Q: How does federal law define child trafficking? A: According to the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 and more recent legislation, child trafficking includes acts of sex trafficking and labor trafficking. Any child under age 18 who is recruited to participate in commercial sex acts, such as prostitution or pornography, is a trafficking victim whether or not they consent. The legislation also identifies child labor trafficking victims as children who have been recruited to provide labor or services through force, coercion, or fraud. Child trafficking can occur both transnationally and domestically, and victims include both foreign-born and U.S. citizen children. Q: What factors put children at risk of becoming trafficking victims? A: Research has identified poverty, lack of family support, history of sexual abuse, and living in vulnerable, high crime areas as experiences that increase children's risk of becoming trafficking victims. In addition, research also suggests that runaway and homeless youth are at increased risk. Q: What are the unique needs of child trafficking victims? A: Child trafficking victims are in need of a safe, stable living situation and protection from the trafficker. Victims will need trauma-informed comprehensive services, including legal, advocacy, and medical and mental health services. It is of utmost importance that child trafficking victims not be treated as criminals for acts they committed while trafficked. Q: What are some considerations when establishing safe, stable living situations for child trafficking victims? A: When considering living situations, reunification with family members should first be explored when safe and appropriate. For foreign-born children, reunification with family members through repatriation should be pursued when in the best interest of the child. When placement with family members either in the U.S. or another country is not appropriate, foreign-born children are eligible for specialized foster care through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement’s Unaccompanied Refugee Minor Program. Any child or youth without legal immigration status should be provided assistance with immigration relief. Q: To what services are child trafficking victims entitled? A: Federal legislation entitles child trafficking victims to four categories of services: (1) criminal justice services, (2) assistance in pursuing civil action against the trafficker, (3) the right to repatriation when safe and appropriate, and, (4) the right to immigration assistance and access to public benefits when repatriation cannot be pursued. Undocumented victims are entitled to immigration relief options including continued presence and T visas. Continued presence provides temporary permission to remain in the U.S. through a certified letter issued by the Office for Refugee Resettlement, while a T-visa provides a pathway to citizenship. Individuals with a T-visa are immediately eligible to receive federal and state public benefits, may apply for lawful permanent residency after three years, and may petition for qualified family members to join them in the U.S. In addition, regardless of whether youth have been granted continued presence or a T-visa, they are eligible for public benefits, including Medicaid and SNAP assistance, that are typically not available to newly arrived immigrants. As noted, foreign-born child trafficking victims are eligible for the Office of Refugee Resettlement’s Unaccompanied Refugee Minor Program. Q: What practices have been found to be effective in working with child trafficking victims? A: Research shows that developing a trusting relationship is of utmost importance when working with youth victims. Engaging in safety planning, collaborating across multiple agencies, and offering trauma-informed programming are considered promising practices. Due to the challenges of identifying child trafficking victims, research also highlights the importance of offering training to providers in a variety of practice areas to increase recognition of signs of potential trafficking among children and youth.
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