The Link Between Human Trafficking & Foster Children

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The catastrophe of child sexual exploitation is irrevocably capturing attention nationwide. Statistics show that there is a strong correlation between trafficked youth and foster care kids. Some reports show that this is because of traumatic experiences or the lack of love, affection, and protection a child experiences in a foster home. The connection between human trafficking and foster care could also be a result of factors such as homelessness, disconnectedness from family, lack of documentation, and identifying as LGBT, conditions that have shown to increase vulnerability for youth.

Foster care is intended to be short-term until the child is adopted by a loving family or reunited with the biological family. The average length of foster care is about 2 years, but unfortunately, some children will spend their entire childhood in the foster care system.

Here are the stats:

In 2013, 60 percent of child sex trafficking victims recovered as part of an FBI nationwide raid from over 70 cities in America were children from foster care or group homes.

In 2012, Connecticut reported 88 child victims of sex trafficking. 86 were from child welfare and most reported abuse while in foster care or residential placement.

Why the link? 

Youth are targeted by traffickers who are actively looking to take advantage of the vulnerability of children. Victims are trained to think of their traffickers as “daddies” which is an endearing term despite the abuse and violence they may experience. Children yearn for the love of a family. Traffickers will often use this to their advantage, originally coming off as a caring figure. This reveals a demand for family and government intervention to improve legislation, training, and openness to loving vulnerable children.

In South Los Angeles, 9 out of 10 young women that are rescued identify as coming from the foster care system. Law enforcement has learned to treat those rescued with love by connecting them to resources instead of arresting and placing them in jail. Unfortunately, after some victims of sex trafficking are rescued, they return to the way their life was because they believe their traffickers provide the love and affection they previously lacked. In order to break the psychological bond of sex trafficking and enter into safety, aftercare is necessary for survivors to work towards healing.

What's being done about it:

In response to the high demand for trafficked youth that lack love, affection, and protection, systems have been developed to identify and track locations where the link is strongest. In 2013, sex trafficking was not criminalized in Colorado or Pennsylvania but today sex trafficking and labor trafficking are recognized as a crime by all states and 47 states have lowered the burden of proof to punish traffickers.

A study was conducted to monitor and score state anti-trafficking protections for foster youth based on their success to meet a set of criteria. The seven categories of criteria that states were ranked on include foster care aging out policies, kinship care, relevant foster care provisions, task forces and law enforcement training, LGBT youth protections, relevant anti-trafficking provisions, and state reporting law. A 32-point scale was used to show where states were successful and where they lacked in protections.

This study also analyzed current trends in human trafficking and the foster care system to make recommendations for improving legislation related to the issue. Despite evidence that foster care and trafficking are linked, this study proves that states have many more steps to protect youth in the foster care system from vulnerability to trafficking.

One positive aspect regarding the link between human trafficking and foster care is that you have the freedom to choose how to help! You can choose to partner with Dressember to fund anti-trafficking organizations or consider becoming a foster care parent? We all have the potential to show love to a child that needs it in a healthy way.

You don't have to wait until December to be a part of the impact. Join the Dressember Collective and become part of a powerful community of advocates and donors furthering the work and impact of the Dressember Foundation through monthly giving. 


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About the Author

Kaitlyn Wanta

Kaitlyn Wanta is a recent college graduate and Dressember alumni. Her bucket list includes riding in a hot air balloon, finishing a cookbook by making all the recipes, and catching a fish larger than herself.