Intersection Between Mental Health, Foster Care, and Human Trafficking

National Mental Health Awareness Month and National Foster Care Month is an opportunity to learn more and spread awareness about how mental health and foster care contribute to human trafficking and how survivors of human trafficking are impacted.

We invite you to take this opportunity to learn more and educate others about the ways in which mental health, foster care, and human trafficking intersect.

Foster Care

In a 2018 Polaris’s survivor survey, 64% of survivor respondents reported being homeless or experiencing unstable housing at the time they were recruited into their trafficking situation1.

Nearly 15% of these victims were recruited directly from shelter programs or group homes1.

The National Foster Youth Institute recently estimated that 60% of child sex trafficking victims have been within foster care2.

In 2019 16% of the children who ran from the care of social services and were reported missing to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Youth (NCMEC) were likely victims of human sex trafficking3

 80% of girls involved in human trafficking had been in the child welfare system in the past4

Mental Health

Between 2015 to 2017, the National Human Trafficking Hotline documented 2,116 potential victims that had a pre-existing health concern or disability immediately prior to their trafficking situation5.

Traffickers may target individuals with disabilities because of the social discrimination and prejudice they face.5

Recruitment from drug rehabilitation centers and behavioral and mental health centers have been documented in cases from the National Human Trafficking Hotline.5

Survivors of labor and sex trafficking experience high rates of depression, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), self-harm, and attempted suicide.6

US survivors of sex trafficking found that 84.3 percent used substances during their trafficking exploitation.6

Study found that symptoms of depression, anxiety and PTSD were reported by 78% of women and 40% of men survivors.7

Last modified: May 2, 2022