Mr. MARINO. Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of H.R. 5081.
It is an absolute outrage that between 100,000 and 300,000 American youth are currently at risk for becoming victims of commercial sexual exploitation and trafficking right here in the United States.
Although we know there are many factors that make youth particularly vulnerable to traffickers and exploiters, such as age range, history of abuse, living in an impoverished community, and many others, the most astounding indicator a child will be trafficked is whether or not he or she is in foster care--in the foster care system at all.
In 2013, 60 percent of the child sex trafficking victims recovered as part of an FBI nationwide raid from over 70 cities were children from foster care or group homes. Make no mistake about it. Our foster care system provides an essential service to our communities and our children. In fact, my wife and I have housed children from this system. However, we are simply not doing enough to protect these children from being preyed upon.
This is why I have worked with my colleague, Congresswoman Karen Bass, to introduce H.R. 5081, the Strengthening Child Welfare Response to Trafficking Act of 2014. This bill would make much-needed reforms to the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act to ensure States increase their child protection service plans and that we increase the data being reported to Congress.
To enact good law in Congress, we simply need as many facts at our fingertips as possible. Sadly, criminals in the child trafficking industry have become
adept at lurking in the shadows and evading law enforcement, leaving us with very poor records and data on the activity.
This is why Congresswoman Bass and I are calling on States to work with us to strengthen our records and data logs so that we can more effectively craft laws to stop these criminals moving forward.
I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting this important bipartisan bill, because when it comes to those who are the most innocent among us, they deserve as much protection as possible.
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