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Human Trafficking Risk Screening Project in Children’s Homes in North Carolina


Human trafficking and child sex trafficking are topics being more widely discussed across the state of North Carolina than ever before. Human service agencies are beginning to shift their focus to better understand and address this issue. Following changes within the child welfare system’s utilization of congregate care and the implementation of the Families First Prevention Services Act, one major implication that has become known are the risk factors that heighten a child’s likelihood of being trafficked.

Screening tools are a widely utilized form of documentation that assist in identifying a child or youth’s current or immediate needs. Utilizing the appropriate screening tool can help professionals identify those who are at higher risk of being targeted by traffickers. There are multiple screening tools that can be used to identify a child or adolescent that is at risk. Benchmarks has been exploring the importance of utilizing specific screenings for a population in a specific setting throughout North Carolina.

In 2019, Benchmarks began partnering with a group of congregate care children’s homes across the state of North Carolina, collecting data to assist with identifying youth who are at heightened risk of being trafficked. The screening tool that is being utilized is the Commercial Sexual Exploitation-Identification Tool (CSE-IT). This evidence-based screening tool doesn’t utilize a method of structured questions, instead, it outlines 48 factors that the professional working with the youth collects and assesses while engaging in conversations with the child. These factors help to determine if the youth has been exploited and is designed to assist with early exploitation identification.

The data identifies youth with no concern, possible concern, and clear concern of sexual exploitation. Also, the data assists in breaking down the categories, looking at race, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, disability or impairment, and identifying possible concerns with their current placement. Thus far, the information collected from the agencies has provided data to support which populations are showing the most concern for risk of being trafficked.

Research indicates that 75% of trafficked youth are exploited for multiple years before the exploitation is even recognized. The information collected via the CSE-IT is being used to identify and link the children and youth to more individualized and trauma-informed services. Benchmarks and the participating agencies are looking forward to seeing how this trauma-informed work will positively impact the children and youth adversely affected by exploitation and sex trafficking.

To learn more about human trafficking and how you can help, there are many free online resources available. If you suspect human trafficking activity, you can report it to the National Human Trafficking Hotline by calling 1-877-9838 or text INFO or HELP to “BeFree” (233733).

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