Lawmakers to tackle human trafficking-foster care connection

(KXAN/File Photo)
(KXAN/File Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) – Monday, lawmakers at the capitol will tackle a growing issue in Texas, sex and human trafficking. Child advocates say a common victim are children in and out of the Texas foster care system.

Steven Phenix looks through the blue prints and sketches of what will soon be “the refuge.” The longtime residential facility just broke ground and will soon house 40 teenage girls – a safe place after being rescued from the sex trade industry.

“We’re failing our kids. They’re going after the most vulnerable,” said Phenix.

If current statistics hold up, he says he expects three out of every four sex trafficking victim to be a product of Texas foster care.

Texas is the second highest in the nation for number of calls to the National Human Trafficking Resources Center. In 2015, there were 330 cases of human trafficking in Texas. Most of the victims were women and more than one hundred were minors.

“It’s easier for them to grab a kid off the street who’s just run away, who’s run away from four, five, six times already from four or five, six different types of abuse – not as many people are out there looking for that kid unfortunately. So that’s the reason they are a target,” said Phenix.

Texas’s child welfare system has been in the spotlight as a federal judge ruled it violated children’s civil rights. Hundreds of calls of abuse and neglect go un-responded to every day. Lawmakers hope to stem the flow of foster kids into sex trafficking circles.

Phenix says more training and awareness can go far but to tackle the big picture it will take more money for more people to find vulnerable Texas children before they’re trafficked.

Monday the House Human Services and the House Juvenile Justice and Family Issues committees will have a joint hearing to:

“Study and evaluate the practice of youth being recruited into human trafficking. Specifically, evaluate the scope of the pipeline of potential victims from foster care, including methods and means used to lure youth into trafficking. Evaluate the types of services that are available to support children and youth in the conservatorship of DFPS who are victims of human trafficking. Make necessary recommendations to assist DFPS in identifying, recovering, serving, or caring for children and youth who are victims of human trafficking prior to placement in foster care.”

 

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