The American Academy of Pediatrics just released an updated report about assisting pediatricians in identifying children and teens who have been subjected to human trafficking.
The Council on Child Abuse and Neglect and Council on Immigrant Child and Family Health published the “Exploitation, Labor and Sex Trafficking of Children and Adolescents: Health Care Needs of Patients” report. It details the potential “red flags” and shows screening tools for giving evaluation and aftercare to victims.
Jordan Greenbaum, MD, is the lead author of the report, he said in a news release that COVID-related lockdowns and travel restrictions increased the exploitation and trafficking of children from families who were experiencing income loss.
“What is especially challenging for healthcare professionals is that individuals experiencing trafficking or exploitation may not perceive themselves as being exploited or may be reluctant to disclose their situation to medical staff,” Dr. Greenbaum said. “This makes it difficult to recognize children and adolescents in need.”
So the report says that physicians need to look for a guardian who is not a relative or a parent that does not let the child speak. They should also look for signs of inflicted injury, malnutrition, and a history of abortions.
The report challenged physicians to play a more vital role in providing critical services to vulnerable children and adolescents. The first step is to develop a trusting and respectful relationship with patients who need to feel safe.
There were almost 5 million children worldwide who experience forced labor or sexual exploitation in 2021.
The International Labor Organization (ILO) reported that more than 27.5 million people were forced into labor, mostly in Asia, the Pacific regions, and the Arab States. Of the millions forced into labor, 12% included children, and over half of them were placed in sex trafficking.
Many of these are children runaways from low-income families who create a bond with their captors because of money, food, clothes, and attention.
Health News estimates that there are 14,500 to 17,500 victims trafficked into the United States annually.