My name is Esther Neds and I am a 1L serving as a student staff member for the Center for Global Justice, working on a project for Shared Hope.
This semester I have had the opportunity to work on a project for Shared Hope analyzing the laws of all fifty states in the US regarding the availability of services to child-victims who have been trafficked. Certain states have laws that are written so that the definition of an abused child either doesn’t include trafficking or has a “caregiver barrier.” A caregiver barrier is created when the state defines abuse as an action done by a parent, guardian or caregiver. This definition means that if a child is a victim of human trafficking or sexual abuse and the perpetrator of the abuse is not related to or a guardian of the child, then that child will not qualify as abused under the statutory definition. The unqualified child will not be able to access many of the necessary services available to victims of abuse.
So far, I have been able to research the laws of four different states, all of which had different results. I was encouraged by one state, Delaware, because the previous research that had been done suggested that a caregiver barrier existed. The department of child services was only required to investigate allegations of child sexual abuse when it was committed by a family member. However, I discovered that Delaware has recently changed the law and now requires an investigation regardless of the perpetrator. I am excited to see that some states are listening and taking the threat of human trafficking seriously by changing their laws to help protect these children. Although some issues may require difficult changes, removing the caregiver barrier can be as simple as broadening a statutory definition, and that small change will make a world of difference to these children.
This post was written by a Center for Global Justice student staff member. The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect those of Regent University, Regent Law School, or the Center for Global Justice.