Domestic Human Trafficking and the Child Welfare Population

2016 - 2022

This project will help the Administration for Children and Families’ (ACF) Children’s Bureau to identify and better assist children and youth served by its programs who are victims of, or are at risk of, domestic human trafficking. The project will summarize current understanding of human trafficking and resources addressing human trafficking in the child welfare population. The project will also support practice-relevant research studies. ACF’s Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation (OPRE) and RTI International are partnering with the Children’s Bureau on this effort. Stakeholders and expert consultants will provide input and guidance at various stages of the project.

A variety of activities will inform the research designs, including:

  • Conducting a literature review to examine risk factors and trajectories for human trafficking among children who have experienced maltreatment;
  • Compiling a compendium that summarizes state child welfare policies, training efforts, screening tools, services, and data resources related to human trafficking in the child welfare population;
  • Summarizing existing survey datasets and national data systems relevant to child welfare and human trafficking; and
  • Conducting a critical review of promising approaches that would benefit from further evaluation and data resources that could support additional research.

A Report to Congress based on these activities, “The Child Welfare Response to Sex Trafficking of Children,” was published in 2019.

The first study will focus on identifying risk and protective factors for, and context of, human trafficking victimization in the child welfare population. The second study will focus on child welfare efforts to identify human trafficking and subsequent service delivery.  

This work is being conducted through a contract to RTI International.

Point(s) of contact: Mary Mueggenborg and Christine Fortunato.

The studies from this project are registered on the Open Science Framework under the titles

Information collections related to this project have been reviewed and approved by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs under OMB #0970-0546. Related materials are available at the

The most currently approved documents are accessible by clicking on the ICR Ref. No. with the most recent conclusion date. To access the information collections (E.g. interviews, surveys, protocols), click on View Information Collection (IC) List. Click on View Supporting Statement and Other Documents to access other supplementary documents.

Related Resources

Children and youth who run from foster care placements are a growing concern among policymakers and practitioners. A large number of youth in foster care run away from their placement at least once, and many do multiple times. Running from care is associated with a range of serious negative consequences, including human trafficking victimization.

The overall purpose of this project is to support the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) Children’s Bureau (CB) in its efforts to identify and better assist the children and youth served by its programs who are victims of human trafficking or who are at risk of exploitation in the form of human trafficking. Specifically, this project seeks to...