Cantwell Cosponsors Bill to Address Domestic Child Sex Trafficking in the Child Welfare System

Bipartisan legislation will strengthen reporting and help protect vulnerable children

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) cosponsored the Child Sex Trafficking Data and Response Act of 2013 introduced today along with U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Rob Portman (R-OH). The legislation would 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 also being co-sponsored by U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Mark Kirk (R-IL).

“This bill will help provide the data needed to better protect America’s children from the horrific world of human trafficking,” Cantwell said. “It’s a tragic story we know all too well in Washington state and around the nation. Washington state has been a pioneer in providing support to trafficking victims, becoming the first state to criminalize human trafficking. It’s time to take another step forward to ensure that the child welfare system provides services and protections needed to prevent the exploitation of vulnerable children. I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues to address this critical issue.”

“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.”

“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.”

“The fight against modern-day slavery often takes on an international focus, but we need to remember that all forms of human trafficking occur every day in the United States. One aspect of this issue that demands special attention is the trafficking of children – a heinous crime that is often invisible and unknown but always cruel and brutal,” Blumenthal said. “I am proud to join this effort with my fellow co-chair of the Senate Caucus to End Human Trafficking, Senator Portman, and Senator Wyden, who is a member of the Caucus and has demonstrated great leadership on this issue. A comprehensive and dedicated effort is required to meet the needs of our nation’s most vulnerable youth.”

“Child sex trafficking is a serious problem in Ohio and in the United States,” Brown said. “This legislation is about protecting our most vulnerable populations from the most heinous of crimes. The Child Sex Trafficking Data and Response Act of 2013 would give our authorities the information they need to do their jobs and protect our children.”

"Chicago's reputation as one of the largest commercial and transportation hubs in the US makes it a prime target for gang members and pimps to traffic children," Kirk said. "This bill will help improve reporting in the child welfare system and protect vulnerable kids from pimps like those who use Backpage.com."

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.