WASHINGTON–Congresswoman Karen Bass (D-Calif.) today announced that she and Congressman John Kline (R-Minn.), chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce and a group of bipartisan Members of Congress, have introduced the “Strengthening the Child Welfare Response to Trafficking Act of 2014,” legislation that would ensure that child welfare agencies have systems in place to properly identify, document and serve child victims of trafficking.
The legislation will specifically address the link between girls in foster care and sex trafficking. In Los Angeles County, 59 percent of the 174 children arrested in 2010 on “prostitution” charges had contacts with foster care, and 58 percent of 72 sexually trafficked girls in Los Angeles County’s STARS Court in 2012 were foster care kids.
“We absolutely must confront the reality that girls in our foster care system are being recruited and pipelined into sex trafficking. And, unfortunately, far too often, those responsible for protecting our children fail to properly identify and assist trafficked and exploited children,” said Rep. Bass. “This bipartisan and commonsense legislation will make sure that state child welfare agencies have the policies and training to combat sex trafficking so that our foster care system is protecting children.”
The “Strengthening the Child Welfare Response to Trafficking Act of 2014” (H.R. 5081) would provide several tools to strengthen the child welfare system’s response to child trafficking by ensuring each state develops a child protection plan with:
- Provisions and procedures to identify and assess all reports involving children known or suspected to be victims of trafficking;
- Training plans for child protective services workers to appropriately respond to reports of child trafficking;
- Policies and procedures to connect child victims to public or private specialized services.
Further, this bill would ensure that states submit an annual report on the number of children identified as victims of trafficking within the already existing National Child Abuse and Neglect Data Systems.
Finally, the Department of Human Services will be required to submit a report to Congress outlining the prevalence and type of child trafficking nationwide as well as the current barriers to serving child victims comprehensively.
“I appreciate Chairman Kline’s partnership and leadership, and I look forward to working with him to pass this legislation,” Rep. Bass concluded.
Representatives Tom Marino, Jim McDermott, Michele Bachmann, and Louise Slaughter are also original cosponsors of the bill.