Human trafficking is closely linked to children in foster care, and as a foster parent, it’s crucial to be educated on the topic so you can do your best to help prevent or stop it in its tracks. In this post, we’ll teach you what to look for and how to help fight the battle against human trafficking.
Who do human traffickers target?
The most important thing you can do when it comes to human trafficking is to be educated and aware. Human traffickers prey on vulnerable children. With some children in foster care having experienced traumatic events, or suffering from depression and other feelings of hopelessness, any extra attention (even when coming from a malicious place) can make them more susceptible. Traffickers know how to exploit those feelings, and will absolutely take advantage whenever given the opportunity.
According to Human Trafficking Search, girls in foster care are targeted more often than boys. Runaways are at increased risk, as pimps can easily find them out in public alone. Be aware of your surroundings when dealing with children who are at risk of running away, and create a safety plan to follow should it happen.
What can foster parents do to prevent human trafficking?
As a foster parent, you have to remain on high alert to help prevent your children from becoming victims of human trafficking. There are children and teens who are at higher risk than others, so be sure to acknowledge that and keep a close eye on those individuals. Establishing trust between you and the child is important, so have conversations that are honest and judgment free. Make sure the child knows you care about their well-being more than anything else, and you won’t be upset with them based on what they reveal to you.
Here are some red flags that could indicate your child is at risk or has been targeted by human traffickers:
- The child or teen has a cell phone, money or other material items that you did not provide
- They self-report participation in a sexual act for alcohol, drugs, transportation, shelter or anything else of value
- They post sexually explicit material on the internet, such as pictures or chats
- They are accompanied by an overly controlling “friend,” “partner” or “boss”
- They exhibit signs of physical and/or sexual abuse
Take these steps to be sure your foster child is safe from human trafficking:
- Monitor their activity on their computers and phones. Limit time on these devices, or even set up time limits for them to use specific apps.
- Educate them about human trafficking and what to look out for, especially with social media and cell phones constantly in our hands.
- Make sure your children know about the dangers of social media and befriending and engaging with people they don’t know.
- Teach your children the difference between a true friend and someone who might offer them something of value in exchange for a favor of any kind.
If anyone unusual starts hanging around your child or teen, be sure to take note. Make an effort to get to know them and be present at your child’s activities whenever possible. This is a tricky situation, as you want to build a relationship of trust between you and your foster child, so try not to make it seem like you’re watching their every move. Be present in their life and conduct open conversations.
Educate adults around you what to look for as well. Parents of your child’s friends should be alerted of things to look out for, so you can work together as a team to keep your children safe from human trafficking.
If you see signs and believe someone is a victim of human trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 immediately. Do not attempt to take matters into your own hands, for your safety.
For more information on human trafficking and foster care, see our blog post, What You Need to Know About Foster Care and Human Trafficking.