Creating a Safer World for Youth Affected by Trafficking

By Vicki Spriggs, Texas CASA CEO

January is National Human Trafficking Prevention Month. Research from The University of Texas at Austin reveals that at least 79,000 youth in Texas have been victims of sex trafficking. The same study estimated that 25% of youth in foster care are considered at risk of becoming victims of trafficking.

Due to the circumstances of out-of-home placements, youth in the child welfare system are often the targets of sex traffickers. Youth experiencing homelessness, poverty, substance abuse, neglect, physical violence, sexual abuse, and and/or involvement in the juvenile justice system are also at greater risk of trafficking and exploitation.

As essential advocates for these highly vulnerable youth, CASA must do more than “see something, say something.” We must ACT. Texas CASA has developed the CASA Anti-Child Trafficking framework known as CASA ACTs in order to provide resources, training and coordination of services. We must ensure CASA volunteers are well-trained, connected and prepared to support the specialized needs of youth who have been trafficked.

With CASA ACTs, we aim to support the local CASA programs in educating, protecting, and providing skilled support. From identification of at-risk children and youth to advocacy for young survivors, CASA volunteers can take concrete action. With identification and consistent supportive intervention, victims of child sex trafficking can begin to heal.

We are excited to announce that within the next few weeks, Texas CASA will be releasing Advocacy for Youth Affected by Sex Trafficking: A Guide for CASA Volunteers and Staff in Texas. This in-depth guidebook goes hand-in-hand with a free e-learning course currently offered on the Texas CASA Learning Center called Advocacy for Commercially Sexually Exploited Children and Youth (CSEY). We hope you will also consider taking that course to expand your knowledge of the dynamics of child sex trafficking, and the ways to skillfully advocate for youth who have been affected.

The statistics for the young people we serve are staggering. It is our deepest hope and belief that prevention is the cure: by strengthening the supports for youth and advocating for all of their needs to be met, we can interrupt the risk factors that create their vulnerability to traffickers. By attending to placement safety, mental health needs, educational and medical advocacy, family searching, supporting a web of long-term connections, and doing what CASA volunteers do best—building strong, trusting relationships with youth in foster care—we aim to change the statistics.

Thank you for your dedication and commitment. Together, we will create a different world for children and youth. We are motivated by the vision of a Texas where it is safe for all children to grow up and fulfill their brightest potential.