Responding to Child Victims of Human Trafficking - Massachusetts

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State Agency Responsibilities

Citation: Ann. Laws Ch. 119, §§ 39K; 51B; 51D

Notwithstanding any general or special law to the contrary, the Department of Children and Families, in collaboration with the Department of Mental Health and other appropriate State agencies, shall do the following:

  • Provide for the child welfare services needs of sexually exploited children, including, but not limited to, services for sexually exploited children residing in the Commonwealth at the time they are taken into custody by law enforcement or are identified by the Department of Children and Families as sexually exploited children, for the duration of any legal or administrative proceeding in which they are either the complaining witness, defendant, or the subject child
  • Provide appropriate services to a child reasonably believed to be a sexually exploited child in order to safeguard the child's welfare

If a child reasonably believed to be a sexually exploited child declines services or is unable or unwilling to participate in the services offered, the department or any person may file a care and protection petition. Sexually exploited children shall have access to an advocate. The advocate or a member of the multidisciplinary service team established under § 51D shall accompany the child to all court appearances and may serve as a liaison between the service providers and the court.

The services that shall be provided under this section shall be available to all sexually exploited children, whether they are accessed voluntarily, through a court proceeding, or through a referral that may be made by any person.

In determining the need for and capacity of the services that may be provided, the department shall recognize that sexually exploited youth have separate and distinct service needs according to gender, and appropriate services shall be made available while ensuring that an appropriate continuum of services exists.

Upon receipt of a report filed under § 51A, the department shall investigate the suspected child abuse or neglect; provide a written evaluation of the household of the child, including the parents and home environment; and make a written determination relative to the safety of and risk posed to the child and whether the suspected child abuse or neglect is substantiated. The department shall immediately report to the district attorney and local law enforcement authorities a sexually exploited child or a child who is otherwise a human trafficking victim, regardless of whether the child is living with a parent, guardian, or other caregiver.

The multidisciplinary service team shall review and monitor the service plan developed by the department. The team shall evaluate the effectiveness of the service plan in protecting the child from further abuse or neglect. The team shall make recommendations regarding amendments to the service plan, the advisability of prosecuting members of the family, and the possibility of utilizing diversionary alternatives. If the team finds that services required under such plan are not provided to the family, the case shall be referred to the commissioner.

Training Requirement

Citation: Ann. Laws Ch. 119, §§ 39K; 51D

The commissioner of the department may, subject to appropriation, contract with nongovernmental organizations or entities with experience working with sexually exploited children to train law enforcement officials likely to encounter sexually exploited children in the course of their law enforcement duties. The training shall include, but not be limited to, awareness and compliance with the provisions of this section; identification of, access to, and the provision of services for sexually exploited children; and any other services the department deems necessary.

For 51A reports specifically involving a sexually exploited child or a child who is otherwise a human trafficking victim, the multidisciplinary service team may consist of a team of professionals trained or otherwise experienced and qualified to assess the needs of sexually exploited children or children who are otherwise human trafficking victims, including, but not limited to, a police officer, an employee of the department, a representative of the appropriate district attorney, a social services provider, a medical professional, or a mental health professional.

Diversion From Prosecution

Citation: Ann. Laws Ch. 119, § 39L

Before or after arraignment in any juvenile delinquency or criminal proceeding against a sexually exploited child alleging that the child violated the prohibition against common night walking, common streetwalking, or prostitution, there shall be a presumption that a care and protection petition on behalf of such child, or a child-in-need-of-services petition under § 39E, shall be filed. Any person, including the juvenile, may file a care and protection petition on behalf of such child, including a petition for emergency commitment, or a parent or a police officer may file a child-in-need-of-services petition.

The court may appoint a guardian ad litem and shall hold a hearing on the petition. The court may allow a reasonable delay in the proceedings, including any arraignment, to consider the petition. The necessary findings of fact to support the court's decision shall be reduced to writing and made part of the court record.

Upon a motion by a party to the juvenile delinquency or criminal proceeding or by a guardian ad litem, unless the district attorney or the attorney general objects, and upon a finding that a child alleged to be a juvenile delinquent by reason of engaging in prostitution is a child in need of care and protection or a child in need of services, the court shall, if arraignment has not yet occurred, indefinitely stay arraignment and place the proceeding on file. If the court finds that the child has failed to substantially comply with the requirements of services or that the child's welfare or safety so requires, the court may remove the proceeding from file, arraign the child, and restore the delinquency or criminal complaint to the docket for trial or further proceedings in accordance with the regular course of such proceedings. If arraignment has already occurred, unless the district attorney or the attorney general objects, the court shall place the child on pretrial probation. If appropriate, the conditions of such probation shall include, but not be limited to, requiring the child to substantially comply with all lawful orders of the court, including orders relating to any care and protection or child-in-need-of-services proceeding, and the child also shall comply with the guidance and services of the department or any designated nongovernmental service provider. If the child fails to substantially comply with the conditions of probation or if the child's welfare or safety so requires, the court may in its discretion restore the delinquency or criminal complaint to the docket for trial or further proceedings in accordance with the regular course of such proceedings.

Services and Supports for Victims

Citation: Ann. Laws Ch. 119, §§ 21; 51D

An 'advocate' is an employee of a governmental or nongovernmental organization or entity providing appropriate services, or a similar employee of the department who has been trained to work and advocate for the needs of sexually exploited children.

'Appropriate services' include following:

  • The assessment, planning, and care provided by a State agency or nongovernmental organization or entity, through congregate care facilities, whether publicly or privately funded, emergency residential assessment services, family-based foster care, or the community
  • Food, clothing, medical care, counseling, and appropriate crisis intervention services

The agency, organization, or entity must have expertise in providing services to sexually exploited children or children who are otherwise human trafficking victims and provide such services in accordance with regulations of the department.

For 51B reports specifically involving a sexually exploited child, the purpose of the multidisciplinary service team shall be to determine whether the child has been sexually exploited or is otherwise a human trafficking victim and to recommend a plan for services to the department that may include, but shall not be limited to, shelter or placement, mental health and medical care needs, and other social services.

Support for Anti-Trafficking Efforts

Citation: Ann. Laws Ch. 10, § 66A

The Victims of Human Trafficking Trust Fund shall consist of proceeds of assets seized and forfeited pursuant to chapter 265, §§ 55 and 56, and fines and assessments collected pursuant to §§ 50, 51, and 54, together with any interest or earnings accrued on such monies through investment or deposit. The State treasurer shall be the custodian of the fund and shall transfer funds from the income and receipts of the fund to the Victim and Witness Assistance Board, as established by chapter 258B, § 4. The board shall award and administer grants from the fund, without further appropriation, to public, private nonprofit, or community-based programs in the Commonwealth to provide services to victims of human trafficking offenses.