Texas Foster Care to Sex Trafficking Pipeline
There is a Texas foster care to sex trafficking pipeline resulting in over 100 children and youth being victimized while missing from foster care in 2019.
51,417 children and youth were in the state foster care system in 2019. According to a recent report by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, 2,122 (4%) of those children and youth were missing from the system at some point during the year – an increase of 266 missing foster kids from 2017.
Of the children missing from Texas foster care, 21 percent were thirteen years of age or younger. Almost half of children and youth went missing from a residential setting, rather than a foster home.
Of the foster children and youth recovered in 2019, 109 reported being victimized while missing – that is, sex trafficked, labor trafficked, sexually abused, and physically abused.
In 2019, the state agency investigated 544 allegations of sex trafficking – almost 5 percent more than the previous year. Twenty-one percent of confirmed sex trafficking victims were younger than 12 years of age.
Two-thirds of the foster children and youth who suffered sex trafficking while missing from the system were 15 years of age or younger. Two percent were younger than 12 years of age. Almost all sex trafficking victims (98%) were girls.
The primary reason reported by children and youth who ran away from foster care was frustration with the system itself. Almost 20 percent reported being angry with the state’s child welfare agency. Forty percent reported frustration with their placement or the conditions of placement. Another forty percent reported a desire to be with someone else, including their own family or relatives.
Children and youth in foster care are at increased risk of victimization when they go missing from the system. The state agency has the unenviable job of keeping track of more than 50,000 children at any given time, some of whom don’t want want to stay or be found when they run away.
To reduce the number of children missing from the foster care system and to prevent victimization of missing children:
- Foster care should be deinstitutionalized by increasing family placement and community participation.
- Foster parents willing to serve older youth with more complex needs should be equipped and supported by a network of community support.
- The input of youth in foster care regarding their experiences, issues, and concerns with the system should be valued.
- Communities should take an active role in serving and caring for their children, rather than rely on the state agency to track all children from Austin.
- The length of time children spend in state custody should be reduced and finding them forever homes as quickly as possible should be prioritized.
One Accord for Kids is transforming the local foster care system in the Permian Basin. Be part of the movement to reclaim the community’s role in caring for our kids.