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Update on Foster Care & Human Trafficking Statistics

When we talk about youth aging out of state care, a serious issue is the vulnerability to be exploited through human trafficking. A recent study done through Project Pivot by the University of Louisville has confirmed several estimates about the correlation of human trafficking and foster care. This study found that 89% of minors removed from human trafficking cases had a prior involvement with Kentucky's Department for Community Based Services. Further, 42.9% of the cases were controlled by a family member of the child involved. You will hear a lot of numbers on this issue, but if you trace them back it’s difficult to discern which ones are relevant. This one is. Please take some time to read the study and understand the reasons behind the vulnerability. Click the image below:


What makes this study stand out?

  • the study involved Kentucky's social services rather than relying solely on survivor responses. This provides an advantage when talking about social services’ involvement, as a child may never have known if their parents were investigated or reported prior to the trafficking incident.

  • the number of claims that were substantiated/founded was 210. This is higher than the typical study that we see that focuses on children and youth coming out of raids and is more concrete than estimates provided by agencies. Also in contrast to studies that rely on raids for information, this study had unique incidents that came from across the state and were reported in their unique zone. (For more information on prior and similar studies: )

  • the study had a high number of family controlled trafficking reports, which is needed in this conversation. There are youth in care who don’t have language for their experience of being trafficked and they entered the system for reasons other than their trafficking experience. It is important to not lose touch with the reality that youth in care may have a history of trafficking that the system will never know about. The number in this report was of cases that were found out, and it shines a light on the fact that family members facilitated the trafficking of youth in almost half the cases Kentucky saw. If someone was exploited in the past, especially by someone they trusted, they may be more vulnerable to similar exploitation in the future. (Thoughts on when hardships happen after being removed from trafficking: and when abuse rather than trafficking was documented: )

  • the information is public domain, with members of the team saying it should be distributed to community members (page 34 of the Project Pivot slides linked above).

  • it is easy to read, clear language is utilized throughout, and it reflects recent data.

We hope this information will equip and encourage you to advocate for this population.

From the end of the earth I will cry to You,

When my heart is overwhelmed;

Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

Psalm 61:2

If you or anyone you know are in need of immediate help in regard to human trafficking, contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline: Call 1-888-373-7888 (TTY: 711) | Text 233733

*This article was edited on June 3rd to include the "What makes this study stand out?" section, to add SEO features, direct downloads of the articles mentioned, and to include the National Human Trafficking Hotline.

Direct Download Sources:

Project PIVOT Final Report
Download PDF • 7.52MB

Why Youth in Foster Care Are Vulnerable
Download • 1.21MB

Download • 3.51MB

Download • 1.06MB


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