Other Youth Topics


  1. Youth Topics
  2. Trafficking Prevention
  3. Human Trafficking: The Problem

Human Trafficking: The Problem

Human trafficking happens in almost every country around the world, including the United States. Traffickers represent every social, ethnic, and racial group. Various organizational types exist in trafficking, including large nationwide gangs and criminal organizations, local street and motorcycle gangs, and individuals with no affiliation with any one group or organization. Traffickers are not only men; women are also perpetrators.1 Increasingly, traffickers are using fear tactics to lure children and youth into commercial sex acts and/or compelled labor. The base of the issue is the traffickers’ goal of exploiting and enslaving victims and the coercive and deceptive practices they use to do so.

Traffickers may exploit youth for the purpose of commercial sex or forced labor:

  • Recruiting, enticing, harboring, transporting, providing, obtaining, and/or maintaining a minor for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation
  • Exploiting a minor through prostitution
  • Exploiting a minor through survival sex (exchanging sex/sexual acts for money or something of value, such as shelter, food, or drugs)
  • Exploiting a minor through sex tourism
  • Exploiting a minor by having her or him perform in sexual venues (e.g., peep shows, strip clubs)
  • Exploiting a minor through forced labor, including involuntary domestic servitude (e.g., nanny, maid)
  • Exploiting a minor through bonded labor or debt bondage
  • Exploiting a minor through forced child labor (e.g., sweatshop workers, janitors, restaurant workers, fishery workers, hotel and tourist industry workers, beggars)

Click here to learn more about these different forms of trafficking.

Young people, especially those with risk factors, are vulnerable to human trafficking. The Administration for Children and Families at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued new guidance on child trafficking to child welfare systems and runaway and homeless youth programs because of increased vulnerability to trafficking for youth who have experienced prior abuse or who have run away from home. Click here to learn more about the risk factors that a recent Institute of Medicine (IOC) and National Research Council (NRC) report identified. These young people are often preyed on by traffickers and lured with false promises of love, money, or simply a better life. Traffickers may also use a variety of techniques to instill fear in victims and ensure that they remain under their control:

  • Physically restricting victims or restricting their freedom of movement (e.g., keeping victims under lock and key or constant surveillance)
  • Using debt bondage (e.g., imposing financial obligations, convincing victims they are honor-bound to satisfy debt)
  • Isolating victims from the public (e.g., limiting contact with outsiders, ensuring that contact is monitored or superficial)
  • Isolating victims from their family members and members of their ethnic and religious community
  • Confiscating victims’ passports, visas, and identification documents
  • Using or threatening to use violence toward victims and their families
  • Threatening to shame victims by exposing their circumstances to their family
  • Telling victims that they will be imprisoned for crimes they were forced to commit or deported for immigration violations if they contact authorities
  • Controlling victims’ money (e.g., holding their money for “safekeeping”)2

1 Federal Bureau of Investigation. (2011). FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin: Human sex trafficking. Retrieved from https://leb.fbi.gov/2011/march/human-sex-trafficking
2 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families (2012). Tips for identifying and helping victims of human trafficking. Retrieved from http://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/orr/tips_for_identifying_and_helping_victims_of_human_trafficking.pdf (PDF, 2 pages)

Youth Briefs

How Individualized Education Program (IEP) Transition Planning Makes a Difference for Youth with Disabilities

Youth who receive special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA 2004) and especially young adults of transition age, should be involved in planning for life after high school as early as possible and no later than age 16. Transition services should stem from the individual youth’s needs and strengths, ensuring that planning takes into account his or her interests, preferences, and desires for the future.

Youth Transitioning to Adulthood: How Holding Early Leadership Positions Can Make a Difference

Research links early leadership with increased self-efficacy and suggests that leadership can help youth to develop decision making and interpersonal skills that support successes in the workforce and adulthood. In addition, young leaders tend to be more involved in their communities, and have lower dropout rates than their peers. Youth leaders also show considerable benefits for their communities, providing valuable insight into the needs and interests of young people

How Trained Service Professionals and Self-Advocacy Makes a Difference for Youth with Mental Health, Substance Abuse, or Co-occurring Issues

Statistics reflecting the number of youth suffering from mental health, substance abuse, and co-occurring disorders highlight the necessity for schools, families, support staff, and communities to work together to develop targeted, coordinated, and comprehensive transition plans for young people with a history of mental health needs and/or substance abuse.

Young Adults Formerly in Foster Care: Challenges and Solutions

Nearly 30,000 youth aged out of foster care in Fiscal Year 2009, which represents nine percent of the young people involved in the foster care system that year. This transition can be challenging for youth, especially youth who have grown up in the child welfare system.

Coordinating Systems to Support Transition Age Youth with Mental Health Needs

Research has demonstrated that as many as one in five children/youth have a diagnosable mental health disorder. Read about how coordination between public service agencies can improve treatment for these youth.

Civic Engagement Strategies for Transition Age Youth

Civic engagement has the potential to empower young adults, increase their self-determination, and give them the skills and self-confidence they need to enter the workforce. Read about one youth’s experience in AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC).