Federal Guidance Helps Agencies Support Young Trafficking Survivors

Photograph of a young man leaning on a graffitied wall.

Building on a pledge of continued U.S. leadership in the fight against human trafficking, the Administration on Children, Youth and Families has issued new guidance for runaway and homeless youth programs and child welfare agencies that work with trafficked youth.

“Guidance to States and Services on Addressing Human Trafficking of Children and Youth in the United States,” (PDF, 137KB) offers tips on identifying, engaging, serving and ultimately restoring victims of human trafficking. The document lays out what we know about trafficking and what services victims need. It’s a good place to start for youth and family services professionals who come in contact with trafficked young people.

Here are a few key recommendations:

  • Find screening and assessment tools with a trafficking lens. ACYF encourages agencies to use universal, valid and reliable instruments that focus on areas often impacted by trafficking—including trauma, social-emotional functioning and physical health. Agencies can adjust these tools to include signs of trafficking, like youth carrying large amounts of cash or talking about a controlling older boyfriend.
  • Adapt evidence-based interventions designed for vulnerable youth. To date, there is little research about what works to help trafficked young people. But agencies can adapt evidence-based practices like multisystemic therapy and trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy, two approaches that have been shown to improve mental health and the way people interact with others and the world around them.
  • Adjust programs to meet trafficked youths’ unique needs. According to advocates for trafficked youth, pimps and recruiters often hang out near homeless shelters. Programs should take steps to keep their facilities safe and to educate young people on ways they can say no if approached. Case managers should also familiarize themselves with programs that provide legal, medical and mental health services to young trafficking survivors.
  • Know about existing resources. According to the report, the Federal Bureau of Investigation operates 66 Child Exploitation Task Forces and working groups that can partner with youth-serving agencies. The National Human Trafficking Resource Center, run by Polaris Project, also maintains a state-by-state list of anti-trafficking resources.

The guidance concludes with a list of federal resources that assist young people wishing to escape trafficking, and the family and youth workers helping them through the process.

Read a blog post about human trafficking among children and youth written by George Sheldon, former acting assistant secretary for the Administration for Children and Families.

9-5 pm Eastern