What About The Children?
Updated: Nov 29, 2022
When a child is removed from a trafficking situation, have you ever thought about what happens next?
Most people assume they are quickly scooped up and placed into a safe home with lots of trafficking-specific services.
Unfortunately, that is not what happens most of the time. Why? The answer is complex, so buckle up for a lengthy, but important explanation.
First, let’s be clear, trafficking survivors deserve trafficking-specific resources. Trafficking is different from sexual assault or domestic violence. Trafficking produces a different and complex trauma from other types of abuse. Even with kids.
When a child is identified as a victim of exploitation or trafficking, the main question is, who is their legal guardian? If it’s a parent, then the parent decides where the child will live and get treatment (if they get any). They may go home, but there are times when parents feel that they can’t provide the type of care their child now needs and they place the child elsewhere (whether it’s another family member, a group home, or a trafficking-specific safe home).
If a child is in state custody, then a case worker (along with a multidisciplinary team) decides where to place the child. Most of the time it’s in a “regular” foster home. Meaning a foster home that has not been trained on how to specifically care for a trafficking survivor. There are no requirements to place a trafficking victim in a trafficking-specific living environment and most states do not have those services, even if they wanted them.
If you look at the numbers, there is no current way to even sustain a practice of placing trafficking survivors in safe homes as things currently stand.
Researchers estimate that several hundred thousand children are being trafficked in the United States at any given time, with only several hundred trafficking-specific beds available across the country.
That being said, the reality is that it can be very difficult to get a child into a trafficking-safe home if one is available. First, the case worker has to know it exists. Then if a case worker decides to place a child there (and many times they try to place a child with a family member first), the child has to meet certain requirements to live in most safe homes (no substance abuse issues, no children of their own who need to live with them, no complex medical needs, etc.).
Once they meet the criteria, then there has to be adequate staffing to take the child, which is a crisis right now. Workers in safe and group homes are quitting in droves with hardly anyone wanting to take their jobs. Beyond that, if a child is a ward of the state, they often cannot cross state lines to be placed in a safe home somewhere else. As you can start to see, the complexities are huge.
What would make it easier to get a child the trafficking services they need?
Better state laws, better protocols, and more safe homes. We specifically need places that specialize in crisis stabilization. Crisis stabilization means a place a child can go immediately after being recovered and detox, rest, and be provided services, until a long-term solution is in place. We also need foster families who are specially trained in caring for trafficking survivors, as that is a real and tangible solution.
Did you know that REHOPE is one of the few places in Missouri that has a safe home for minors?
To learn more, check out- RH Youth | Serving children victims of human and sex trafficking. (rehope.org)