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Bill to Protect Sexually Exploited Children Moves Forward

SB 738 to keep exploited children out of juvenile detention

SACRAMENTO – Today, the Senate Human Services Committee voted 6-0 in favor of Senate Bill (SB) 738, to protect commercially sexually exploited children from being wrongfully imprisoned.

Currently, when law enforcement encounters children forced into prostitution, they are arrested despite being under the age of consent. This often results in children being put onto juvenile probation or into juvenile detention.

“Children who are sexually exploited for money are victims” said author Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco/San Mateo) “They should not be treated like criminals.”

A review of 267 cases of commercially sexually exploited children in Alameda County found that, 41% of the children had been in foster care, while 67% had been in juvenile probation.

SB 738 would set up an interagency workgroup with the California Child Welfare Council and the California Health and Human Services Agency to develop a plan to serve and protect sexually exploited and trafficked minors.

SB 738 would also clarify that a child who has been sexually exploited falls under a court’s dependency system, and will provide a training course for foster parents and group home administrators on the best ways to care for a child who had been sexually exploited.

“SB 738 will help California create a victim-centered response to combating child sex trafficking by ensuring that children who are sexually exploited have access to appropriate care and services rather than continually being treated as criminals” said Kate Case, an organizing and advocacy fellow at International Justice Mission. “This bill also provides training to better serve and care for child trafficking survivors, as well as new protections to prevent the crime in the first place.

“No child who is trafficked chose their situation. They are trapped in it” said Yee. “We should give these young people an opportunity to heal and grow, not entrap them in the criminal justice system for the actions committed against them.”

The bill will next be heard by the Senate Judiciary Committee.