Annual Report on the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in Florida, 2023
Report 23-08, June 2023
- In 2022, 354 youth were verified as victims of commercial sexual exploitation (CSE) in Florida. This number has decreased from 2021, when 379 youth were verified. Consistent with prior OPPAGA reports, dependent youth have a higher rate of prior maltreatments and re-victimization than community youth. A best practice to identify victims of CSE is use of a validated screening tool. The Department of Children and Families (DCF) has been unable to validate its Human Trafficking Screening Tool. DCF has made revisions to its screening tool and plans to undergo another validation study, its third attempt, by the Florida Institute for Child Welfare.
- Another best practice is the use of a placement tool. OPPAGA staff interviewed representatives of seven community-based care lead agencies, most of whom reported that DCF’s placement tool is helpful in determining appropriate settings for youth; however, staff also identified barriers to placing youth in recommended settings. While statute requires DCF to collect data associated with the placement tool, the department was unable to provide OPPAGA with individual-level data from the tool. Lead agency representatives reported experiencing an increased need for and decreased availability of specialized settings, particularly for high-need youth; challenges remain in placing youth with existing providers.
- While the number of licensed CSE specialized beds increased slightly over the past year, the availability of beds is far below pre-2020 levels, and there are still no residential settings licensed as Tier 1 safe houses. The number of CSE youth assessed for placement continues to exceed the number of specialized beds. The percentage of time spent in nearly all setting types decreased in 2022, while the percentage of time spent in at-risk homes increased sharply. Re-victimized youth spent more time missing from care and in Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) facilities than newly verified youth; notable shifts occurred among re-victimized youth’s placements since 2021.
- Lead agencies’ engagement with current and prospective CSE providers varies; most reported difficulty in finding providers willing to serve this population. Few lead agencies have safe houses in the agencies’ catchment areas and must place youth in safe houses with which the agencies do not contract. The agencies lack a uniform process for monitoring the quality of CSE providers and instead assess quality through a variety of methods, such as staffing meetings, field visits, and exit interviews.
- As seen in prior OPPAGA reports, CSE youth did not make significant progress in a variety of outcome measures in the years following their initial CSE verification. CSE youth continued to have high rates of involvement with DCF and DJJ in the years following their verification; while the majority of CSE youth were enrolled in school, they continued to experience poor educational outcomes, including low attendance and graduation rates. Youth with Baker Act examinations continued to fare worse in nearly all outcome areas compared to youth without such examinations.
- OPPAGA recommends that DCF improve data collection related to the human trafficking placement tool; work with lead agencies to develop a consistent process for monitoring the quality of safe house providers; and work with lead agencies and existing CSE providers to recruit providers interested in operating Tier 1 safe houses.
Annual Report on the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in Florida, 2022
Report 22-05 July 2022
Annual Report on the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in Florida, 2021
Report 21-06 July 2021
Annual Report on the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in Florida, 2020
Report 20-05 July 2020
Placement Options for CSE Victims Have Increased; CSE-Specific Services Remain Limited
Report 19-05 July 2019
commercial sexual exploitation, human trafficking, safe house, abuse hotline, arrests, revictimization, placement, runaway, foster care, residential treatment, mental health, substance abuse