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Child Sex Trafficking and the Child Welfare System

In the last few years, federal legislators have taken an increased interest in confronting the sex trafficking of domestic children and youth.

In the 113th Congress, alone, legislators have introduced over 20 bills that tackle
the issue of child trafficking. The surge in national attention towards the issue of human trafficking has created an opportunity for added awareness, dialogue, and the emergence of a best practices framework that service providers and advocates can use in serving children and youth who have been trafficked for sex. There is an opportunity to arm policymakers with knowledge and resources, so that they can work with law enforcement, the judiciary, health and human services and other agencies to ensure that sexually exploited children and youth gain access to the services and supports they need.

Victims of sex trafficking include a broad range of populations such as homeless children and youth, children and youth in the foster care system, refugees, and LGBTQ youth. To date, little effort has been made to collect comprehensive data on the scope of this problem, but it is estimated that 100,000 children and youth are sexually exploited in the United States each year.1 What is clear is that many of the minors who are trafficked interact with the child welfare system at some point in their lives. Child welfare service providers
are therefore uniquely situated to identify and address issues of children and youth who have been sexually exploited.

This brief will explore the vulnerabilities that make certain groups of children and youth particularly vulnerable to sex trafficking. We will recommend policies and best practices that can help to provide these victims with the services they need and crack down on traffickers and their customers. Finally, the brief will detail current efforts from Congress and states to end child sex trafficking in the U.S. and support services for sexually exploited children and youth.

Please see the document to the right for more information. 

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