The foster care system is a complicated and not widely understood system within our country. To boil it down, it is a temporary service provided by states to children who are unable to live with their families.
According to the National Foster Youth Institute, it is estimated that 60% of children sex trafficked in the United States are coming from the foster care system. Foster care children are at a greater risk of being trafficked because they are more vulnerable in comparison to children outside the system. Some vulnerabilities that make foster care children more susceptible to human trafficking consist of:
- Feelings of hopelessness and depression
- Experienced trauma
- Running away from group or foster homes
- Being sent out of foster care at age 18
Traffickers will often target areas where children gather with friends, such as schools, malls, parks, bus stops, and foster care group homes. These locations are the easiest places for traffickers to get into contact with children without adult supervision. Other times, the trafficker is the one closest to the child. It is estimated that over 66% of children sex trafficked in America are recruited by someone familiar.
In order to lure the children in, traffickers use false promises of attention, food, safety, clothes, friendship, and love. These false promises can be appealing to children in the foster care system who may be lacking these things at home.
Using these false promises, the trafficker will begin the process of grooming. The trafficker will first gain the child’s trust by making good on these promises and providing for their needs. However, there are conditions to these "promises." After their trust has been gained, they will isolate and exploit the child who is now dependent upon their trafficker. There are both physical and psychological methods of control that the trafficker may use.
There are ways to combat human trafficking, especially in relation to protecting kids within the foster care system. First, there needs to be a greater emphasis on educating foster care children, employees, and foster parents. By teaching children about how traffickers will try to lure them in, it will help equip them with the necessary resources and knowledge to protect themselves. Additionally, teaching employees and foster parents the signs of human trafficking can act as a strong preventive method. The signs may consist of, but are not limited to:
- Not behaving like other children their age
- Having no access to education
- Having no time for playing
- Seen travel without adults in spaces such as airports, train and bus stations
By educating these various adults, the more capable they will become at identifying kids in trafficking situations.
For more ways to help combat human trafficking, take a look at “3 Things You Can Do To Help Fight Human Trafficking.”