Responding to Child Victims of Human Trafficking - Rhode Island

Date: December 2018

State Agency Responsibilities

Citation: Proc. Man. # 100.0260

The Department of Children, Youth and Families, in partnership with the community, investigates, identifies, and supports all children under age 18, or up to age 21 if involved with the department, who are victims of sex trafficking or at risk of being a victim of sex trafficking. The department collaborates with local, State, and Federal law enforcement agencies; Day One; the Aubin Center at Hasbro Children's Hospital; the Attorney General's Office; and other social services organizations to ensure that a youth that has been identified as a victim of sex trafficking receives the appropriate treatment and support.

When a call comes in to the child protective services (CPS) hotline alleging sex trafficking of a child, the case is assigned to a child protective investigator (CPI), and a CPS investigation is initiated in accordance with department operating procedures. The CPI coordinates with the child's caregiver to have the child examined at the Aubin Center. If the case is already active with the department, the CPI coordinates with the assigned staff and the child's caregiver to have the child examined at the Aubin Center. The CPI and the department caseworker, if the case is already open, participate in all meetings and service planning as part of the multidisciplinary team (MDT).

The human trafficking response coordinator (HTPC) notifies the department's special investigations unit (SIU) by email. The SIU does the following:

  • Acts as a liaison within the department for all commercial sexual exploitation of a child (CSEC) and ensures all relevant department administrators are informed of any incidents
  • Coordinates with law enforcement and the MDT
  • Assists in gathering law enforcement information and shares information with the assigned CPI, primary service worker, and supervisor
  • Provides the primary service worker with a copy of the CSEC screening tool results
  • Provides support to the victim and his or her family
  • Maintains and updates records of all children and youth who are at high-risk of being sex trafficked or are confirmed victims
  • Notifies the assigned staff when a youth is deemed high risk or is a confirmed victim
  • Provides notification to the administration of any suspected trafficking activities taking place in department placements

The HTRC meets with the child within 48 hours to screen and categorize the child using the CSEC screening tool to determine if the child is at risk, high risk, or a confirmed victim. The MDT coordinator convenes an MDT conference within 48 hours of the reported incident.

When a child/youth is located after being reported as missing or running away, the SIU assesses the child/youth to determine whether he or she may be a sex trafficking victim, involved in CSEC, or at high risk of becoming a victim. In all instances after the child/youth is located, he or she is assessed by the SIU as soon as possible, but no later than 5 business days, to determine the following:

  • The primary factors that contributed to the child/youth's running away or going missing
  • The child's experiences while missing, including screening the child to determine if the child is a possible sex trafficking victim

The department considers these factors in identifying current and subsequent placements for the child.

Training Requirement

This issue is not addressed in the statutes and regulations reviewed.

Diversion From Prosecution

Citation: Gen. Laws § 11-67.1-15

An individual is not criminally liable or subject to a delinquency proceeding in the family court for prostitution or solicitation to commit a sexual act if the individual was a minor at the time of the offense and committed the offense as a direct result of being a victim of trafficking.

An individual who has engaged in commercial sexual activity is not criminally liable or subject to a delinquency proceeding in the family court for prostitution or solicitation to commit a sexual act if the individual was a minor at the time of the offense.

A minor who under this section is not subject to criminal liability or a delinquency proceeding in family court is presumed to be an abused and/or neglected child as defined in § 40-11-2.

Services and Supports for Victims

Citation: Gen. Laws §§ 11-67.1-21; 40-11-18; Proc. Man. # 100.0260

A minor who has engaged in commercial sexual activity is eligible for a benefit or service available through the State in any plan established by the council on human trafficking, regardless of immigration status.

As soon as practicable after a first encounter with an individual who reasonably appears to any State or local agency to be a victim or a minor who has engaged in commercial sexual activity, the agency shall notify the Department of the Attorney General, a State or local law enforcement agency, or the Department of Health that the individual may be eligible for a benefit or service pursuant to this chapter.

Children's advocacy centers (CACs) shall provide the following services to children in Rhode Island:

  • Operation of a child-appropriate or child-friendly facility that provides a comfortable, private setting that is both physically and psychologically safe for clients
  • Participation in a multidisciplinary team for response to child abuse allegations
  • Promotion of policies, practices, and procedures that are culturally competent and diverse

In addition, the CAC will do the following:

  • Conduct forensic interviews in a manner that is of a neutral, fact-finding nature and coordinated to avoid duplicative interviewing
  • Provide specialized medical evaluation and treatment to clients as part of the team response, either at the CAC or through coordination and referral with other specialized medical providers
  • Offer therapeutic intervention through specialized mental health services made available as part of the team response, either at the CAC or through coordination and referral with other appropriate treatment providers
  • Offer victim support and advocacy as part of the team response, either at the CAC or through coordination with other providers, throughout the investigation and subsequent legal proceedings
  • Conduct team discussions and provide information sharing regarding the investigation, case status, and services needed by the child and family
  • Develop and implement a system for monitoring case progress and tracking case outcomes for team components

In policy: Department staff, in consultation with community partners, work with youth who are confirmed sex trafficked victims to develop an individualized plan. This plan includes the following:

  • Safe and suitable placement options
  • A safety plan to keep youth safe from perpetrators in treatment and community settings
  • Access to trauma-informed mental health services, physical health services, and legal services
  • Rehabilitative services, including counseling, education, and job training

Support for Anti-Trafficking Efforts

Citation: Gen. Stat. § 11-67.1-19

The Council on Human Trafficking is created in the executive branch. The governor shall appoint the chair and members of the council. Members must include representatives of the following:

  • Department of the Attorney General; the Department of Health; the Department of Children, Youth And Families; the Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals; and law enforcement that have contact with victims or perpetrators
  • Nongovernmental organizations that represent, advocate for, or provide services to victims
  • Other organizations and individuals, including victims whose expertise would benefit the council

The council created under this section shall meet on a regular basis and do the following:

  • Develop a coordinated and comprehensive plan to provide victims with services
  • Collect and evaluate data on human trafficking in this State and submit an annual report to the governor and legislature
  • Promote public awareness about human trafficking, victim remedies and services, and trafficking prevention
  • Create a public awareness sign that contains the State and National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline information
  • Coordinate training on human trafficking prevention and victim services for State and local employees who may have recurring contact with victims or perpetrators
  • Conduct other appropriate activities