SELECT COMMITTEE ON CHILDREN
JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT
AN ACT REQUIRING THE DEPARTMENT OF CHILDREN AND FAMILIES TO BE NOTIFIED WHEN A YOUTH IS ARRESTED FOR PROSTITUTION.
JOINT FAVORABLE SUBSTITUTE CHANGE OF REFERENCE JUDICIARY
SPONSORS OF BILL:
Select Committee on Children
REASONS FOR BILL:
To require the Department of Children and Families to conduct child abuse or neglect investigations of youth aged sixteen or seventeen who get arrested on prostitution charges, in recognition that these children may be victims of exploitation or sex trafficking.
Amendment A: Deletes the last sentence of the bill – “Not later than twenty-four hours after receiving such report, the department shall commence a child abuse or neglect investigation.”
RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:
Department of Children and Families: Supports bill. “Over the past two years, the Department has become aware of over 65 cases of youth involved in domestic minor sex trafficking activity. Most of these cases involve youth in the care or custody of DCF. Sadly, children in our care can be prime victims for this type of activity.” We need to begin teaching our youth skills for recognizing and avoiding these dangers. “We in Connecticut and a few other states are trying to be proactive by recognizing the depth of this problem while undoing what has been a historical non-reaction to these youth and their crises.”
Carolyn Signorelli, Chief Child Protection Attorney: “I support this legislation, however in order to make the language consistent with the Department's use of its Differential Response System (DRS), I suggest the language in lines 29-31 be changed from 'Not later than twenty-four hours after receiving such report, the department shall commence a child abuse or neglect investigation' to 'The Department is required to accept the referral.'” “With this change, the Department has the option of referring the family to its DRS track if it deems appropriate, as opposed to commencing their traditional investigation. The goal of this legislation, providing access to services for youths who are victims of prostitution, would still be achieved.”
NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:
Alexandra Quig, MSW student, University of Connecticut School of Social Work: Before starting graduate school, interned at a domestic and sexual violence agency and worked on a daily basis with young women and men who had been victims of sexual exploitation/prostitution, many of which were recent immigrants. Many were young enough to be required to be in school but were forced into a lifestyle that was not their choice. DCF is the only one that can do an accurate assessment and help these youth with much needed access to services. “There is evidence with the right kind of services many of these youth can break free from prostitution and the abuse they have suffered.”
Mallory Ham and Roberto Ceja, Center for Youth Leadership, Brien McMahon High School, Norwalk: Urge support for bill. Students have volunteered with runaway and throwaway teens in two safe houses in Fairfield County. “We piloted an eight-week trafficking curriculum at our school with Love 146, an advocacy group in New Haven.” While pleased with the passage of the safe harbor legislation last year, questions still remain such as “Who is being held responsible for the circumstances that lead teens my age to hit the streets in the first place?” “According to the National Incidence Studies of Children, one out of every three runaway or throwaway teens is lured into prostitution within 48 hours of hitting the streets.” “We're talking about teens as young as thirteen, which the University of Pennsylvania and Shared Hope International say is the average age for entry into prostitution in America.” These teens are all but invisible to the public.
Nicole von Oy, Love 146: Love 146 is a non-profit in CT that combats child sex slavery and exploitation. The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children estimates that at least 100,000 American children each year are victims of commercial sexual exploitation and child trafficking. “These children are victims of modern day slavery.” It is important that law enforcement make DCF their first point of referral so they can immediately investigate a case of a child who has been arrested for prostitution and more rapidly provide them with services.
Christine Banks, Advanced Standing Graduate Student, University of Connecticut School of Social Work: Urges support. “It is the complexity surrounding the phenomenon of youth prostitution that makes the intervention of the Department of Children and Families so necessary for this population. The services that will be made available through DCF are critical for these children and adolescents; it will provide them with the resources they will need to reclaim their young lives.”
NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:
REPORTED BY: Elizabeth S. Giannaros, Clerk
DATE: March 16, 2011