Trafficking and Abuse of Foster kids Is about To Get Much Harder!!
Aimee Herd : Sep 23, 2014
H.R. 4980, a bill that protects foster children from trafficking and exploitation, has been passed by both the US House and Senate and is on its way to the president to be signed into law.
I don't have any first-hand experience with fostering, and while my husband and I aren't in a position where we could be foster parents, God has still given me a burden for those children caught up in the foster system, whose experiences sometimes become worse instead of better. (Photo by Doriana_s)
Upon hearing of a new bill that could greatly improve the current environment for foster kids, I spoke with Elaine Kim, Action Administrator for Love146; an organization that works for the "abolition of child trafficking and exploitation."
She aptly answered my questions (below), and provided information I didn't know about the vulnerability of foster children.
Please join me in praying that President Obama will sign H.R. 4980 into law.
First; what is the need? Why do children in foster care need protection and, How would this legislation protect children in the foster system?
Any child may be vulnerable to someone who promises to meet their emotional or physical needs, but children who experience frequent change are particularly vulnerable. This bill is particularly strong because it combines provisions from several bills previously introduced in both the House and Senate regarding child trafficking. A highlight from the bill is that it requires state child welfare agencies to identify, document, and determine appropriate services for children in foster care, or who are otherwise involved in the child welfare system who are victims of child sex trafficking or at risk of becoming victims. A particularly exciting point is that it specifies support for both victims and those at risk of becoming victims-- prevention is key to actually ending child trafficking and exploitation.
Another highlight from the bill is that it requires states to provide children in foster care with a list of their rights and requires that children age 14 and older be involved in their case planning, including by consulting with trusted adults of the child's choosing. These types of requirements focus on empowering the child, and provide a victim-focused approach to looking at the issue of human trafficking.
The bill also requires states to provide children who emancipate after being in foster care for at least 6 months with (1) a birth certificate, (2) a social security card, (3) health records and insurance information, and (4) a driver's license or state ID. This is an important part of the legislation because providing youth with this information protects them from future vulnerabilities, and thus from re-victimization or victimization. For example, a social security card is required by employers, and not having access to this information may put the youth in an exploitative situation.
How far has this bill advanced, and what is next?
The bill was passed by the House of Representatives in July, and was passed by the Senate on September 18th. It is now headed to the President's desk for signature before it officially becomes a law.
In what way has Love146 helped to advance this legislation?
Love146 has been supporting legislation that addresses the relationship between child welfare systems and child trafficking and exploitation for the last year. We have rallied support for several bills that were focused on providing protection to youth in foster care, and saw a few of the bills be combined and introduced as H.R. 4980. We sent out a call to action for our supporters to contact their Representatives, and when the bill passed the House, to contact their Senators. Thousands of letters were sent directly to congressmen from individual supporters, and Love146 send in a letter of support to the writers of the bill as an organization.
You can see a timeline of our advocacy efforts here: www.love146.org/HR4980
What can people do on a local level, to help foster children?
One way people can help protect youth in foster care from child trafficking and exploitation is to be aware of the youth in their community and be a part of an overall safety net that provides protection for vulnerable youth. Child trafficking and exploitation will only come to an end when people take responsibility for abolition in their own backyards and commit to making sure that vulnerable youth are not overlooked. Educating yourself on the warning signs of trafficking, and raising awareness in your community are also powerful ways to help protect youth. Click here: love146.org/report/ for more information.