|U.S. Rep. Ted Poe, R-Beaumont, testifies at a hearing in|
Washington, D.C., on failures in foster care that lead to
Child welfare advocates and U.S. House members from both parties told the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Human Resources that foster care youths are targets for sex traffickers. They called for reforms in both the child welfare system and in how law enforcement handles the problem.
At the hearing Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Ted Poe, R-Humble, said he would introduce legislation to create a grant program to help child welfare agencies carry out rehabilitation programs for victims of sex trafficking, paid for in part by fines levied on people convicted of trafficking and other child exploitation crimes.
Poe, a former Harris County prosecutor and judge, lamented Houston’s status as “a hub for this despicable crime.”
“Many people think this is a myth, not a fact, and that it couldn’t happen here. But the problem is very real, especially amongst vulnerable youth in the child welfare system,” Poe said in testimony before the panel.
In Texas, more than 100,000 children between the ages of 7 and 17 go missing each year, according to a 2012 Texas legislative report on trafficking. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimates that 60 percent of children likely to be victims of sex trafficking have run away from foster care or group homes. (more...)