Dear WestCoast Community,
The California Child Welfare Council made a landmark decision yesterday. The Council unanimously voted to take the immediate action needed to improve protection and services for commercially sexually exploited youth.
Why is this decision important?
- Currently, youth victims of sexual exploitation are arrested and funneled through the juvenile justice system.
- Our systems treat them as criminals rather than victims of child abuse, despite the fact that traffickers kidnap and coerce victims into being sold on the streets for sex.
- The majority of exploited youth have a history of child welfare involvement. At WestCoast, 80 % of youth in our C-Change program have been in foster care.
- The child welfare system, under its mandate of protecting and serving abused and neglected children, must play a central role in supporting sexually exploited children in order for victims to access the protection and services they need to safely recover from victimization.
WestCoast Children’s Clinic Executive Director, Stacey Katz, commented on the significance of changing the message we’ve been sending to children who are exploited.
What do these recommendations do?
The vote launches an action plan that brings together leaders in child welfare, juvenile justice, mental health, education and the courts. This workgroup’s immediate priorities include:
- Improving early identification of sexually exploited youth in all public systems.
- Developing specialized services and foster care placements that can meet the unique needs of victims.
- Training child welfare staff, mental health professionals, educators, probation officers and judges to recognize the signs of exploitation and how best to intervene.
As a member of this new state workgroup, WestCoast will keep you updated on our progress, and ways you can contribute to our efforts to prevent child exploitation and to better serve victims.
Director of Policy and Communications