Many assume that ending child trafficking just requires us — as individuals — to care enough. But that alone won’t do it. We also need systems and policies to change. Does that mean systems and policies are trafficking children? No. But it means that if they’re working right, they can stop and prevent trafficking. Ending child trafficking will require challenging society’s response. This is driven by both individual action and system change. Conversation about systemic change is something you may be hearing a lot about. This is one tangible example of how system change relates to ending child trafficking.
Love146 is a part of the federal government’s National Advisory Committee (NAC) on the Sex Trafficking of Children and Youth in the United States. Recently, the NAC published a major report containing 127 best practices & recommendations for all 50 states in ending child sex trafficking. Here’s examples of three of those recommendations that have been informed by our work:
- Recommendation 3.14: Screen all reports to the state’s child abuse and neglect hotline for indicators of sex trafficking using a validated screening tool. Child welfare systems have hotlines where suspected abuse & neglect is called in – if you don’t know it, look up the one in your area and be aware that you can call in concerns. Typically, all child welfare systems begin their case with a hotline call for initial intake. When you call a hotline, the person answering has a set of questions they’re asking and issues they’re screening for to assess the risks (the way your doctor is always asking right now if you live with someone over 60). For example, child welfare hotlines are always assessing domestic violence in the home. In some places right now, our systems don’t routinely screen all calls for sex trafficking. Some states don’t even acknowledge it as a form of child abuse. Ouch. So, this recommendation requires state’s child abuse and neglect hotlines include screening specifically for sex trafficking, becase we shouldn’t be missing it.
- Recommendation 4.1-3: Providers & agencies working with at-risk children and youth should be required to receive training on identifying and responding to known or suspected victims of sex trafficking. When children are impacted by things like substance abuse, autism, or teen pregnancy, often government funding and support requires that services adhere to an evidence-based model. Ready for this? There isn’t yet evidence-based models of caring for child sex trafficking victims! No providers have been rigorously evaluated. Love146 has built our programs informed by other best practices and evidence in similar fields, and when it comes to rigorous evaluation, it’ll take time and we’re working on it. But in the meantime, this recommendation says that, for all states, there still needs to be some minimum standards for providers to serve victims of child sex trafficking. We can set some basic expectations, like trauma training. If you’re not trained in that, for example, you could be doing harm.
- Recommendation 9.9-10: Require all youth child welfare and juvenile justice systems to use researched-based prevention education. Sure – we’re working on getting prevention education to youth in schools everywhere (and Love146’s curriculum is currently present at some level in 22 states and growing). But strategically, it’s important to understand that not all children are at the same risk of child trafficking. We know that those involved in child welfare and juvenile justice systems are incredibly vulnerable. We know these groups are at such high-risk of being victimized, it’s franky negligent not to be giving them prevention education around trafficking. This recommendation requires that states ensure that’s happening.
Ultimately, many of these recommendations could impact the standards states need to demonstrate in order to receive funding. The governor of your state will have a chance to respond to these recommendations – and we hope all 50 governors will. You’ll be able to see their response and can even add public comment on it. If you have professional or personal lived experience with the issues discussed in these recommendations, you can follow the process on the website of the Administration of Children and Families, and add your own perspective! We’ll circle back with an advocacy alert when you have a chance to weigh in.
And Remember: Ending child trafficking is a bipartisan issue. Believe it or not, combating child trafficking and exploitation is something our national leaders have agreed on for decades. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (or TVPA) was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in the year 2000. It was reauthorized and strengthened under Presidents Bush, Obama, and Trump and congresses led by both Republicans and Democrats. Love146’s VP of Global Programs, Erin Williamson, serves on the National Advisory Committee on the Sex Trafficking of Children & Youth in the United States. The Committee was appointed by President Obama and launched in 2017, under President Trump. Like most of America, Committee members represent diverse experiences and opinions. We don’t always agree. But, we’ve experienced a remarkable commitment to work through differences and towards solutions and witnessed inspiring collaboration.