RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — Human trafficking, including the sex trafficking of children, is a growing concern in the United States. The Administration for Children and Families has released a report to Congress prepared by RTI International, documenting the range of policies and programs aimed at curbing child sex trafficking victimization.
The report, The Child Welfare System Response to Sex Trafficking, examines efforts by the child welfare system to prevent, identify and respond to sex trafficking, including efforts to reduce victimization among children who run away from foster care.
“Sex trafficking disproportionately affects the most vulnerable children and youth and has long-lasting mental and physical impacts on the victims,” said Deborah Gibbs, MSPH, the report’s lead author and director of RTI’s Victimization and Resilience Research Program. “We know that the trauma associated with child abuse and neglect is among the strongest predictors of trafficking victimization. Children involved in the child welfare system are at particular risk. We hope this report sheds light on the emergence of effective strategies and increasing capacity needed to protect as many children as possible.”
Child welfare agencies are at the frontlines of addressing sex trafficking through strategies such as mandatory human trafficking trainings, prevention programs to raise youth awareness and different screening approaches to connect victims with services. These efforts have rapidly enhanced the ability of child welfare agencies to combat this issue:
- Because children can be at particular risk when they run away from foster care, child welfare agencies have implemented robust systems to report episodes of runaway behavior to a national hotline, collaborate with law enforcement on locating runaway children, assess possible victimization when children return from runaway episodes and address factors that may trigger runaway episodes.
- States have developed, or are developing, strategies to identify trafficking victimization among the children they serve. Strategies include observational tools that help professionals recognize experiences and behaviors that may indicate trafficking, and interview protocols that guide more in-depth assessment.
- Child welfare agencies are adopting multi-disciplinary and collaborative approaches, working with schools, juvenile justice agencies, behavioral health providers and law enforcement to rapidly connect trafficked children to the specialized services that they need.
The Report was mandated by Congress, as a provision of Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act (P.Law 113-183).