Research on Human Trafficking and Youth

New research provides evidence of the link between vulnerable youth and human trafficking.  These studies have shifted attention from a punitive model that is grounded in arrests and prosecution of traffickers to a rights-based, victim-centered approach that is grounded in prevention and support for survivors. Keeping in mind that these reports do not represent all youth, nor can they accurately be used to estimate the prevalence for any other demographic, they do provide a sense of the way trafficking affects vulnerable youth.

The resources below provide information that will prepare Child and Youth Care (CYC) Practitioners to discuss human trafficking among youth with community partners and interested community members. To learn more about how NSPN can help your organization provide services to victims of human trafficking please email: [email protected].

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Labor and Sex Trafficking Among Homeless Youth: A Ten-City Study (2017)

Between February 2014 and June 2016, researchers from Loyola University New Orleans’s Modern Slavery Research Project (MSRP) were invited by Covenant House International to study the prevalence and nature of human trafficking among homeless youth aged 17 to 25. Of the 641 youth interviewed at Covenant House sites around the United States and Canada, nearly one in five (19% or 124) were identified as victims of some form of human trafficking. The study provides a blueprint for service provider response to trafficking among homeless youth, drawn in part from the recommendations of the youth themselves.

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Pretesting a Human Trafficking Screening Tool in the Child Welfare and Runaway and Homeless Youth Systems (2017)

This report from researchers at the Urban Institute describes the pretesting of a Human Trafficking Screening Tool (HTST) for identifying youth with trafficking experiences. The tool was built based on a comprehensive review of current tools, developed with feedback from a youth advisory council, and pretested with 617 youth respondents involved in the child welfare and runaway and homeless youth systems. Responses to the HTST were correlated with several known risk factors and outcomes associated with being victims of human trafficking.  Early testing validates the effectiveness of the tool, though additional testing is needed.

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Recognizing Human Trafficking Among Homeless Youth (2017)

Covenant House New Jersey collaborated with researchers at Mt. Sinai Hospital to study the prevalence of trafficking among their homeless youth population. They validated a rapid trafficking screening tool (Quick Indicators for Youth Trafficking –QYIT), identified the risk factors for and protective factors against homeless youth being trafficked; identified the needs of trafficked youth; identified the health sites visited by youth while they are being trafficked; and determined whether health sites serving trafficked youth recognize these youth as being trafficked. The study provides risk factors identification tools useful to RHY programs.

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Access to Safety: Health Outcomes, Substance Use and Abuse, and Service Provision for LGBTQ Youth, YMSM, and YWSW Who Engage in Survival Sex (2016)

This report by the Urban Institute focuses on LGBTQ youth who become involved in commercial sex  to meet basic survival needs, describing their physical, mental, and sexual health issues, substance use and abuse, and their experiences with service providers. It finds that most youth protect themselves from harm in several ways, including using protection against sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy and visiting service providers for health and non-health services. However, most of the youth reported needs that were unmet by service providers, including employment assistance and short- and long-term housing. Youth who reached ages 18 or 21 had even greater challenges accessing services.

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Locked In: Interactions with the Criminal Justice and Child Welfare Systems for LGBTQ Youth, YMSM and YWSW Who Engage in Survival Sex (2015)

This Urban Institute report focuses on LGBTQ youth who become involved in the commercial sex market to meet basic survival needs, describing their experiences with law enforcement, the criminal justice system, and the child welfare system. Interviews with these youth reveal that over 70 percent had been arrested at least once, with many reporting frequent arrest for “quality-of-life” and misdemeanor crimes other than prostitution offenses. Youth described their experiences of being cycled in and out of the justice system as highly disruptive and generating far-reaching collateral consequences ranging from instability in the home and school to inability to pay fines and obtain lawful employment. This report is part of a larger three-year Urban Institute study of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer or questioning (LGBTQ) youth; young men who have sex with men (YMSM); and young women who have sex with women (YWSW) engaged in survival sex.

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Surviving the Streets of New York: Experiences of LGBTQ Youth, YMSM, and YWSW Engaged in Survival Sex (2015)

Based on Urban Institute’s interviews with 283 youth in New York City, this is the first study to focus on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer or questioning (LGBTQ) youth; young men who have sex with men (YMSM); and young women who have sex with women (YWSW) who get involved in the commercial sex market in order to meet basic survival needs, such as food or shelter. The report documents youth experiences and characteristics to gain a better understanding of why they engage in survival sex, describes how the support networks and systems in their lives have both helped them and let them down, and makes recommendations for better meeting the needs of this vulnerable population.

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Human Trafficking of Minors and Childhood Adversity in Florida

Objectives. To examine the link between human trafficking of minors and childhood adversity. Methods. We compared the prevalence of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and cumulative childhood adversity (ACE score) among a sample of 913 juvenile justice–involved boys and girls in Florida for whom the Florida child abuse hotline accepted human trafficking abuse reports between 2009 and 2015 with those of a matched sample. Results. ACE composite scores were higher and 6 ACEs indicative of child maltreatment were more prevalent among youths who had human trafficking abuse reports. Sexual abuse was the strongest predictor of human trafficking: the odds of human trafficking was 2.52 times greater for girls who experienced sexual abuse, and there was an 8.21 times greater risk for boys who had histories of sexual abuse. Conclusions. Maltreated youths are more susceptible to exploitation in human trafficking. Sexual abuse in connection with high ACE scores may serve as a key predictor of exploitation in human trafficking for both boys and girls. (Am J Public Health. 2017; 107: 306–311. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2016.303564) Joan A. Reid, PhD, Michael T. Baglivio, PhD, Alex R. Piquero, PhD, Mark A. Greenwald, MPA, and Nathan Epps, MS.

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