“No one was looking for them.” These are the words used by an FBI official at a press conference referring to the 105 children recovered from a nationwide anti-trafficking operation last year. He went on to say that many of the children recovered came from either homes with broken family infrastructures or from foster care/social services.
News just broke this week that another nationwide FBI operation has just led to the recovery of 149 more minors who were being exploited.
So as the media jumps on the story of dramatic raids, and the arrests of traffickers, pimps, and johns, I can’t help but wonder: where will these youth go? Will they receive the specialized services they need? Will they end up in juvenile detention centers? Will they have advocates to help support them on their paths towards recovery?
These are the kinds of questions that amplify not only the need for services specifically geared toward survivors of child trafficking, but also the need for prevention.
I’m often haunted by “what if” questions. What if there were family support or intervention early on? What if social workers, teachers, law enforcement, and those within the systems were trained to recognize signs of risk or potential exploitation? What if she or he had a mentor? What if they were educated at an early age on how to protect themselves and each other from the dangers of exploitation?
We continue to wrestle with the complexities of child trafficking while working hard on practical solutions in both survivor care and prevention. We want to be able to answer the question of “Where are they now?” by providing long-term, community-based survivor care. And more so, we want to provide effective prevention to eliminate the need to ask that question in the first place.