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Conchita Sarnoff

Conchita Sarnoff

Posted: September 15, 2010 11:59 AM

Washington D.C.- A bill to create a grant program to benefit minor victims of sex trafficking will be heard today in Congress. The bill, H.R. 5575 has two main objectives. First, it would authorize large block grants to establish a comprehensive, victim-centered approach to addressing the issue of sex trafficking of minors. Secondly, it would aim to provide funding to implement improvements to the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) system that are required in order to receive federal funding.

The definition of the term "minor victim of sex trafficking" is defined as (1) someone under 18 who has been a victim of an offense in 18 U.S.C. 1591(a) or a comparable state law and/or (2) someone at least 18 and not older than 20 who was receiving services as a victim of sex trafficking on the day before his or her 18th birthday.

For fiscal years 2011 through 2014, the bill would authorize $45 million to fund the sex trafficking grant programs, $1.5 million to conduct annual evaluations, and $3.5 million to design and implement improvements to the NCIC database.The grants will be awarded through an application process to centers that have a multi-disciplinary plan to combat the sex trafficking of minors and used both for law enforcement activities and for direct services to survivors in up to six regionally diverse locations within the United States. The six regions are currently unidentified.

In addition there are seven requirements to the plan listed in detail in the "Eligible Entity: These include:

• a shelter for minor victims of sex trafficking
• rehabilitative care to minor victims of sex trafficking, including assistance in obtaining access to State-administered medical care where the victim is eligible
• specialized training for law enforcement officers and social service providers
• prevention, deterrence and prosecution of sex trafficking offenses
• cooperation agreements with organizations serving runaway and homeless youth
• law enforcement protocols to screen all individuals arrested for prostitution for victimization through sex trafficking
• a verification process that includes arrangements with state child welfare agencies to allow minor victims of sex trafficking immediate access to State-administered medical care.

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Congressman Christopher Smith (R-NJ) introduced the bill on June 23, 2010. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Rep. Stephen Cohen (D-TN), Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX), Rep. Laura Richardson (D-CA), and Rep. David Wu (D-OR) have joined as cosponsors.
The bill was referred to the House Judiciary Committee and Ways and Means Committee for review.

An important addition to the current NCIC system would embolden the Department of Justice (DOJ) to improve the NCIC database system, so that children under the age of 18 who are reported missing at least three times in one year are designated as at risk juveniles within the database. DOJ will be encouraged to boost the system by providing visual cues, such as a color alert, to law enforcement encountering the victims, in order to assist them in recognizing an at risk child and be able to steer the victim to the appropriate care centers.

The NCIC system is employed by federal, state and local law enforcement to track information about missing and exploited children, including runaway children in the United States. The bill would encourage states to track information about children who are at risk for sex trafficking, while sourcing that information to provide a more comprehensive and protective response to the victims.

Even after the bill has passed the most taxing issues remain - who will ultimately assume the financial and physical responsibility of these victims? What organizations will be qualified and eligible to educate, psychologically rehabilitate and provide a safe and loving home environment to the victims until they are ready to integrate into society and stand on their own two feet?