Comprehensive Screening Tools

Individuals and providers serving youth, including child welfare workers, probation officers, mental health clinicians and first responders depend on screening and assessment tools for early identification in order to provide effective support for children and youth at risk of, or experiencing trafficking and to ensure these children and youth are able to gain access to resources for recovery and stabilization.

While a few validated screening tools exist to identify children who have experienced both sex and labor trafficking, screening has yet to be widely implemented in child welfare settings throughout the nation. Emerging research suggests significant under reporting of labor trafficking within varied legal industries such as agriculture, hospitality, traveling sales crews or construction and through illicit activities such forced theft, drug or arms sales, drug cultivation or smuggling.
Click below to view the Polaris Typology of Modern Slavery to learn more about high-risk industries.

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To increase identification and access to services, county child welfare agencies and multi-disciplinary partners may consider modifying an existing CSEC tool or incorporate a secondary tool which includes questions or indicators to screen for child labor trafficking and its intersection with commercial sexual exploitation.

Agencies should carefully consider the impacts of screening and implement protocols to collaborate with advocacy organizations with expertise, to minimize unintended consequences. Safety planning and comprehensive services should be offered that are individualized to each child or youth’s specific needs.
Click below to view Specialized Service Provider Map.

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Validated Screening Tools

In 2019 WestCoast Children’s Clinic the developers of the widely used commercial sexual exploitation – identification tool (cse-it) conducted research on existing tools that address child labor trafficking and developed a matrix to assess respective strengths on a variety of measures.

Two tools stood out for their particular strengths

The Covenant House Human Trafficking Interview Assessment Measure (HTIAM-14) is validated, uses language that is nonjudgmental and not invasive. However, it requires self-disclosure, which misses opportunities to identify youth, especially younger youth. Agencies working with older youth who are seeking help may find this tool helpful.

The VERA Trafficking Victim Identification Tool (TVIT) is validated, applicable across a range of trafficking situations, and explicitly addresses transnational trafficking in persons. While too long to be practical for screening, it may be suited for in-depth investigation.

Additional Screening Tools

The Human Trafficking Screening Tool, successfully used in child welfare settings in Florida, is currently in the process of validation. It assesses both labor and sex trafficking.

Additionally there are tools or assessments used by community based organizations, which while not validated, could be helpful particularly when a coordinated response is established between a child welfare agency and a specific CBO upon identification of red flags.

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Screening Questions That Indicate Child Labor Trafficking

  1. Has the youth or someone else besides the youth expressed that they work and someone else receives money for their work?
  2. Has the youth or someone else beside the youth expressed that they have had to commit an illegal act and someone else received the money for this act?

Performing work without pay or not paid what has been promised

Can’t move freely, not allowed to come and go at will

Living with or accompanied by people who are not their parents or guardians or whom their relationship is unclear

Someone else speaks for them

Not permitted to use phone or other communications, especially if restricted from contacting family

Someone may control their transportation

Unsure of day, month or year as developmentally appropriate

Frequent moves or uncertainty of address

Unusual living/work space (i.e. tinted windows, security cameras, barbed wire, sleeping/living at worksite)

Wears the same clothes daily, or routinely wears clothes not in season

Not in control of personal identification or passport

Someone else controls their money or collects their earnings from work

Explanation of work situation doesn’t make sense; seems scripted

Seems afraid to answer questions

Fearful of employer (may be formal employer or “family member or boyfriend/girlfriend, etc.”)

Long work hours; exhausted; hungry

Missing school because has to “work”

Owes a debt to employer (may be family member)

Shows other signs of abuse or neglect

Arrested or criminal history for crimes such as stealing or drug sales; money goes to third party

Real Life Examples of Labor Trafficking*

*Names have been changed

Mason answers an ad for easy money and travels in a van across the U.S. selling magazines door to door for an exploitative crew leader.

Fatima enters the U.S. on a student visa and is told she is now expected to be the family live-in “housekeeper and nanny.”

Jessica gets kicked out of her house after revealing she is gay. She finds work as a nanny and faces threats from her employer who denies her pay.

Angel doesn’t make her quota for sex for the day and is forced to sell drugs on the side.

Juan works long hours trimming on an isolated marijuana farm to pay off an increasing debt, which includes his travel to the job site, use of tools, housing and food. His employer threatens to call ICE on him if he leaves.

Camila is forced to carry drugs over the Tijuana border for her “boyfriend”; upon entering the US, she is also sold for sex.

Jamon’s family is tricked into believing he will have a better life in America by a fraudulent adoption agency.