Further Reading: Loving At-Risk Youth


According to the Department of Justice, “as many as 300,000 children may become victims of commercial sexual exploitation.” Though any child is vulnerable to the lies of a trafficker, there are several groups of youth who are most often exploited. As we aim to fight human trafficking by loving those most vulnerable, we look to care for:

  1. Runaway youth. While you were in Port Authority, it’s likely that you walked by a teen runaway and didn’t know it. Sex traffickers know this and actively recruit potential victims there. Within 48 hours of being on the street, 33% of teenage runaways are lured into sex trafficking.
  2. Foster youth. In 2007, New York City identified 2,250 child victims of trafficking. Seventy-five percent of those experienced some contact with the child welfare system, mostly in the context of abuse and neglect proceedings.
  3. Homeless youth. Before they arrived at Covenant House NY, 14.9% of the youth in our random sample experienced some form of trafficking victimization, consistent with the definition under federal law, (TVPA).  To read the full report, go here.
  4. LGBTQ Youth. A New Study Shows What Life Is Like for Homeless NYC Teens Who Have Sex to Survive
  5. Youth with histories of abuse.
  6. Children with histories of substance abuse.
  7. Children with disabilities.
  8. Youth in the juvenile justice system.
  9. Refugee, immigrant, and non-English-speaking youth.
  10. Youth with unstable family dynamics.

Questions to ask if you suspect that a minor has been trafficked:

  • Are there signs of child abuse of a sexual nature and reason to believe that the child, or parent/guardian of the child or other person(s) facilitating the abuse, was given or promised anything in return for the sexual abuse?
  • Is there reason to believe there are photographs, social media posts, or other recordings of instance(s) of sexual abuse of the child?
  • Has the parent/guardian been a victim of trafficking or is there concern that the parent/guardian has been a victim?
  • Does the child have a history of multiple runaways/AWOLS or episodes of homelessness/couch surfing in the past? (Family homelessness should not be counted)
  • Does the child have tattoos that show, imply, or suggest ownership and/or that he or she does not have an explanation for? (e.g., daddy’s girl, property of someone’s name, symbols, etc.)
  • Does the child have or has he or she previously had a significantly older boyfriend or girlfriend who is controlling and/or whom the child appears to be afraid of?
  • Does the child have a history of multiple or chronic sexually transmitted infections, or pregnancies/abortions, or report multiple anonymous sexual partners?
  • Does the child have money, a cell phone, hotel keys, or other items that he or she does not have the resources to obtain and cannot account for?
  • Has a gang affiliation been disclosed, reported, or suspected?
  • Is someone else other than the child’s parent or guardian in control of his or her identification or passport?
  • Do you have any other reason to believe the child may be a sex trafficking victim?

Now, read Lexie’s story.

How could Lexie’s situation been different? How could her pastors have reacted differently?

How is working with “at risk” teens preventing, and intervening in the fight against human trafficking?

How can the church love and care for vulnerable youth?



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