The current study examines family-involved sex trafficking of minors and the related practices of the professionals who work with them.
Data are drawn from a larger study involving inductive analysis of 35 in-depth interviews with social service and justice system professionals who worked with minor sex trafficking survivors in two study sites in a metropolitan Midwestern region. Data analysis of the professionally transcribed interviews involved a multi-phase co-coding process conducted by members of the research team to identify key themes and subthemes. Key themes explored in the current study are types of family involvement in sex trafficking of minors and practices practitioners reported as beneficial or challenging in working with survivors and their family members.
Results showed family involved sex trafficking manifested as direct trafficking of child family members, as well as complicity with trafficking for financial benefit, allowing access of sex work clients to children, and modeling commercial sex. Practice dynamics centered on reunification and safety, and mandated reporting.
The current study highlights promising practices for working with minors whose family members were involved in their sex trafficking situation. Promising micro level practices include disclosure of mandated reporter status, providing survivor-centered practice, training for foster families, emphasizing healthy relationships, engaging in motivational interviewing, safety planning, family and individual therapy, and resource referrals for family members. Macro level practice emphasizing structural changes, such as access to safe and affordable housing, SUD related care, and poverty alleviation programs to address vulnerabilities related to complicity are also recommended.