RTI International to lead two national human trafficking program evaluations

Evaluations seek to improve services for victims and prevent child victimization


RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, NC—The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families has awarded contracts to RTI International for two studies addressing human trafficking.

One evaluation focuses on the National Human Trafficking Hotline while the other is aimed at preventing child trafficking. Together, the contracts are worth more than $3.3 million.

Human trafficking is a complex and multidimensional issue, involving men, women, and children, in the United States and abroad, in sexual exploitation and forced labor. Although it is difficult to know the true number of victims of human trafficking, it has been estimated that between 14,500 and 17,500 people are victimized annually in the United States.

Evaluating the National Human Trafficking Hotline

The Administration for Children and Families provides many support services for trafficking victims, including the National Human Trafficking Hotline program. However, to date, no independent evaluation of the hotline has been done. RTI’s first contract with the Administration for Children and Families is a rigorous evaluation of the hotline program.

“There’s a lot at stake with this project,” said Jennifer Hardison Walters, a research social scientist at RTI and project director of the hotline evaluation. “The hotline is a vital part of the effort to eradicate human trafficking in the U.S., connecting victims to services and offering tools to help combat all forms of human trafficking. This evaluation provides a critical opportunity to improve services for human trafficking victims at the national level.”

The toll-free national hotline provides 24/7 emergency assistance every day of the year, connects victims with resources and services, and provides leads to law enforcement authorities. Evaluation of the hotline will provide information about the processes and outcomes of the program, as well as the circumstances surrounding human trafficking, victims, and service provider and law enforcement responses.

The Domestic Human Trafficking and the Child Welfare Population Study

RTI is also supporting the Administration for Children and Families’ Children’s Bureau with its efforts to prevent, identify, and respond to child trafficking victimization.

“The safety and protection of children in the U.S. is paramount,” said Deborah Gibbs, senior analyst at RTI and project director of the Domestic Human Trafficking and the Child Welfare Population project. “While it’s clear that many trafficked children have been, or are likely to be, part of the child welfare system, there is limited research into the interconnected experiences. Also, little is known about promising interventions to identify and assist these children.”

The Domestic Human Trafficking and the Child Welfare Population study will provide the Administration for Children and Families immediate support and long-term guidance by assessing what is known about risk of trafficking victimization and resources to address these, evaluating current practices, and developing a research agenda to improve prevention and support programs.

“Eradicating human trafficking and improving services for victims is an important national objective,” Hardison Walters said. “Sexual exploitation and forced labor are violations of human rights. We look forward to working with the Administration for Children and Families to improve victim support programs and prevent victimization.”