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March 2021Vol. 22, No. 3Foster Care Runaway Episodes and Human Trafficking

Evidence continues to emerge to support the relationship between running away from foster care and sex trafficking victimization. There are promising programs and approaches to reduce the risk of a youth running away and their subsequent risk of being trafficked. The Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, within the Administration for Children and Families of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, published a brief that summarizes and expands on a 2019 report to Congress that covers the child welfare system's response to child sex trafficking. It discusses some of the possible reasons that youth run from care, statistics of those who run, factors to consider when looking at the numbers, and evidence about the correlation between youth in foster care running from care and sex trafficking victimization.

Taking findings across multiple studies, the brief finds that there are several factors that contribute to a youth's risk of running away, including age, sex, race and ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender identity, and others. However, there are also factors that decrease runaway behavior, such as placement in a family-like setting. There are several promising evidence-informed approaches to preventing and reducing the risk of youth running from care. The brief highlights two research-informed programs—Behavior Analysis Services Program and Children and Residential Experiences. Both programs resulted in reductions in runaway incidence rates. 

To learn more, read Examining the Link: Foster Care Runaway Episodes and Human Trafficking.