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November 2022Vol. 23, No. 9Screening Tools for Human Trafficking in Child Welfare Settings

The Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation within the Administration for Children and Families of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in collaboration with the Children's Bureau, published a study, Screening for Human Trafficking in Child Welfare Settings: Tools in Use, that explores the knowledge gap in how child welfare agencies identify youth who have experienced human trafficking or are at increased risk of experiencing human trafficking. The study, which is part of the Domestic Human Trafficking and the Child Welfare Population project, pulls from interviews with state child welfare leaders from 25 states about how their agencies identify and serve children and youth who are at increased risk of or who have experienced trafficking.

There is limited information on promising practices for trafficking screening in child welfare. Therefore, child welfare agencies often look to other state agencies. This study examines and describes screening tools agencies are using as well as themes regarding considerations for selecting tools and creating protocols.

All study participants reported their agencies had some protocols or guidance in place for identifying potential victims of trafficking, and all reported that their agency has at least one screening tool that is required or that is provided for optional use. Of the 37 tools provided by the participants, 54 percent screened for sex trafficking only, and 40 percent screened for both sex and labor trafficking. Almost half of the agencies used tools with outcomes that include risk levels, such as increased risk of sex trafficking.

The following are examples of areas of improvement for screening tools and protocols noted by the participants:

  • Screening for both labor and sex trafficking
  • Being more inclusive of gender to account for the trafficking experience of males and other genders rather than just focusing on females
  • Clear, concrete guidance on next steps after scoring the screening

Read the report, Screening for Human Trafficking in Child Welfare Settings: Tools in Use, for more details on findings and considerations.