Decades of reports show that foster care is a problem. Most sex trafficking victims are from foster care. Still, the problem persists. The United States Department of State and other agencies say that foster care is a “consistent problem”. The Department of Health and Human Services which is responsible for children in foster care says that it is not the department’s fault that children from foster care are trafficked at disproportion rates compared to their peers, but that the reasons that the children enter the foster care system to begin with are to blame. As one social worker from engage. com puts it, “much of the reason that youth in care are victimized has nothing to do with the child welfare system itself. Youth are often vulnerable because of the reasons they were referred to child welfare in the first place”.
In some ways, our views are similar, in other ways not so much. The US Department of Health and Human Services knows that children in foster care are being sex-trafficked and that it is a consistent problem that has to be addressed, but the department has done very little to change policies so that children are protected. The department has done nothing to require responsibility from it’s own workers when they place children in homes where they are sexually abused. So many foster youth report that they have told their social workers that they were abused and say that they were ignored and sent back to homes where they suffered horrific abuse. One woman at a rally outside of the Arkansas State Capitol said that when she was in foster care that she was placed in 58 homes— of those 58 homes she said that she was abused in all but four of them.
According to engage. com the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) says that most children are in foster care because of neglect and that is the reason that children in foster care end up falling prey to sex traffickers. HHS also realizes that children in foster care feel like they are used by foster families to “collect a paycheck”. Internalized feelings can also stem from custody battles where adults use money to settle financial disputes when they argue over custody of the children. And, the department acknowledges that children from broken homes are more likely to be sex trafficked. Still, the department has shattered many a home and taken no responsibility. HHS even acknowledges that children just want to go home because they miss their family and friends and that children often run away in an effort to get back home. The problem is that runaways are even more vulnerable to traffickers, especially children moved to strange places hours away from their homes. Way too many children run away from foster care and adoptive placements and are never seen again. What is even worse, HHS does not even have to report that they are missing. The department can just close the case after a few months so that no one knows that the children even disappeared. And there is absolutely no responsibility or accountability.
Boston 25’s investigative Reporter Eric Rasmussen found cases where children in foster care were regularly pimped out on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and then returned to their taxpayer-funded group homes on Monday. Boston 25 spent a year investigating this issue, and they found that the problem of foster care children gone missing and pimped into child sex trafficking rings happens throughout the U.S., not just in Boston. (Sex traffickers are selling foster kids on the weekends, 25 Investigates has uncovered). Records obtained by 25 Investigates reveal a female staff member working with foster children at the Eliot Atlantic House in Saugus is suspected of convincing a then 16-year-old girl at the group home to sell herself for sex on the weekends. That staff member told the foster child she “had a way they could make money together,” according to the report obtained by 25 Investigates. The girl told investigators the staff member took her to Worcester three times and once to Boston “to have sex with unknown men for money” on the weekends.
The CDC reports that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men experienced sexual abuse as children. Most will never tell their stories out of shame and fear. Some children do not live to tell their stories.
Predators put themselves in situations where they have access to children. A predator can be a family member, school teacher, principal, police officer, firefighter, doctor, therapist, counselor, foster parent, adoptive parent, and even Sunday school teachers and preachers. Predators prey on children from broken homes, group homes, foster care, and runaways.
Children with intact families are less likely to suffer abuse. Live-in parents and stepparents are 20 times more likely to abuse a child than a biological parent.
City reports show that between 60% to as many as 99% of children rescued in sex trafficking stings were in foster care before they were trafficked. Often, when they are rescued, they are returned to state custody where they will likely run away again.
Studies show that children in foster homes are 10 times more likely to be sexually abused than children that live with biological parents. Children that live in group homes are 28 times more likely to be abused.
Sometimes the predator is friends with the family or someone that the adults in the family think can be trusted, such as is the case often with teachers, preachers, and other children. Child sex abuse is most likely to happen when a child is between the ages of 6 to 11 years old.
One solution that will reduce child sex trafficking is to localize foster care so that children never have to run from places they are not familiar with. Many sex-trafficked children ran away from a group home or a foster home only to end up landing in the hands of sex traffickers. Another solution to reduce both child sex trafficking and the need for foster care is to shift the ASFA funding in a way that allows states to be paid when they place a child in need with a family member that the children are familiar with and can trust.
Minding Hearts is building advocacy and peer support groups in each state. The groups are created to raise awareness, educate, and advocate for those that might not otherwise be heard. We are here for encouragement, education, and support. We cannot give legal advice, but we can try and direct you in the right direction with your case. Links to legal services are listed with their states. Please share and let’s grow our groups. We are here to support families and develop resources that maintain family integrity. We look forward to your support. If you would rather become active by donating, then visit the donation page.