Congressman Dave Reichert (R-WA), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Human Resources of the Committee on Ways and Means, today announced that the Subcommittee will hold a hearing on ways to improve the child welfare system to prevent sex trafficking of youth in America’s foster care system. The hearing will take place at 2:00 pm on Wednesday, October 23, 2013, in Room 1100 of the Longworth House Office Building.
In view of the limited time available to hear from witnesses, oral testimony at this hearing will be from invited witnesses only. Witnesses will include experts working to reduce the vulnerabilities of youth in foster care as well as representatives of organizations who serve victims of sex trafficking. However, any individual or organization not scheduled for an oral appearance may submit a written statement for consideration by the Committee and for inclusion in the printed record of the hearing.
Since the early 1960s, the Federal government has reimbursed States for part of the cost of providing foster care to children from needy families. In FY 2012, the Federal government provided States $4.2 billion to support monthly payments to foster parents, case management, staff training, and data collection. The goal of this funding is to ensure foster parents can support children from needy families when the child cannot safely remain at home.
While foster care often protects children from further abuse and neglect, children who stay in foster care for extended periods – especially those who leave foster care at age 18 without being placed in a permanent home – have troubling outcomes. For example, research shows that children who spend an extended duration in foster care are less likely to graduate from high school, attend college, be employed, or have enough income to support a family than other youth. They are also more likely to become teen parents, collect welfare, become homeless, be arrested, or use drugs.
In some cases, certain child welfare policies may unintentionally undermine the well-being of children placed in foster care. As the Subcommittee reviewed in a hearing in May 2013, some foster care rules have made it difficult for foster youth to participate in sports, sleep over at a friend’s house, obtain a driver’s license, get a part-time job, or engage in other age-appropriate activities. Although these policies are often well intentioned, they may inadvertently increase a young person’s isolation and separation from family, friends, and the surrounding community, making them more vulnerable to victimization.
One of the most devastating examples of this vulnerability is when children in foster care become victims of sex trafficking. Reports suggest a majority of children involved in sex trafficking are either currently in foster care or have been involved with the child welfare system in the past. In 2010, officials in Los Angeles reported that 59 percent of juveniles arrested for prostitution were in the foster care system. Of children reported missing to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children who are also likely sex trafficking victims, 60 percent were in foster care or group homes when they ran away. Research cited by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services shows the majority of sex trafficked youth experienced sexual abuse growing up, and victims of sexual abuse are 28 times more likely to be involved in prostitution than children who have not suffered such abuse. Even though a history of prior sexual abuse places many children in foster care at far greater risk of sex trafficking, the child welfare system today does not make systematic efforts to identify and help those at high risk of being trafficked.
In announcing the hearing, Chairman Reichert stated, “Even though foster care is meant to protect children who have been abused, research shows that most victims of child sex trafficking come straight from the foster care system. This is totally unacceptable. During my law enforcement career, I saw first-hand the terrible tragedies of young women involved in the sex trade. We can’t continue to allow kids in foster care to become victims of this terrible crime. We owe it to them to ensure our nation’s foster care system does all it can to protect them from predators so they can live safe, happy, and successful lives. For too many kids in foster care, we are not living up to that promise.”
FOCUS OF THE HEARING:
This hearing will review how the child welfare system currently works to prevent the sex trafficking of youth in foster care, how the needs of sex trafficking victims are addressed, and how Federal laws and policies might be improved to better ensure the safety and well-being of youth at risk of abuse and neglect.
DETAILS FOR SUBMISSION OF WRITTEN COMMENTS:
Please Note: Any person(s) and/or organization(s) wishing to submit for the hearing record must follow the appropriate link on the hearing page of the Committee website and complete the informational forms. From the Committee homepage, http://waysandmeans.house.gov, select “Hearings.” Select the hearing for which you would like to submit, and click on the link entitled, “Please click here to submit a statement or letter for the record.” Once you have followed the online instructions, submit all requested information. Attach your submission as a Word document, in compliance with the formatting requirements listed below, by November 6, 2013. Finally, please note that due to the change in House mail policy, the U.S. Capitol Police will refuse sealed-package deliveries to all House Office Buildings. For questions, or if you encounter technical problems, please call (202) 225-1721 or (202) 225-3625.
The Committee relies on electronic submissions for printing the official hearing record. As always, submissions will be included in the record according to the discretion of the Committee. The Committee will not alter the content of your submission, but we reserve the right to format it according to our guidelines. Any submission provided to the Committee by a witness, any supplementary materials submitted for the printed record, and any written comments in response to a request for written comments must conform to the guidelines listed below. Any submission or supplementary item not in compliance with these guidelines will not be printed, but will be maintained in the Committee files for review and use by the Committee.
- All submissions and supplementary materials must be provided in Word format and MUST NOT exceed a total of 10 pages, including attachments. Witnesses and submitters are advised that the Committee relies on electronic submissions for printing the official hearing record.
- Copies of whole documents submitted as exhibit material will not be accepted for printing. Instead, exhibit material should be referenced and quoted or paraphrased. All exhibit material not meeting these specifications will be maintained in the Committee files for review and use by the Committee.
- All submissions must include a list of all clients, persons, and/or organizations on whose behalf the witness appears. A supplemental sheet must accompany each submission listing the name, company, address, telephone, and fax numbers of each witness.
The Committee seeks to make its facilities accessible to persons with disabilities. If you are in need of special accommodations, please call 202-225-1721 or 202-226-3411 TTD/TTY in advance of the event (four business days notice is requested). Questions with regard to special accommodation needs in general (including availability of Committee materials in alternative formats) may be directed to the Committee as noted above.
Note: All Committee advisories and news releases are available online at http://www.waysandmeans.house.gov/.