DENVER (CBS4) – State lawmakers say too many children in the child welfare system are disappearing for weeks at a time without anyone looking for them. They also say most of the children rescued from sex trafficking are in the foster system.
Right now lawmakers say there are 57 children missing from Colorado’s child welfare system. Nobody knows where they are and too often there is little effort to find them, according to lawmakers. They say Colorado’s most vulnerable children deserve better.
A child sex trafficking sting during the National Western Stock Show last week was just the latest example of what state lawmakers call a disturbing trend — a foster care to prostitution pipeline.
Sixty percent of children rescued from sex trafficking have at one time have been in the custody of a welfare agency or foster home, according to lawmakers.
“Just having that lack of steady parenting and being exposed to abuse, neglect (and) domestic violence; they already have, usually, very low social boundaries. They can be more trusting to strangers because they’ve had to be able to survive and go to different foster homes,” Becky Zal-Sanchez with the National Association of Social Workers said.
Zal-Sanchez says many of the children have run away so often case workers write them off. They can go missing for weeks without anyone looking.
Reps. Dan Nordberg and Beth McCann want that to end. They’re carrying a bill that would require welfare agencies and foster parents to notify police, the FBI and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children within 24 hours of a child disappearing.
“What this bill says is, ‘Look, these lives matter.’ And when you go missing the state of Colorado is going to do everything in its power to enable local, state and federal law enforcement to find you,” said Nordberg, R-Colorado Springs.
“Often these kids are already emotionally traumatized,” said McCann, D-Denver. “So when they leave that environment they find support in this underworld — this dark underworld. It’s a very complicated and sad situation.”
Last year the FBI and local police in Colorado rescued nearly 100 children from sex trafficking — a 54 percent increase over the previous year.
With bipartisan support the bill easily passed the House on Tuesday.