Portman and Wyden Introduce Bill to Address Domestic Child Sex Trafficking in the Child Welfare System

June 7, 2013 | Press Releases

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) today introduced the Child Sex Trafficking Data and Response Act of 2013, legislation to improve state and national data on the scope and prevalence of child sex trafficking and to bring commonsense reforms to the child welfare system to better identify and assist victims of child sex trafficking and commercial exploitation.  The bill is being co-sponsored by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), and Mark Kirk (R-IL).  Portman and Blumenthal are co-chairs of the Senate Caucus to End Human Trafficking.

“The rescue of three Cleveland women, found after being enslaved for years, left us asking how such a horrific incident could happen in our communities, right in our own back yard. 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,” 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. In addition, our bill will ensure that we treat children who are exploited as victims, not as criminals.  Under current law, children who are trafficked by someone other than a family member are not eligible for child welfare services and are instead funneled through the juvenile justice system.  Our bill breaks down this barrier to treatment by stating that children who are trafficked are victims of child abuse and eligible to receive treatment and care through the child welfare system.”

“Domestic child sex trafficking is a scourge that must come to an end,” Wyden said. “This bill will push states to address the needs of children victimized by pimps and sex traffickers, and help people understand how big the problem is with accurate data.”
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.

The Child Sex Trafficking Data and Response Act of 2013 will streamline data collection and reporting on sex trafficking in child welfare. Specifically, the bill requires that state child welfare agencies report the number of children identified as victims of sex trafficking. This legislation will also require that state child welfare agencies immediately report the identity of any child missing or abducted from care. Additionally, this bill encourages states to improve coordination between child welfare, juvenile justice, and social service agencies to address the unique needs of victims of child sex trafficking, including placements in stable housing, treatments for sexual trauma, and other measures to help them reach a full recovery.

Read a one-page summary on the bill’s provisions here.