Responding to Child Victims of Human Trafficking - West Virginia

Date: December 2018

State Agency Responsibilities

Citation: Ann. Code § 61-14-7; CPS Pol. Man. § 4.47

If a law enforcement officer encounters a child who reasonably appears to be a victim of human trafficking, the officer shall notify the Department of Health and Human Resources. If available, the department may notify the domestic violence program serving the area where the child is found.

In policy: It is vital to understand and remember that all children/youth who are trafficking victims are considered abused and neglected children by law, and they are entitled to receive services for the treatment of their victimization. Therefore, it is important to distinguish the difference in circumstances of how a child/youth becomes a victim of trafficking. The worker must take the necessary steps to ensure the situations, where parents are found not to be abusive or neglectful in their child/youth's trafficking victimization, are not entered as maltreaters in the abuse and neglect referral entered in the Family and Children's Tracking System (FACTS), or while completing the assessment. The child/youth may be released to the nonabusive parent.

In cases where the parents are not the maltreater, the individual(s) accused or charged with trafficking the victim(s) is entered in FACTS as the maltreater. If the parents are found to be the traffickers, they will be entered as the alleged maltreater in FACTS and the referral will be assigned and assessed as an abuse and neglect referral. Law enforcement must be notified within 24 hours of receiving any human trafficking referral.

Training Requirement

Citation: Ann. Code § 30-29-3

The Law Enforcement Professional Standards Subcommittee is the subcommittee of the Governor's Committee on Crime, Delinquency, and Correction created by § 30-29-2. The subcommittee shall, among other responsibilities, do the following:

  • Establish standards governing the establishment and operation of the law enforcement training academies, including regional locations throughout the State, in order to provide access to each law enforcement agency in the State in accordance with available funds
  • Develop and promulgate rules for State, county, and municipal law enforcement officers, law enforcement agencies, and communications and emergency operations centers that dispatch law enforcement officers with regard to the identification, investigation, reporting, and prosecution of suspected child abuse and neglect

The rules and procedures related to handling cases of suspected child abuse and neglect must be consistent with the priority criteria prescribed by generally applicable department procedures.

In addition to the duties authorized and established by this section, the subcommittee may do both of the following:

  • Establish training to effectively investigate human trafficking offenses as defined in § 61-2-1, et seq., for entry-level training curricula and for law enforcement officers who have not received such training as certified by the committee
  • Establish procedures for the implementation of a course in investigation of human trafficking offenses

The course may include methods of identifying and investigating human trafficking and methods for assisting trafficking victims.

Diversion From Prosecution

Citation: Ann. Code § 61-14-8

In a prosecution or a juvenile prosecution for an offense of prostitution in violation of § 61-8-5(b), a minor shall not be held criminally liable if the court determines that the minor is a victim of an offense under this article. Subject to proof, a minor so charged shall be presumed to be a victim under the provisions of this article.

This section does not apply in a prosecution or a juvenile proceeding for any of the other offenses listed in § 61-8-5(b), including specifically soliciting, inducing, enticing, or procuring another to commit an act or offense of prostitution, unless it is determined by the court that the minor was coerced into the criminal behavior.

A minor who is not subject to criminal liability or adjudication as a juvenile delinquent is presumed to be an abused child, as defined in § 49-1-201, and may be eligible for services under chapter 49, including, but not limited to, appropriate child welfare services.

Services and Supports for Victims

Citation: CPS Pol. Man. § 4.47

Identifying victims and assessing the needs of human trafficking victims are vital to effective services and treatment. Their immediate needs should be assessed first. Immediate needs would include their safety, any medical treatment they may need for physical or sexual trauma, as well as food and shelter. Other needs of trafficking victims may include, but are not limited to, mental health needs, legal services, education services, and possibly life skills for teens.

The ongoing needs of trafficking victims are just as important as their immediate needs. Many victims have deeply rooted psychological trauma that will require months, if not years of treatment and management.

It may be necessary for the child/youth trafficking victims to be removed from their home due to their parent's involvement in trafficking the child. It is imperative to assess the child/youth's needs and begin appropriate services as quickly as possible.

Support for Anti-Trafficking Efforts

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