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Editor's e-Note
Foster care youths can be exposed to a minefield of risks including abuse, neglect, and trauma of many kinds. Another one of the risks that has been increasingly recognized is sex trafficking. The Children’s Bureau has found that children and youths under the care of the child welfare system are particularly susceptible to traffickers and that those who seek to exploit youths target those who are vulnerable.

As founding executive director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Field Center for Children’s Policy, Practice & Research, the author of this month’s E-News Exclusive has researched this correlation and explains how and why foster care youths are particularly vulnerable to sex traffickers.

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— Marianne Mallon, editor
e-News Exclusive
Foster Care Youths at Risk for Child Sex Trafficking
By Debra Schilling Wolfe, MEd

Involvement in the child welfare system presumes a history of maltreatment for children and youths. When children can no longer remain safely in their own homes, courts may make the difficult decision to transfer care to the responsible child welfare agency, which then secures an alternative living arrangement. Although an increasing number are placed with kin, many more reside with nonrelative families. Of the 437,465 children in foster care in the United States on September 30, 2016, 45% were placed in nonrelative vs. 32% in relative family foster homes (Child Welfare Information Gateway, 2017). When responsibility shifts to a governmental agency, adults who have a contractual relationship to serve in a pseudoparental role provide the day-to-day care for these children. Does out-of-home care support an environment conducive to sex trafficking?

Prevalence of Domestic Sex Trafficking of Minors
Estimates of the rates of sex trafficking vary. Research recently published by the University of Pennsylvania’s Field Center for Children’s Policy, Practice & Research examined the prevalence of sex trafficking among homeless youths in three different U.S. cities. Interviews were conducted with 270 youths at community-based agencies that serve homeless youths. All were administered the previously validated Human Trafficking Interview and Assessment Measure. This study was part of a larger research project commissioned by Covenant House International that interviewed close to 1,000 homeless youths across 13 cities.

Full Story »
Tech & Tools
Study Highlights Racism, Sexual Assault as Contributors to College Mental Health Challenges

A text mining analysis of academic and news articles related to mental health issues in higher education finds that racism, violence, and sexual assault are key contributors to mental health challenges for students. The research also highlights the need for mental health services, and outlines some ways that mobile technologies may be able to help address these needs.

“We had found in our previous work that students are concerned about mental health issues, and we wanted to better define the scope of mental health challenges for students and what factors contribute to those challenges,” says Fay Cobb Payton, PhD, corresponding author of a paper on the work and a professor of information systems/technology and University Faculty Scholar at North Carolina State University.

To address these questions, the researchers used text mining techniques to analyze 165 articles published between 2010 and 2015. The researchers drew on both peer-reviewed research literature and articles published in higher education news outlets.

Read more »
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