Child Welfare Response to Child Trafficking
Human trafficking is arguably one of the most disturbing human rights abuses of our time. The United States Department of Justice has estimated that between 14,500 and 17,500 foreign men, women, and children are trafficked into the United States each year.
While estimates indicate that thousands of child trafficking victims exist in the United States, very few have been identified and recovered. Between 2001 and 2009, only 212 foreign minors were successfully recognized by U.S. authorities as victims of trafficking.
Human trafficking is a relatively new issue and emerging area of knowledge for most social service, legal, and law enforcement professionals. It was only in 2000 that the first federal anti-trafficking statute, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), was enacted.
Thousands of organizations and agencies are unaware of this law and other state laws that provide critical support and protect the rights of victims. Even fewer have been adequately trained or prepared to respond to child victims of trafficking, and fewer still have incorporated policies, protocols, and case management techniques to appropriately serve this population.
The protection of children has rarely been included in government-funded initiatives to combat human trafficking in the United States. The majority of victims are minors, yet support for this group has not been considered a priority.
The child welfare field is only beginning to recognize the need to prepare for and address the issue of child trafficking. For the past decade, child protection agencies across the United States have been unprepared to address the problem, despite laws requiring child welfare agencies to serve trafficked children.
In 2007, the International Organization for Adolescents (IOFA) developed and launched the Building Child Welfare Response to Child Trafficking project. The purpose of this project is to build the capacity of child welfare agencies and service providers to identify and respond to this often invisible and underserved population. The primary goals are to ensure that children are correctly identified as trafficked persons and that they receive the appropriate protections
and referrals to specialized services to which they are entitled under federal and state laws. This project, supported by funding from the Chicago Community Trust, takes place over a two year period ending in mid-2011.
To achieve these outcomes, IOFA is developing key resources and tools, including the Building Child Welfare Response to Child Trafficking Handbook outlined in this publication. The handbook is a critical resource for state child welfare systems and other service provider settings.