Armed with a shocking finding that 60 percent of child sex trafficking victims are from foster homes, Congress is moving in rare bipartisan spirit to halt the practice by boosting efforts to protect the children and bust the pimps.
“Something is happening on it,” said Washington Republican Rep. Dave Reichert. “But not enough is being done,” added the former sheriff who helped solve Washington's Green River murders of dozens of women and girls in the 1980s and 1990s.
On Tuesday, he and Minnesota Democratic Rep. Rick Nolan are calling together lawmakers and fathers on Capitol Hill to push a resolution to help the child victims. It's the first step toward combining several legislative efforts into one that is focused on the issue.
Their event is called “Our Daughters Are Not For Sale,” and the goal is building support for legislation that would push law enforcement to better coordinate the cases of missing children, improve the foster home crisis and treat young girls like victims instead of sex criminals.
“We need to change the whole dynamic,” said Reichert.
Child sex trafficking is a huge issue in the United States, but little noticed except when there is a sensational story drawing attention to it.
Much of the problem stems from the problem-plagued foster home system for runaways. A report from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children said that 60 percent of children reported missing as likely child sex trafficking victims were in foster care or group homes when they ran away.
In Los Angeles alone, according to another study, 59 percent of youths arrested for prostitution were in foster care.
Reichert said that he and Nolan are collecting signatures for a resolution that would essentially change the way law enforcement and the judicial system view children caught up in sex trafficking.
The key elements of their resolution would:
-- Have law enforcement, judges, child welfare agencies, and the public treat children being trafficked for sex as victims of child abuse.
-- Require that every effort be made to arrest and hold accountable both traffickers and buyers of children for sex, in accordance with federal laws to protect victims of trafficking and state child protection laws against abuse, in order to take all necessary measures to protect our nation’s children from harm.
-- Support survivors of domestic child sex trafficking, including their efforts to raise awareness of this tragedy and the services they need to heal from the complex trauma of sexual violence and exploitation.
-- Recognize that most girls who are bought and sold for sex in the United States have been involved in the child welfare system, which has a responsibility to protect them and requires reform to better prevent domestic child sex trafficking and aid the victims of this tragedy.
-- Get the child welfare system to identify, assess, and provide supportive services to children in its care who are the victims of sex trafficking, or at risk of becoming victims.
-- Support an end to demand for girls by declaring that the nation’s daughters are not for sale and that any person who purchases a child for sex should be appropriately held accountable with the full force of the law.Paul Bedard, The Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.