Human Trafficking Victims and Their Children: Assessing Needs, Vulnerabilities, Strengths, and Survivorship




Busch-Armendariz, Noël
Nsonwu, Maura B.
Cook Heffron, Laurie

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Journal of Applied Research on Children


Given the increased awareness and attention to human trafficking, including the establishment of federal laws and policies, federally funded task forces that provide law enforcement responses, and specialized victim services, it is important to assess the impact of these procedures and services on survivors/victims of international human trafficking and their immigrant children. By federal definition, certified victims of international human trafficking are eligible for all services provided to refugees in this country, including reunification with their minor children. This research is based on a qualitative study conducted in Austin and Houston, Texas with human trafficking victims/survivors. The project’s goal was to gain an understanding of the needs of human trafficking survivors after their rescue, their overall integration into American life, and the subsequent needs of their immigrant children after reunification. The project objectives examined the factors that either promote or hinder self-sufficiency, the determination of social service needs, and policy and practice recommendations to strengthen survivors, their children and their families living both locally and abroad. For this project, nine (n = 9) in-depth interviews were conducted with adult foreign-born victims of human trafficking. Researchers gathered data using a semi-structured questionnaire that queried about factors that promote or hinder victims’ services and needs. Interviews were conducted in participants’ homes using bilingual research staff and/or trained interpreters, were digitally-recorded, and subsequently transcribed. Participation in this study was completely voluntary. Specific steps were taken to ensure that the participants’ identities were protected. Open coding of data was utilized and the data were subsequently organized or grouped into properties and later developed into contextual themes around the research questions. The findings are grounded with the use of direct quotes from participants. As a result of progressive U.S. policy, many victims of human trafficking are being reunited with their minor children. Immigrant children are one of the largest and fastest growing populations in the U.S. and for a variety of reasons are vulnerable to exploitation. Research also indicates that victims of trafficking are identified by traffickers because of their perceived “vulnerabilities” or lack of opportunities (Clark, 2003). Therefore, it is important that practices and policies are developed to address the unique needs of these families with an eye toward positive outcomes for parent and child safety and well-being. Social service providers are provided a toolkit that may be utilized before and during the reunification period.


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Busch-Armendariz, N. B., Nsonwu, M., & Heffron, L. C. (2011). Human trafficking victims and their children: Assessing needs and vulnerabilities and strengths and survivorship. The Journal of Applied Research on Children, 2(1), 1–19.