The National Foster Youth Institute estimates that 60 percent of child sex trafficking victims have a history in the child welfare system. “Can this be true?” I was shocked at first, though it did not take much consideration and research to understand why the numbers are so high and so heartbreaking.
First is a basic example of the cyclic relationship between human trafficking and the foster system:
Traffickers prey on susceptible individuals. Children in foster care and teenagers released from the program at age 18 are more vulnerable due to the high levels of reported trauma and abuse they experience before, during, and after their time “in the system.” As a result, they are often in unsafe and unstable environments. And in response, many of these children or young adults run away, and many others face homelessness.
They have unmet educational, physical, and emotional needs. They often lack the identification documents needed to function in modern society.
And they have no help.
So these victims slip through the cracks. And while they struggle to find food, shelter, money, and a sense of belonging, they become perfect targets for manipulative predators.
A statistic that initially caught me off guard suddenly makes so much sense. The obvious question now is, “what can we do?”
Check back next week to read SOLVED: Proposed Change, the next installment in our coverage of the Human Trafficking epidemic within the victimized population of the child welfare program.
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