U.S. Senators Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Rob Portman, R-Ohio applauded the inclusion of provisions aimed at fighting domestic child sex trafficking within a larger child welfare bill.
The Senate Finance Committee today marked up the Supporting At-Risk Children Act, which includes key provisions from the Wyden-Portman Child Sex Trafficking Data and Response Act of 2013. The Wyden-Portman provisions require state child welfare workers to identify and document victims of sex trafficking within the child welfare system, which would help provide accurate statistics on these crimes for the first time.
Further, child welfare workers would also be required to immediately report information on missing and abducted children to law enforcement authorities for entry into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) and to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC).
The NCIC is a computerized index of information on crimes and criminals that is maintained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). NCMEC is a non-profit organization that receives federal funding from the Missing and Exploited Children’s program and other sources to support law enforcement agencies and families in missing children and child sexual exploitation cases. Additionally, states would be required to detail the specific measure being taken to protect and assist victims of child sex trafficking.
“Some people have called the child welfare system a training ground for sex trafficking, and that is intolerable,” Wyden said. “These provisions will ensure steps are taken to protect children from becoming victims, identify children who become victims and provide the information needed to develop comprehensive solutions to end sex trafficking in this country.”
“This bill will help our nation’s most vulnerable children, who far too often fall prey to sex trafficking. These children have been forgotten or disregarded by a system that was established to keep them safe, and this bill is a step in the right direction to ensuring that the goal of these institutions is met,” Portman said. “By requiring child welfare agencies to report a child missing immediately, our bill will do a better job of keeping track of runaways and missing kids in order to prevent child victims of sex trafficking from falling through the cracks. Our bill also requires states take the necessary measures to protect and provide services to victims of child sex trafficking, ensuring that we treat exploited children as victims, not as criminals.”
Sex trafficking remains a serious problem in the United States. According to the Federal Bureau Investigation (FBI), there are currently an estimated 293,000 American children at risk of being commercially exploited and trafficked for sex. Eighty three percent of sex trafficking victims found within the United States were U.S. citizens and 40 percent of sex trafficking cases involved the exploitation or sex trafficking of children.
Across the United States, trends suggest that most children victimized by sex trafficking in the U.S. are involved in the child welfare system. In Alameda County, California, 55 percent of sex trafficked children resided in foster youth group homes. In New York, at least 85 percent of trafficking victims had prior child welfare involvement. And in Florida, it’s estimated that more than 70 percent of victims are in foster care. According to a 2010 report by the Ohio Attorney General’s Human Trafficking Commission, more than 1,000 Ohio children are sex trafficked every year.
A one-page summary on the Child Sex Trafficking Data and Response Act can be found here.
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