Childhood Trafficking: See the Signs, Know the Resources

Childhood Trafficking Cover

It’s National Human Trafficking Prevention Month. Previously on our blog, we covered the basics of human trafficking as a worldwide crime. Today, we’re diving in deeper to explore trafficking as it relates to children and providing resources from organizations that specifically help individuals who have been victimized by this heinous crime.

What is Childhood Trafficking?

According to advocacy group Save the Children, “Child trafficking refers to the exploitation of girls and boys, primarily for forced labor and sexual exploitation.”

The United Nations adds that child trafficking involves three main elements:

  • The Act – recruitment, transportation, harboring, or receipt of persons
  • The Means – threat or use of force, coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, abuse of power or vulnerability, or giving payment or benefits to a person in control of the victim
  • The Purpose – for the purpose of exploitation, which includes exploiting the prostitution of others, sexual exploitation, forced labor, slavery, or similar practices, and the removal of organs

Children who are being trafficked can be victimized in multiple ways, such as being sold by a family member or an acquaintance or lured by false promises of education and a better life. Regardless of how it starts though, these children often end up being held in slave-like conditions without adequate food, shelter, or clothing and being severely abused and cut off from all contact with their families.

Who is most likely to become a victim of childhood trafficking?

Children are trafficked from developing and developed countries. Both girls and boys can be trafficked as children, but girls are disproportionately more likely to be trafficked (around twice as likely, to be more precise). Worldwide, around 120 million girls have experienced sexual exploitation, often in the form of forced marriage or sexual slavery.

Another group that is likely to be victimized is refugees and migrants. These individuals are seen as especially vulnerable due to their desire to get a better job or life in their new country.

Overall, childhood trafficking makes up almost a third of all trafficking cases. Around the world, an estimated 168 million children are victims of forced labor and 215 million children are engaged in child labor. Of those involved in child labor, about 115 million of those children are involved in particularly hazardous work.

How can we prevent childhood trafficking?

Thankfully there are a number of organizations that specialize in fighting childhood trafficking, whether it’s through education, advocacy, tracking of potential trafficking cases, or the provision of resources to victims.

Save the Children

This group works primarily as an advocacy group, partnering with communities and local and national governments. According to its website, Save the Children helps with

  • Preventing trafficking at the community level by creating awareness of the risks
  • Providing support to children who have been trafficked and helping them reintegrate into their communities
  • Improving law enforcement efforts and instigating legal reform to protect survivors of trafficking
  • Launching anti-trafficking campaigns
  • Supporting public policy and training

The H.E.R.O. Corps

The Human Exploitation Rescue Operative (HERO) Child-Rescue Corps was initially proposed in 2009 when the National Association to Protect Children (PROTECT) approached the U.S. Department of Homeland Security with a unique idea for combating child sexual exploitation. In 2013, this vision was finally realized when the first class of HERO Corps trainees started in the field.

This organization is a one-year program for wounded, ill, and injured service members, allowing them to still make an impact while they cannot necessarily be on the front lines. It involves a partnership with PROTECT, U.S. Homeland Security Investigations, and the U.S. Department of Defense.

HEROs undergo 12 weeks of intensive training in counter-child-exploitation and digital forensics prior to interning in Homeland Security Investigations field offices for nine months. After completing the program, alumni can stay involved by helping train upcoming classes of HEROs.


As previously mentioned, PROTECT is short for the National Association to Protect Children, which was established in 2004.

In addition to helping prevent exploitation through the facilitation of the HERO Corps, PROTECT also aids adolescents who “age out” of foster care with transitioning into independence, as this transition can sometimes be difficult and lead to exploitation in and of itself. They provide these individuals with assistance accessing social services and healthcare, employment, education, rental housing, and business and financial mentorship.

Child Rescue Coalition

With the motto “Protecting innocence through technology,” Child Rescue Coalition primarily deals with the prevention and mitigation of child sexual abuse cases around the world. The organization does this by building technology for law enforcement (free of charge) that facilitates the tracking, arrest, and prosecution of child predators.

There are over 10,000 law enforcement officers in all 50 states and 97 countries around the world within the CRC network who use the organization’s technology. To date, the technology has:

  • Allowed police to rescue over 3,200 children from sexual exploitation and abuse
  • Led to the arrests of over 14,000 predators around the globe
  • Prevented the abuse of over 700,000 children worldwide


Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline – 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453)

National Center for Missing & Exploited Children – 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678)

National Human Trafficking Resource Center – 1-800-373-7888

If you think you see something, say something. For additional information on recognizing the signs of human trafficking and resources for potential trafficking victims, you can check out our previous blog.

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