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By Miranda Neal

This semester, Shared Hope, a Christian non-profit organization, asked my legal research team to conduct research aiding its mission of combatting child sex trafficking and sexual exploitation.

Photo originally posted by Shared Hope International.

Previously, Regent Law students have helped Shared Hope by researching state statutes, which led the organization to create a report card for each state on how their statutes measured up to Shared Hope’s goals. These goals range from mandating that child welfare agencies conduct trauma-informed screening for children at risk of sex trafficking to extending foster care to include older youth who age out and more. Based on the statutory research, states were given grades from A to F on how their state laws compared to the goals.

To add to the analysis, Shared Hope asked our team to research state child welfare agencies to find regulations, policies, and procedures related to the work already done with state statutes. Specifically, we were tasked with finding child welfare agencies in every state and utilizing Lexis+ and the agency’s website to find the regulations, policies, and procedures that govern the agency. This work will aid Shared Hope in directing the conversation with decision-makers in each state on how to create laws, regulations, procedures, and policies that accomplish Shared Hope’s mission.

By researching one-third of the United States child welfare agencies, I discovered that every state has a different system for publishing regulations, policies, and procedures. Finding these policies is not always easy. Unlike statutes, which are generally published and accessible, agency policies and procedures may be in one PDF that is hidden in a folder within the agency’s website, or it may not exist online at all. Tracking down information has made me develop new skills in my research toolbelt.

Because Shared Hope has published report cards on the statutes, it has been useful and enlightening to see how a state was graded based on the published law and explore how that might change by discovering a regulation that directly supports the policy goal. I look forward to seeing the updated report cards in the future and how this will support Shared Hope’s mission and conversations with state decision-makers for a better future.

This post was written by a Center for Global Justice law clerk. The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect those of Regent University, Regent Law School, or the Center for Global Justice.