Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Youth

about this project

The Office of the Governor has funded this project to assess the landscape of prevention and treatment services for victims of minor sex trafficking victims in the state. As the need for these services continues to grow, our team is working to identify potential gaps and determine what supports are needed to serve this vulnerable population. Additional resources can be found directly through our statewide partners: Office of Governor Greg Abbott, Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, and Texas Health and Human Services. 

If you or someone you know is a victim of human trafficking, find support through the National Human Trafficking Hotline. 

webinars/ Digital trainings 

peer reviewed literature 

human trafficking victimization among youth who run away from foster care

Authors: Natasha E. Latzman, Deborah A. Gibbs, Rose Feinberg, Marianne N. Kluckman, & Sue Aboul-Hosn

This paper uses administrative data to describe the characteristics and experiences of a population of youth in the child welfare system considered to be at particularly high risk of victimization: youth who have run away from foster care. For most (70%) youth with a HT allegation during runaway status, the first identified trafficking allegation occurred during a foster care runaway episode. Most (67%) youth did not have another HT allegation up to a year later. Implications for research and child welfare policy and programs are discussed. Download here. 

Authors: Gail Hornor & Jennifer Sherfield

Academic resource that describes a study supporting the concept that "pediatric healthcare specialists should be better trained to identify and response to sexually exploited children and youth. These professionals should also in turn educate parents on their responsibility and ability to protect their children from sexual exploitation of any kind." Download here. 

Authors: Makini Chisolm-Straker Jeremy Sze, Julia Einbond, James White & Hanni Stoklosa

Resource describes a study that "shows that homeless teens with a supportive adult in their life may have lower odds of being exploited through trafficking." Includes data collected from Nov. 2015- Feb. 2017 that support this claim, as well as an overview of other potential factors that may prevent sex trafficking among homeless youth. Download here. 

Authors: Jennifer S. Middlelton, Maurice N. Gattis, Laura M. Frey & Dominique Roe-Sepowitz 

Academic article that explores the unique vulnerabilities of at-risk youth experiencing homelessness to being sexuality exploited. Describes a convenience survey conducted in Kentucky and Indiana, that found that 41% of homeless youth were victims of sex trafficking. Includes findings that highlight the need for trauma-informed care for LGBTQ youth. Download here. 

Author: Annie Corbett

The study design uniquely positioned the voices of survivors as experts in relation to expanding knowledge about the exiting process and in offering recommendations for youth-at-risk, family members, and providers. Contributions include underscoring the importance of bearing witness to youths' stories as part of resiliency/ recovery and valuing the complexities of family relationships/dynamics in the exiting process. Implications for advocacy, research, and practice are discussed. Download here. 

Author: Jennifer Cole

This study examined how sex trafficking of male minors may differ or be similar to sex trafficking of female minors. Familial sex trafficking was one of the typical pathways into commercial sexual exploitation for minors. There were some differences in the pathways in sex trafficking by gender. There is a need for greater awareness, training, and resource-building for identifying and appropriately responding to male minors who are trafficked in commercial sex. Download here. 

State and National reports

roadmap for texas communities to address child sex trafficking

This roadmap was developed in close collaboration between Meadows Mental Health Policy Instititue and the The Office of the Texas Governors Child Sex Trafficking Team (CSTT), with input from a variety of Child Sex Trafficking (CST) experts and local service providers. The purpose of this document is to provide communities with information, research, emerging practices, models, lessons learned, and resources to end CST. Intended audiences include but are not limited to leaders in law enforcement; schools; community and religious organizations; health care professionals; judges; and state, municipal, and county agencies. Download here. 

The intersections of sex trafficking and child welfare bring significant social problems for children in foster care. This document by the US Department of Health and Human Serivices Administration for Children, Youth and Famlies  introduces literature that supports child welfare interventions in sex trafficking; outlines the needs of sex trafficking survivors; discusses national coordination efforts to address the problem; informs on screening and assessment tools; meeting the needs of trafficking survivors; and addresses capacity issues for housing for survivors. Download here.

Resources Identifying CSEY 

Commercial sexual exploitation identification tool (CSE-IT)

WestCoast's Commercial Sexual Exploitation-Identification Tool  is designed to improve early identification of children who are commercially sexually exploited. The CSE-IT is appropriate for use by any provider serving youth, including child welfare workers, probation officers, mental health clinicians, and first responders. This tool is prominently used by child welfare professionals throughout Texas and largely promoted by our state partners at Office of Texas Governor Greg Abbott, Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, and Texas Juvenile Justice Department

Download the screening tool through WestCoast's website. 

STate and National Laws  


Legislative policy for child sex trafficking has a short, although robust history in Texas. The first mention of child sex trafficking in Texas legislation was in 2003. Texas was 1 of 2 states to have a specific statute for CSEY. In 2003, being arrested for trafficking was a 2nd degree felony and a 1st degree felony for CSEY under age 14. The laws in the beginning were new, and therefore limited in scope.

The 80th Texas Legislative Session in 2007 ushered in a dynamic year for CSEY policies. House Bill 1121 paved the way for harsher laws for those benefitting from trafficking, specified elements necessary for conviction, and required certain agencies to post CSEY hotline number for public view. Advocacy efforts in 2007 elevated the age for being convicted with a 1st degree felony from 14 years to 18 years. By increasing the age of conviction, the legislature decriminalized young survivors of CSEY.

In the 81st Session in 2009, legislators mandated four hours of law enforcement training, but the training was not fully inclusive of trauma-informed practices. A historical state-wide task force, the Human Trafficking Prevention Task Force, was also created in 2009 to address CSEY in Texas. The task force had to undergo some CSEY training as a part of their membership. One of the goals of the task force was, and remains, to make policy recommendations to the legislature. As of 2018, 65 of the 70 recommendations made by the task force have been written into law. Also, during this session, the legislature changed the survivor age for compelling prostitution from 17 to 18 in HB 4009;  having knowledge of survivors age was no longer necessary for trafficking or compelling trafficking; and survivors received affirmative defense to prostitution charges.

A pivotal year for child sex trafficking legislation was 2011 during the 82nd Session. In this year, the legislature recategorized prostitution to decriminalize it for youth under 18 years old. In other words, kids under 17 could not be charged with prostitution according to Senate Bill 24. This decision followed a case study of a 13-year-old girl arrested for prostitution in Houston. After the case made it to the Texas Supreme Court, it was decided that a child under the age of 14 could not be charged for prostitution. The laws were moving away from penalizing survivors of sex trafficking to working with them on a path to recovery. Additionally, this session saw trafficking officially designated as a form of child abuse.  In the same year, the legislature separated labor and sex trafficking; created mandatory sex trafficking registration for traffickers; and increased compelling a minor to 2nd degree felony.

The 83rd Legislature enhanced regulations for CSEY in 2013 by passing Senate Bill 92 and House Bill 8. These bills added trafficking to Crime Victim Compensation fund and heightened punishment for soliciting a child for prostitution to a

2nd degree felony. Lastly, the Trafficked Persons Program offers deferred adjudication and dismissal in the juvenile justice system to protect CSEY survivors judicial records.

Based on recommendations from the task force, the 84th Legislature recommended that there be a designated office to meet the states needs for combatting CSEY. As a result, two laws were passed announcing that the governors office would oversee the efforts to address CSEY. Nearly $5.5 million in funding was earmarked to OOG for grants and operational expenses for efforts to dismantle CSEY in Texas. In addition to this effort, CSEY prevention efforts were increased through legislation to help improve identification and to support law enforcement. Law enforcement received funds for specialized personnel including prosecutors, investigators, and analysists.

Funding increased significantly during the most recent session from $5.5 million to $50 million. During the 85th Session, the legislature also passed bills that made it mandatory for front-line employees to report known cases of trafficking or any youth that fit risk factors for CSEY. Bills were also passed to increase responses to known trafficking, and to create harsher laws in prosecuting traffickers, include buyers of sex as prosecutable agents in CSEY (as they are people knowingly benefitting from trafficking), and increase services provided to CSEY survivors. In addition to mandatory reporting, every K-12 school in Texas must conduct mandatory trainings on child abuse that must discuss CSEY in the narrative. Not to duplicate efforts with the 2009 task force, the legislature created the Coordinating Council in 2019 to be a subset of the CSEY task force. The group charge is to create a 5-year strategic plan to work collaboratively with the task force in addressing CSEY.

National Laws 

the frederick douglas trafficking prevention and reauthorization act of 2018: 115th Congress

HR 2200: This bill includes authorizing the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to award grants to local educational agencies to establish programs to educate children on the dangers of human trafficking, implementing provisions to ensure that government spending is not used to support human trafficking, and authorizing funding for the National Human Trafficking Hotline. Learn more.