Although sex trafficking is often portrayed as something that happens in foreign countries or to foreigners who end up in the U.S. without resources, that’s not always the case. In fact, the likely victim of this kind of abuse is a ward of the state who has run away or has been emancipated without the means and skills to make it on their own.
Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said, “Who would be your perfect target — throwaway kids. They are on the run. They have no parents. The child welfare system that is supposed to look after them has given them up.”
Last October, Dart launched the Child Protection Response Unit primarily to address this problem. So far, the unit has recovered 211 juveniles. Almost all of the juveniles were wards of the state. Nearly two-thirds of the girls found were at risk of being sexually trafficked.
“It is a stark fact that so many of the children trafficked came out of the child welfare system,” Dart said. “As soon as we get information that a child is missing, we send our guys out. If we can’t feel that this is a priority, then we ought to forget about it. We ought to just quit,” he said.
Learn more at Mary Mitchells’s Chicago Sun-Times article: Sex trafficking targets girls in child welfare system.