It’s unimaginable that some of our most vulnerable children – those who are currently in the foster system – may also be some of the most vulnerable children for domestic child trafficking. And yet, it’s a very real, considerable issue: Between 50-80% of trafficking victims have had contact with the US child welfare system. These vulnerable children may also have experienced homelessness, a history of previous sexual abuse, drug or alcohol addiction, mental or behavioral health issues, or a history of trauma.
But what can justice professionals do to address this situation?
- what makes children in care particularly vulnerable to trafficking, including an understanding of the victim’s trauma experience and behavior,
- advice on how to communicate with victims through a trauma-informed approach,
- practical implications for bringing a case to trial. It will cover the legal framework, including provisions of the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act and Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act,
- and describe numerous state approaches.
Justice Clearinghouse Editors (JCH): Eva, without giving the whole webinar away, when you talk Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking, what do you mean?
Eva Klain: When we talk about DMST, we use the definition of a severe form of trafficking found in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), which basically prohibits recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person under the age of 18 for the purpose of a commercial sex act (which is a sex act for which anything of value is given to or received by any person).
…Up to 80% of youth who are currently or formerly in foster care
become victims of sex trafficking.
JCH: Why are children in foster care of particular concern?
Eva: Children and youth in foster care are at particular risk because up to 80% of youth who are currently or formerly in foster care become victims of sex trafficking. In addition, previous child abuse is a common characteristic of youth who are sex trafficked. Youth aging out of care can also be at higher risk because many experience homelessness or face unstable housing after they transition.
JCH: What are the biggest misconceptions that justice professionals might have of Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking and its victims?
Eva: One of the common myths or misconceptions is the idea that trafficking only happens overseas to young girls or that children are only trafficked into the United States, when in reality, trafficking victims – both girls and boys – live in cities and small towns across America. Another myth is that victims are easily identifiable or even that the professionals who come into contact with young victims can identify them and know how to respond. Trafficked youth often do not self-identify as victims or they may be hesitant to trust anyone who just says they want to help, when they have been betrayed or disappointed by adults before.
…Trafficking victims – both girls and boys –
live in cities and small towns across America.
JCH: What keeps you inspired to do the work you do – in light of everything you see happening to these children?
Eva: Despite all the challenges, there has been considerable progress in addressing both the approach to trafficked youth as victims rather than offenders, as evidenced by Safe Harbor laws and provisions and other legislative and policy initiatives, and in helping youth who have contact with the child welfare system through provisions in the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act and other federal and state laws. More professionals have become aware of trauma-informed approaches, the need for specialized services, and how they can support the resiliency of children and youth who have been trafficked.