From Foster Care to Trafficking: An Analysis of Contributory Factors

Author(s): O’Neill, Christian.
Published: 2018
Available from: ECPAT-USA link(opens in new window)
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Abstract: This brief explores the linkages between the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) and the child welfare system, in particular foster care. It notes that in 2013, the FBI reported that 60% of children recovered from CSEC incidents had previously been in out-of-family care, and that a 2014 Department of Justice report estimated that 85% of girls involved in CSEC were previously involved in the child welfare system. In addition, it was reported in 2015 that 59% of children arrested on prostitution-related charges in Los Angeles County had previously been in foster care, the Connecticut Department of Children and Families reported that 86 out of the 88 children identified as CSEC victims had been involved with child welfare services, and in 2007, New York City reported that 75% of identified victims of CSEC had experienced some contact with the child welfare system. Key risk factors children in care face are described and include traffickers knowing foster youth have increased susceptibility to being manipulated by false promises of security and acceptance, lack of adequate supervision of children in care, the increased likelihood of homelessness of children in care and of running away, the lack of motivation by case workers to locate runaway youth, and the lack of services for youth aging out of the foster care system. The fact that foster parents are paid to take care of youth is discussed as a contributing factor in youth seeing their care as monetized and more willing to accept the monetization of CSEC. Findings from literature on the link between foster care and CSEC are shared, and the brief concludes with recommendations for preventing foster youth from being susceptible to CSEC. 37 references.