An Examination of the Intersection of Domestic Human Trafficking with Child Welfare and Runaway and Homeless Youth Programs, 2014-2017

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Project Overview


Young adults and children who are involved in the child welfare (CW) system or who are considered to be runaway and homeless youth (RHY) are particularly vulnerable to domestic human trafficking, though the full extent of the problem is not yet known. Labor trafficking of minors in the United States is particularly understudied.

The consequences of sex and labor trafficking can be severe, including emotional and/or physical trauma, arrest and incarceration, sexually transmitted infection, isolation from family members, and more. Despite the potential consequences for trafficked youth within CW and RHY systems, CW and RHY service providers lack an effective tool to identify existing victims of trafficking. Policymakers also lack the data they need to identify the extent of the human trafficking problem among these service populations. The tools that exist are primarily targeted at foreign nationals and adults.

Study Purpose

The purpose of this project is to pretest both a short and long form version of a tool intended to identify youth who are victims of human trafficking within CW and RHY service environments, across four sites. This exploratory work is an early step in the development of a screening tool and will allow the research team to test the screening tool’s feasibility, reliability, and internal validity with a purposive sample of youth in a variety of CW and RHY settings. This study is being conducted by the Urban Institute under contract with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to improve screening of youth and explore methods to integrate such screenings into service settings in a way that does not duplicate current data collection efforts. The project will culminate in a final report summarizing findings and lessons learned from pre-testing the tool.

Project Publications

The points of contact are David Nielsen (HHS/ASPE) and Mary Mueggenborg (HHS/ACF/OPRE).