The 168 minors rescued last month during a nationwide FBI crackdown on child sex trafficking included juveniles who never had been reported missing in the first place. It’s a population that law enforcement encounters often and that especially concerns child welfare advocates.
1. THE CHILDREN WERE RECOVERED IN AN ACTION CALLED OPERATION CROSS COUNTRY. The most recent Operation Cross County occurred in 106 cities and involved an effort by local and federal law enforcement to recover child sex trafficking victims from the streets, hotel rooms, truck stops and homes. Officials say 168 juveniles were recovered.
2. SOME VICTIMS HAD NOT BEEN REPORTED MISSING. Child welfare advocates say the operation and others like it underscore the need for a standardized way to report children as missing. State policies and laws vary in terms of how and when law enforcement is to be notified when children go missing.
3. THE SCOPE OF THE PROBLEM IS UNKNOWN. It’s hard to know how many children are being trafficked for sex or are in the custody of pimps. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children says 1 out of 7 endangered runaways reported to the center in 2013 likely was a child sex trafficking victim. The center says it received more than 57,000 missing child cases between 2009 and 2013, 81 percent of which are endangered runaways.
4. CHILDREN IN STATE WELFARE SYSTEMS ARE SEEN AS ESPECIALLY VULNERABLE. The missing children center says of the children reported missing in 2013 who were also likely sex-trafficking victims, about two-thirds were in the care of child welfare when they ran. Still, the FBI says the problem isn’t limited to foster care programs; far more children recovered in the most recent Operation Cross County were from single-family homes rather than from families under the supervision of the state.
5. STATE AND LEGISLATIVE PROPOSALS ARE BEING MADE. One proposal in Congress, which has bipartisan support, would require child welfare agencies to report missing children to law enforcement and the missing children’s center with 24 hours of a juvenile’s disappearance.
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