GM 14-087

Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act Signed into Law

On September 29, 2014, President Obama signed HR 4980, the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act (Act) as Public Law 113-183. The Act focuses on protecting foster youth from sex trafficking, providing services to those who are victimized, and instituting new requirements designed to strengthen the opportunities available to foster youth. These provisions apply to state- and tribally- administered Title IV-E (Foster Care and Adoption Assistance) programs and will impact those tribes/tribal organizations (98 at last count) which have Title IV-E agreements with a state. The Act also extends the Adoption Incentive and the Family Connection grants programs and broadens opportunities for tribal child support enforcement programs. The final bill, developed by the Senate Finance and the House Ways and Means Committees, had broad bi-partisan support.

In this Memorandum we focus on Title I of the Act.

Foster youth and those in group homes, having already been traumatized by abuse or neglect and removed from their homes, are especially vulnerable to human trafficking. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reports that 67 percent of likely child trafficking victims were either in foster care or a group home setting when they ran away. The Justice Department reports a 900 percent increase in the number of child victims of prostitution from 2004 through 2008.

On August 29, 2014, Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Chairman Tester (D-MT) held a listening session in Montana on “the growing threat of human trafficking in Indian Country” with witnesses focusing on the conditions of the Bakken oil region creating a particular problem regarding sex trafficking. Witnesses also described the lack of resources to investigate and detain offenders and to provide services to victims of sex trafficking.

Protecting Children and Youth at Risk of Sex Trafficking. Title I of the Act amends Title IV-E of the Social Security Act (Foster Care and Adoption Assistance) to provide a number of new requirements for states and tribes administering the IV-E Program including:

• Title IV-E agencies must develop within one year policies and procedures to identify, document, and design appropriate services for youth being served by a IV-E program who are at risk of, or a victim of, sex trafficking. At the option of the IV-E agency the new policies/procedures may apply to youth who were never in foster care. Title IV-E agencies must demonstrate within two years that they are implementing these policies.

• Title IV-E agencies must report to law enforcement within 24 hours incidences of youth identified as being sex trafficking victims. In addition, IV-E agencies must develop protocols to immediately report missing or abducted children to law enforcement for inclusion in the National Crime Information Center database. These requirements must be in effect within two years of enactment.

• Title IV-E agencies must develop procedures to locate youth missing from foster care, determine the factors that led to them running away and determine what experiences they had during that time, including if the child is a victim of sex trafficking. This must be in place within one year of enactment.

• The Department of Health and Human Services is to report annually to Congress the number of youth reported by the IV-E agencies as being victims of sex trafficking. The first report to Congress must be completed within four years of enactment.

• Title IV-E agencies are to adopt a “reasonable and prudent parenting standard.” This is an effort to enable foster youth to lead more normal lives and not be so hemmed in by caution on the part of their caregivers who may be reluctant to allow them to participate in extracurricular and social activities. In addition, child care institutions that have a contract with the IV-E agency must have an on-site official authorized to apply this standard. These provisions are to be in effect within one year of enactment, although there is some provision for an extension of time.

• In an effort to move youth into adoption, guardianship or family reunification rather than remaining in long-term foster care, the Act limits a determination being made that the youth will be in long-term foster care (termed “Another Planned Permanent Living Arrangement or APPLA) if that youth is under age 16. The experience in Indian Country is that there are a large number of youth who need long term foster care so the Act provides that this provision will not apply to children in foster care under the responsibility of an Indian tribe/tribal organization/tribal consortia (either directly or under the supervision of a state) for three years. This delay is a compromise provision and may provide time to work out another solution.

• In order to empower foster youth in planning for their future, youth age 14 and older are to be allowed to develop their own case plan and to choose an adult to be part of that effort. Foster youth are to receive a list of their rights while in foster care regarding education, health care, visitation and other matters.
• Title IV-E agencies are to ensure that foster youth age 18 or older have a birth certificate, Social Security card, health insurance information, medical records, and a driver’s license or state identification card. This is to be in effect within one year of enactment.

Child Support Enforcement. Title III of the Act concerns international child support recovery, but also provides authority for Indian tribes operating the Title IV-D Child Support Enforcement Program to conduct experimental, pilot or demonstration projects to promote the enforcement of child support payments. It also allows tribes and tribal organizations (as defined in the Indian Self-Determination Act) access to the Federal Parent Locator Service to locate the income of non-custodial parents, a change for which tribes have advocated for years. Approximately 60 tribes/tribal organizations currently administer a Title IV-D Child Support Enforcement program.

We attach guidance from the Administration for Children and Families issued on October 23, 2014, to state, tribal and territorial agencies administering the Title IV-E program.

Please let us know if we may provide additional information regarding the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act.