Stories continue to unfold about many young people in the foster care system who have experienced a serious emotional and physical trauma caused by sex abuse before their lives really begin.
An increasing number of investigations into sex trafficking across the country reveal that foster kids are especially vulnerable to this type of crime.
News of children “in the system” being sold, forced into prostitution, and even becoming sex traffickers themselves are becoming more prevalent.
The FBI Seemingly Shifting Its Gaze East to West Across the Nation
In the past three months alone, federal investigators have made significant arrests and placed charges on sex traffickers. What they have in common: their involve recruitment of victims within the foster care system.
Weekend Prostitution Schemes Suspected in the Northeast
A recent investigation in Boston revealed that many children were working as prostitutes while they were still living in a group home. The girls would run away and sell themselves on the weekend and return to the foster home during the week. These schemes are sometimes encouraged by corrupt staff.
And there was the recent story in South Florida. A man was arrested after a third woman called a sex trafficking hotline to make a complaint against him.
South FL Foster Kid Goes from Recruited to Recruiter
The victim was “recruited” while in foster care by the man when she was 17. She was given a fake ID, then moved out-of-state, and brought in with 15 other girls as child sex workers for him, the criminal charges allege.
When the victim was given the task of recruiting more women, she was specifically told to search group homes and shelters for abused or vulnerable women.
KC Woman Service Six Years for Sex Traffic Recruiting
This victim is not the only one who ended up becoming a trafficker.
In Kansas City, a former runaway is currently serving six years behind bars for aggravated sex trafficking. She had initially run away from a foster care home.
These stories are responsible for federal crackdowns on sex trafficking linked to the foster care system. They’re happening all over the country, with no sign of slowing. We imagine it won’t be long before the FBI sets its eye on Texas as well because of its horrible record in foster care.
Child Sex Trafficking Falls Under State and Federal Jurisdiction
In 2016 alone, over 100 allegations of child sex trafficking was made to Texas child welfare agencies and other resources. Experts believe these allegations may be a serious underestimation of the true nature of the problem.
Furthermore, because there are both Texas and U.S. statutes on the matter, both entities have jurisdiction.
When sex trafficking of a child occurs for more than 30 days, the perpetrator may be charged with continuous human trafficking — a first-degree felony. Upon conviction at a state level, an offender could face up to life in prison.
What about instances of sex trafficking that take place in and out of Texas?
It’s not uncommon for victims to be moved across state (and international) borders. In these cases, the federal government is likely to take over, especially amidst the heightened awareness of the issue.
Stacked Child Sex Trafficking Charges are Possible
Sex trafficking is one of the most serious charges a foster parent can face. Due to state and federal statutes (and the nature of this kind of crime), an offender could even face stacked charges from both state officials and the feds.
We already know Texas takes a heavy-handed approach. Penalties at the federal level are likely to start with decades in prison. So as a foster parent, you may be asking yourself, “What should I do to protect myself and my foster children?”
Texas Foster Parents: Protect Your Family
Children in the foster care system are vulnerable and likely to be targeted by sex traffickers. This also means that federal investigators are likely to keep a closer watch on these children, too. Remember that your foster children have a right to feel safe and protected…and so do you.
The Foster Child Bill of Rights
If you are taking care of a child in the foster care system, it’s important to talk to them about staying safe while interacting with strangers. Texas has a Foster Child Bill of Rights that outlines the rights of each child in the system. It offers information and resources on how to stay safe. The state encourages children to read this document and to share it with other children in the system.
Foster Parents Have Rights, Too
Foster parents also have rights. If you or your child get caught up in investigations, it’s time to call an experienced Houston criminal defense attorney who has knowledge about the laws around fostering.
Sex trafficking charges are extremely serious, and you may need a serious defense to walk away without life-altering penalties.