Today, Congresswoman Karen Bass (D-Calif.), Founder and Co-Chair of the bipartisan Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth released the following statement after introducing the "Strengthening the Child Welfare Response to Trafficking Act" in the wake of alarming trends showing foster youth represent a very high percentage of trafficking victims.
"Alarming statistics have emerged across the country showing that far too many trafficking victims are either current or former foster youth," said Congresswoman Bass. "In my home town of Los Angeles, over 60 percent of child victims of trafficking either are or were foster youth and we know that pimps are now targeting foster youth group homes as hubs to recruit vulnerable girls. This is unacceptable and we cannot continue to fail our nation's children or ignore these trends. Our bill will help to ensure that the appropriate policies, protocol, and training is in place so that child welfare employees have the tools to effectively identify and serve child victims of trafficking."
The Department of Justice estimates that nearly 300,000 children are at risk of becoming victims of domestic sex trafficking each year, with foster youth being especially susceptible to coercion, manipulation and exploitation by traffickers. In addition to California, states like Connecticut and Florida have shown alarming percentages of child sex trafficking victims having also been involved in the child welfare system.
In Connecticut last year, 98 percent of child victims of sex trafficking were involved in the child welfare system, with most reported abuse occurring while in foster care or group homes. Similarly, for Florida the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) estimates that 70 percent of trafficking victims were child welfare involved.
The "Strengthening the Child Welfare Response to Trafficking Act" addresses this problem in the following ways among other provisions:
Directing the Department of Health and Human Services to develop and publish guidelines to assist child welfare agencies in serving trafficking victims and youth at risk of becoming victims
Requires child welfare agencies to report missing, abducted or trafficked youth to law enforcement within 72 hours for entry into the National Crime Information Center database
Directs the Department of Health and Human Services to submit a report to Congress outlining the prevalence of trafficking among the foster youth population nationwide and propose an ongoing method of supporting and monitoring efforts of local child welfare agencies to prevent trafficking and serve victims