House unanimously passes Bass legislation to fight child link between sex trafficking and foster youth

Jul 25, 2014

WASHINGTON, DC—The House of Representatives today unanimously passed the “Strengthening the Child Welfare Response to Trafficking Act of 2014,” legislation authored by Congresswoman Karen Bass (D-Calif.) that will help to connect child victims of trafficking to appropriate services and prevent further exploitation.

Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN), Representatives Tom Marino (R-PA), Jim McDermott (D-WA), Michele Bachmann (R-MN), and Louise Slaughter (D-NY) are also original cosponsors of the bill.

The legislation is the result of years of work by Rep. Bass and child welfare advocates at addressing the link between children in foster care and sex trafficking. In Los Angeles County, 59 percent of the 174 children arrested in 2010 on “prostitution” charges had contacts with the child welfare system, and 58 percent of 72 sexually trafficked girls in Los Angeles County’s STARS Court in 2012 were children in foster care. Under-age girls should never be arrested and charged with prostitutions when they are victims.

"Today the House of Representatives took a big and important step to protect children in the foster care system," said Rep. Bass. "This legislation will provide real training to those responsible for protecting foster children and will compile concrete data so that we can continue to fight against sex trafficking"

“We have a moral obligation to do all we can to serve children who are victims of sex trafficking,” said Chairman Kline. “No victim should be denied critical support because of outdated policies or fall through the cracks of a child welfare system. The legislation passed by the House will fix these flaws and strengthen our response to this national crisis. I want to thank Congresswoman Bass for her leadership on this important issue.”
“I am pleased to be working with my colleague, Congresswoman Bass, on such an important issue,” said Rep. Marino. “No one appreciates the vital role of the foster care system better than my wife and I, who have housed foster care children in our home. However, we are simply not doing enough to protect these children from being preyed upon. I think this bill takes a step in the right direction to improve the data reported to Congress so we can craft more effective laws to eradicate child trafficking.”
“The more than 293,000 American youth who are at risk of sexual commercial exploitation and trafficking per year amounts to a national crisis,” said Rep. McDermott.  “As the co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth, I applaud my colleagues in the House who voted today for The Strengthening the Child Welfare Response to Trafficking Act of 2014.  I was proud to be an original co-sponsor of this bill, which will expand and empower the response to child trafficking by guaranteeing each state has an action plan to protect and care for our youth.”
“It is a tragedy that foster children are several times more likely to be victims of sex trafficking,” said Rep. Bachmann. “Today, with the passage of H.R. 5081, we can strengthen the child welfare system’s immediate response to all reports involving children who are known or suspected to be victims of trafficking. This legislation is an important step in coordinating state and national efforts to stop this terrible assault on our children.”
“The trafficking of children for sex is a horrible crime, and by improving our foster care tracking system, data reporting, and training, fewer children will fall through the cracks and into the hands of traffickers,” Rep. Slaughter said. “I thank my colleagues for their attention to this issue, and I look forward to future action on another major reform – stopping the sickening practice of sending sex trafficking survivors into the juvenile justice system where they will be treated as criminals instead of into the child welfare system where they will be protected and treated with dignity.”

“Rights4Girls applauds the passage of the Strengthening the Child Welfare Response to Trafficking Act and thanks Congresswoman Bass for her tireless efforts in bringing the vulnerability of these youth to light,” said Yasmin Vafa, Rights4Girls’ Director of Law and Policy. "There is an undeniable intersection between child welfare involvement and child trafficking. Today's legislation takes crucial steps to protect our most vulnerable children by improving our current policies to ensure that trafficked and exploited youth in our system are no longer invisible.”

H.R. 5081 would provide several tools to strengthen the child welfare system’s response to child sex trafficking by ensuring each state develops a child protection plan with:
Provisions and procedures to identify and assess all reports involving children known or suspected to be victims of trafficking;

Training plans for child protective service workers to appropriately respond to reports of child trafficking;

  • Policies and procedures to connect child victims to public or private specialized services.
  • Further, this bill would ensure that states submit an annual report on the number of children identified as victims of trafficking within the already existing National Child Abuse and Neglect Data Systems.
  • Finally, the Department of Human Services will be required to submit a report to Congress outlining the prevalence and type of child trafficking nationwide as well as the current barriers to serving child victims comprehensively.

The legislation now moves to the Senate for consideration.