A five-year analysis of child trafficking in the United States: exploring case characteristics and outcomes to inform child welfare system response
- Forensic Research & Criminology International Journal
Jennifer Middleton, Emily Edwards
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Child trafficking is prevalent and poses a serious problem in Kentucky and throughout the United States. Though Kentucky successfully passed the Safe Harbor law in 2013, no residential treatment programs exist in Kentucky specifically for children who have been trafficked, leaving child welfare caseworkers with very few options for treatment and placement of some of the state’s most vulnerable and traumatized youth. This study used administrative data from the state’s child welfare system to identify case characteristics of alleged victims of child trafficking in Kentucky and trends in case outcomes. Analyses were based on 698 alleged victims of child trafficking reported between 2013 and 2017. Findings indicate that an alarming majority of the alleged child victims were reportedly trafficked by a family member and were often at home when these allegations were received. Further, cases were more likely to be substantiated and/or founded when law enforcement was involved, a forensic interview was conducted, and when cases involved drugs. Reflecting previous literature, cases that involved a family member facilitating trafficking, young children, and drugs were more likely to involve multiple perpetrators. Findings suggest opportunities for research and practice to address child trafficking, particularly among overlooked and underreported populations at-risk for child trafficking, and emphasize the need for standardized, trauma-informed training across the system of care in order to better prevent and alleviate victimization.
child trafficking, labor trafficking, victimization, sex trafficking