The incidence of sex trafficking in the United States is growing. The National Human Trafficking Resource Center received 24,062 “signals,” or reports, of human trafficking in 2014. Of those, nearly 3,600 were related to sex trafficking, up from nearly 3,400 in 2013 and 2,400 in 2012. Of the 2014 cases, 36.7% (1,322) involved minors.1 However, experts believe that the number of young adults who are victims of sex trafficking is exponentially higher, because much like sexual abuse, they are often reluctant to report being victimized. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimates that nearly 70% of likely sex trafficking victims reported to them in 2014 were in the care of social services or foster care.2 Surveys have shown that the majority of youth arrested on prostitution-related charges and as many as 80% of victims of commercial sexual exploitation are or were at some point involved in the child welfare system.3 Often, these youth are not victimized while on runaway, but are recruited directly through their group home placements.4
The effect is certainly being felt close to home. Baltimore’s central positioning on the I-95 corridor and proximity to BWI airport make it an optimal destination for human traffickers. In 2014, The Maryland Human Trafficking Task Force surveyed the Maryland Departments of Juvenile Services and Human Resources, the Prince George’s County Department of Social Services, and seven non-profit organizations that provide services to sex trafficking victims, and determined that collectively they served 381 sex trafficking survivors.5
Passed by Congress in September 2014, The Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act (SFA) seeks to address the growing link between foster care and sex trafficking. Broadly speaking, the law aims to improve the well-being of foster youth and increase their stability so they are less likely to become sex trafficking victims. Youth who run away from their foster care placements are particularly vulnerable to sex traffickers; but youth in foster care who are socially, emotionally, and physically healthy are less likely to run away from their placements. If the new law is implemented effectively, current foster youth who are at risk of running away and becoming victims of sex trafficking will be identified before they become victimized.
On October 7, 2016, we presented this training at the Maryland Association for Resource Families and Youth Annual Conference in Ocean City, MD. The training went so well, some of the participants asked us to train their staff, too!
On October 26, 2016, we did this training for the great staff at the Challengers’ Independent Living Programs.
On November 16, 2016, we presented at the Maryland Children’s Alliance training in Cambridge, Md. We trained 75 people, include police officers, LDSS caseworkers, attorneys from the State’s Attorney’s Office from all across Maryland. Click here to see our presentation.