Foster Care and Exploitation

Hello Everyone; I’m back and slowly getting reintegrated into real life again.

Quick post today. Incase you didn’t hear, there was a FBI STING effort in multiple cities across the country, resulting in the recovery of 105 exploited children and the arrests of 150 pimps and johns.

While there are multiple news articles highlighting the event, I found Los Angeles Times’ article most interesting. They focused on the fact that many of these exploited children had been in the foster care system before recruitment into prostitution.

“The raids, carried out by nearly 4,000 local, state and federal officers, brought renewed attention to the vulnerabilities of foster children, who are disproportionately targeted and recruited by child sex traffickers, sometimes right out of the foster care system.

According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the information clearinghouse that tracks missing child reports in the United States, 60% of runaways who are victims of sex trafficking had been in the custody of social services or in foster care.”

If you have read any of my previous posts on how pimps frequently target vulnerable young people, this is no surprise. Unfortunately, children coming from the foster care system have higher rates of past abuse and neglect (unfortunately, from birth parents before foster care, or even more unfortunately, from foster parents or foster siblings). Plus, the lack of stability in their life can cause children to struggle in many other areas of life, including physical health, mental development, and mental health. According to a journal issue, titled “The Safety and Stability for Foster Children,”

“[R]esearch suggests that foster children are more likely than nonfoster care children to have insecure or disordered attachments, and the adverse long-term outcomes associated with such attachments. Many studies of foster children postulate that a majority have mental health difficulties. They have higher rates of depression, poorer social skills, lower adaptive functioning, and more externalizing behavioral problems, such as aggression and impulsivity.”

On top of the fact that foster children are more vulnerable to becoming victims of exploitation, they are also harder to find. One of the staff from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, said:

Without families to work on their behalf, Shehan added, it is more difficult to rescue foster youths from sex trafficking and keep them out of the cycle. Victims of sex trafficking might be returned to a group home only to begin recruiting their friends into the sex trade, she said.

From that information, I would suggest that if you work or volunteer in a field where you come in frequent contact with children–especially children from foster care, be on heightened alert if they disappear without explanation. You could be that person that alerts the authorities that the child is missing, hopefully resulting in the recovery of the child. [Though, I will say from my own professional experience, I know there are kids that run away from foster homes to escape legitimate situations–perhaps to escape abuse, perhaps it was too close to family members or other abusers. So, I do want to honor the reality that some children should not be immediately reconnected with foster care after running away. Perhaps, they should get connected to a different support system such as youth services, because of their particular situation.]

Overall, I have to agree that many kids coming from the foster care system face some unique challenges–especially if they were bounced around from home to home with no stable, nurturing adult in their life. While I am no expert, I do wonder if something could be done to improve the foster care system to better support the children so that they become–hopefully–less vulnerable to predators and more stable and secure by the time they transition into adulthood. Perhaps you have a connection into that system and can use this knowledge and information to encourage innovative thinking. Perhaps sexual exploitation awareness training needs to happen with foster parents. Perhaps more people need to simply be told to pay special attention to children with foster care backgrounds. I don’t know the answer, but I’m hopeful that this statistic can change and more children can be saved!