Child sex trafficking recoveries highlight ongoing issue of children missing from care
Today the FBI announced the results of Operation Cross Country 8. Again, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children was proud to partner with the FBI on their ongoing effort to combat child sex trafficking. For a complete report of the number of children recovered and individuals arrested, visit the FBI website.
People don’t want to believe that children are being sold for sex. Not in this country. But once again, “Operation Cross Country 8” provides irrefutable evidence that they are – on street corners, in hotels, at truck stops and, increasingly, on the Internet.
It’s important to understand that child sex trafficking is also a missing child problem. We know that missing children, especially children missing from the child welfare system, are being targeted by traffickers.
These children are the most vulnerable to the manipulation and false promises that traffickers use to secure their trust and dependency. Many of these children have been abandoned, orphaned, abused and neglected. Too many of these traumatized children run away because they believe it’s the best option available to them.
And many missing children are never actually reported missing. They aren’t on anyone’s radar. No one is looking for them because their parent - or guardian - have not reported them missing.
This is why we must have a law in this country requiring mandatory reporting by state welfare agencies of all children missing from foster care – first to law enforcement, then to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. Several bills that would make this happen are currently pending before Congress.
How many children in foster care go missing? It’s difficult to put a reliable number on it. But we know it’s a lot. One out of every seven endangered runaways reported to us in 2013 was likely a sex trafficking victim. Of that number, 67 percent were missing from care.
We currently have informal partnerships with several states, including Florida and Illinois, where social services and foster care providers are required to report children missing from their care to our organization. Just to give a sense of the volume, we received more than 4,000 reports of children missing from care in these two states – in just one year.
Collectively, we must acknowledge and care for all children.