Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Kay Hagan (D-NC) today introduced The Strengthening the Child Welfare Response to Human Trafficking Act, a bill to combat sex and labor trafficking in child welfare systems across the country by providing their employees with tools to identify, document, educate and counsel child victims. A companion bill, HR 1732, has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Reps. Thomas Marino (R-PA) and Karen Bass (D-CA).
Research suggests that the majority of trafficked youth in the U.S. have been in and out of the child welfare system, specifically foster care. In Florida, the Federal Bureau of Investigation estimates that 70 percent of victims are youth in the foster care system.
“Earlier this year, Congress took an important step to combat human trafficking by reauthorizing landmark legislation, but significant gaps remain regarding human trafficking that targets innocents in our child welfare systems,” said Rubio. “While the vast majority of prospective foster and adoptive parents are well intentioned and eager to love these children, sadly, there are those who seek to exploit our children. For children, adoptions and foster care should be a lifeline to a better future, not a path to hell as trafficking victims.”
“North Carolina consistently ranks among the top 10 states for human trafficking, and sadly, many of the victims are children,” said Hagan. “This bill attacks the issue at its core – helping children who are often most at risk by providing child welfare employees with the tools they need to identify and support victims. I am hopeful that by passing this legislation, we can give more children a shot at the safe and healthy childhood they deserve.”
This legislation also requires states to report to the Department of Health and Human Services the number of trafficking victims in their child welfare systems as well their current procedures and policies to combat this problem. The bill includes sample protocols and recommended strategies in order to identify trafficking victims and allows for the collection, documentation and data sharing in existing statewide automated child welfare information systems.
This bill is supported by the Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking (ATEST), the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST), Polaris Project and Shared Hope International.