The practice of child sex trafficking has grown into a massive industry. Professional traffickers know where and how to find vulnerable victims. In the United States, that often means preying on children involved in the child welfare system. (source: www.ecpatusa.org)
In 2015, California Attorney General Kamala Harris reported that 59% of children arrested on prostitution-related charges in Los Angeles County had previously been in foster care. According to Dr. Gerald Mallon, children in care have an increased susceptibility to being manipulated by false promises of security and acceptance.
Another author, Withelma Pettigrew writes: “[Children] who grow up in foster care express how it is common household knowledge that many caregivers take them in primarily for the paycheck…Therefore when youth are approached by traffickers…they don’t see much difference between their purpose of bringing money into their foster home or to traffickers.”
According to statistics from the OL Pathy Foundation, 75% of all child sex trafficking victims were at one point homeless, and 1 in 3 homeless teens are lured into commercial sex trafficking within 48 hours of leaving home.
Running away from home is not the only pathway to homelessness for foster children. 22% of youth who “age out” of the system end up homeless. Between 1999 and 2013, a staggering 230,000 youths were discharged from foster care in the U.S.
Approximately 25 states and the District of Columbia have extended foster care to age 21. Arizona did not extend foster care as of November, 2018, but may allow some extended services for housing and educational assistance. Most youth in Arizona, however, do not receive these services.
Opportunities for Action
- Ask your Arizona representatives to pass The Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act, which would allow our state to receive federal reimbursement of costs associated with helping youth remain in foster care.
- Become a member of and familiarize yourself with ECPAT-USA’s programs that combat child sex trafficking.
- Most parents charged with neglect do not desire to hurt their children, and are rarely malicious. Child traffickers, however, are. Encourage and redirect Arizona’s efforts away from foster care and toward preventive, family preservation services. Offer to mentor and provide support to parents within your congregation and community.
- Learn to recognize and report signs of trafficking.
- Request that policy makers, case workers and foster parents be required to educate foster children on the risks of trafficking, and for them to be aware how to handle encounters with traffickers.
- Use your congregation’s portion of the Pentecost Offering for programs that help at-risk children.
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Joan Fenton email@example.com