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Human Trafficking: Children

Five images depicting ordinary people from different races, cultures, and age groups.

1 in 4 victims of human trafficking worldwide are children 

​Human Trafficking In Children: The Facts

  • 2,495 cases of human trafficking in minors were reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline in 2017
  • Reports indicate that traffickers often target children and youths with a history of sexual abuse, dating violence, substance abuse, mental illness, low self-esteem, and minimal social support.
  • Runaway and homeless youths—male, female, and transgender—are at a high risk for becoming victims of trafficking. Of the nearly 25,000 runaways reported to NCMEC in 2017, 1 in 7 were likely victims of child sex trafficking. 
  • Lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender youths can be up to five times more likely than heterosexual youths to be victims of trafficking. This is likely due to the increased susceptibility that comes with feelings of rejection and alienation often experienced by LGBTQ youths.

Where Are Children Targeted

  • Social media and Internet sites
  • Telephone chat-lines
  • After-school programs
  • Public areas such as shopping malls or bus stops
  • Friends or acquaintances who recruit on school campuses

Identifying Victims

Once a child is victimized, identifying him or her can prove difficult. Below are just a few of the signs a child victim of human trafficking may exhibit: 

  • Demonstrates an inability to attend school on a regular basis and/or has unexplained absences
  • Frequently runs away from home
  • Has a “boyfriend” or “girlfriend” who is noticeably older
  • Makes references to frequent travel to other cities
  • Exhibits bruises or other signs of physical trauma
  • Shows signs of drug addiction
  • Has coached/rehearsed responses to questions

Book Cover: Hidden Girl, the true story of a modern-day child slave

Department of Education Report Cover: Human Trafficking in America's Schools, January 2015

Select a title above to learn more about human trafficking in children