions, feedback, and opinions. Interview others who have failed and succeeded. Seek peer reviews and surround yourself with those who believe in what you’re doing. Believe in equality and give the voiceless a voice. And always, always stay humble.