US Foster Care System a Breeding Ground for Human Trafficking

Half of all human trafficking victims are minors, and statesthat 70 percent of these minors are children in the foster care system. Foster Focus Magazine, an online publication devoted to the US foster care system, places that number even higher at 80 percent. In a report by the state government of Connecticut, 86 percent of victims rescued from domestic minor sex trafficking in 2011 had been involved with child welfare services in some manner and may had been victimized while in foster care or residential placement.

These statistics are especially disturbing since there are an estimated 300,000 children involved in underage domestic sex trafficking in the United States which means 210,000 to 258,000 children have been failed by the very system that was created to protect and provide for them. Children in the foster care system are especially vulnerable since many have experienced trauma such as physical violence, substance abuse and parental incarceration. Children with no family and no support system are easy prey for pimps who initially shower the girls with gifts and attention. Many pimps pose as boyfriends or protectors to gain trust of the young girls. Shockingly, it is often fellow housemates working for the pimps who recruit other members of the foster home or shelter into prostitution.

According to The National Report on Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking: America’s Prostituted Children, “children exploited through prostitution report they typically are given a quota by their trafficker/pimp of 10 to 15 buyers per night. Utilizing a conservative estimate, a domestic minor sex-trafficking victim would be raped by 6,000 buyers during the course of her victimization through prostitution.” After one to two years of this horrific treatment, most children are either too sick or injured from the brutality to be of any use to the pimps and are simply discarded on the street. Children have not yet fully developed their natural immune system and are more likely to be infected by diseases like AIDS, Syphilis and Hepatitis B. Since the average age for a child to enter forced prostitution is 12-14 years old and most die within seven years of their first sexual act, very few child prostitutes make it to adulthood. The few that do reach their 18th birthday will have aged out of the foster care system leaving them without food or shelter.

The link between human trafficking and children in the foster care system is not a new trend and in recent years the issue has become more publicly discussed. In fact there has been such a large public outcry that included as part of the President’s Budget for Fiscal Year 2013, is a $5 million proposal that would create competitive grants to address the exploitation of some youth in foster care who are victims of sex trafficking. Although $5 million seems like a small amount of money to rescue and rehabilitate the estimated hundreds of thousands of foster care children who are victims of human trafficking, it is a step in the right direction, as no federal funds have previously been allocated specifically for these children.