Safer Harbor Laws Aiding Exploiting Children Need Better Implementation

February 23, 2016

by Journalism of Social Change
According to research released in January, the nine states that enacted safe harbor laws by 2012 were found to lack adequate funding for services necessary to aid commercially sexually exploited children (CSEC).

Safe harbor laws aim to enhance protections for sexually exploited children by decriminalizing youth prostitution and/or establishing methods to re-direct exploited children from the justice system into the child welfare system. The trafficking of such victims hit a dramatic spike during the Super Bowl earlier this month.

The study, conducted by Susan Abrams and Elizabeth Barnert with practitioners in Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Tennessee, Vermont and Washington, compared the successes and challenges of implementing safe harbor laws. Follow-up research was conducted to gather more insight on the importance of the study’s findings as well as how Los Angeles County is dealing with CSEC issues.

“Right now, it’s really unknown how many victims there are,” said Susan Abrams, an attorney at the Children’s Law Center of California. “We just don’t know a lot.”

This was one of the common issues Barnert and Abrams found across the nine states: the lack of statistics on trafficked victims. Without proper data on those being served by the safe harbor laws, states are finding it difficult to monitor the effectiveness of their programs, which can make it harder for officials to justify requests for increased funding.