For Immediate Release
AUSTIN, Texas - Most children recovered as victims of sex trafficking crimes were previously in their state's official care, and many were in foster care or a group home at the time when they went missing. The high vulnerability of youth in foster care to human trafficking crimes and what the child welfare system can do to address those vulnerabilities will be the focus of a congressional hearing Wednesday in Washington.
"Children in foster care are kids who have been abused, neglected or exploited already, and when these children go on to become sex trafficking victims, it shows we as a society haven't done enough to make sure our child protection system lives up to its name," said Ashley Harris, a child welfare policy associate with the nonprofit Texans Care for Children, who will testify at the hearing. A former CPS caseworker, Harris added: "The positive news is that important work is happening in Texas and elsewhere to ensure our systems start improving so they can keep more foster kids safe from these horrific crimes."
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reports that 60 percent of likely child trafficking victims were either in foster care or a group home setting when they ran away. In late July, the FBI recovered 105 child trafficking victims in a single day in communities around the country, including Texas.
The state is a major hub for human trafficking and in recent years, the Texas Legislature has taken steps to address human trafficking, including with laws passed in 2013 that mandate training for some public workers, including child welfare system workers, who will receive support to help them identify and respond better to victims of human trafficking and prevent at-risk youth in foster care from becoming victims of the crime.
At the national level, multiple bills to address sex trafficking of minors were introduced in Congress over the summer. One example is the Child Sex Trafficking Data and Response Act of 2013, which would require state child welfare agencies to report the number of children identified as victims of sex trafficking and immediately report the identity of any child missing or abducted from foster care; it would also train CPS workers on how to identify and provide services for child victims of sex trafficking. Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX) is one of four co-sponsors of that bill and is also backing another bill, the End Child Trafficking Act of 2013, which is sponsored by Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) and co-sponsored by 17 other Texas lawmakers.
The hearing on ways to improve the child welfare system to prevent sex trafficking of youth in America's foster care system will occur before the Subcommittee on Human Resources of the House Committee on Ways and Means at 2:00 p.m. EST on Wednesday, October 23, 2013, in Room 1100 of the Longworth House Office Building. The hearing will be broadcast live at C-SPAN2 at 1 p.m. CST:
Texans Care for Children is a nonpartisan, nonprofit advocacy organization that works to advance policies that benefit children in the areas of health, mental health, early opportunities, child protection and juvenile justice.