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NCMEC Launches New Child Sex Trafficking Training for Child Welfare


"You shouldn't be approaching it as, ‘Well, how do we stop youth from running?’ We should be approaching it from 'Why is there running?’ you know, what's the source of the run?"

-Judge Robert Lung, Survivor


Running away is a behavior, not the identity of a youth. They are not “runners” or “frequent fliers;” they are children who are likely running from something unsafe or running to something unsafe.  

In 2022, one in six of the children reported missing to NCMEC who ran away were likely victims of child sex trafficking. Running away is the leading endangerment NCMEC sees for children who are targeted by sex traffickers. Additionally, survivors have shared that running away was often an attempt to keep themselves safe or even a trauma response. Think about it. When a youth feels like being homeless or the street is a safer place for them to be, something bigger is often going on.

Children missing from care comprised the largest category of missing child reports received by NCMEC. We are so grateful to each child welfare worker who has reported a missing child to us. NCMEC stands ready to weave a stronger safety net around these incredibly vulnerable youth who have already experienced unthinkable trauma. The response to locate children missing from care must be urgent.  

At NCMEC, we are committed to increasing our support to child welfare. We are incredibly excited to announce the launch of our learning plan: “Child Sex Trafficking: Understanding Running Behavior and Trauma-Informed Youth Engagement.” This training provides child welfare workers with concrete examples of engaging with youth and was created in partnership with lived experience experts and leaders in the child welfare. This program is approved by the National Association of Social Workers for one continuing education contact hour. 

In 2020, NCMEC created the Child Sex Trafficking Recovery Services team, dedicated to supporting child welfare professionals working with youth missing from care. Teaming up to support child welfare workers and locate children missing from care is one of NCMEC’s top goals. Also, how child welfare workers prepare and plan to receive that child when they return can be life-changing for that youth and the key to reducing running behavior.  

Genuine statements of care and concern when children are recovered, such as “I’m so glad to see you.  Are you ok?” and “What do you need? Are you hungry?” can help alleviate the child’s concerns and start to build trust. Another simple step is to avoid blaming questions, like “Why did you run away?” and instead asking questions like “What made you feel like you couldn’t stay?” This approach can help youth feel more open to sharing about the underlying push and pull factors driving their thought process and behavior.   

To take the full training, “Child Sex Trafficking: Understanding Running Behavior and Trauma-Informed Youth Engagement,” simply register for a free NCMEC Connect account and gain access to this training and many others!

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