The Link Between the Foster Care System and Human Trafficking
January is National Human Trafficking Awareness Month
In October, RTI published a research brief entitled “Examining the Link: Foster Care Runaway Episodes and Human Trafficking,” which discusses the risk factors for both running away from foster care and sex trafficking.
This brief suggests that at minimum 1% of children in the foster care system ran away at least once during 2018 but estimates that the number could be much higher. For example, according to one data set, as many as 19% of Florida youth in foster care reported running away at least once while in foster care.
Running away from the child welfare system is associated with an increased risk in sexual victimization and sex trafficking. Researchers believe that the increased risk to sex trafficking of youth who have run away from foster care may be due to a newfound lack of resources and many youth who run away also experience other intersecting vulnerabilities like their gender, race or ethnicity, sexual orientation, substance use or mental health disorders.
Several state policies exist that address how to work with youth who run away from foster care. Therefore, the existing policies that address the problem of foster care runaways present opportunities to address the additional, intersecting issue of human trafficking.