A bill to expand foster parent caregiver training to include information on providing care and supervision to children who have been victims of child labor trafficking was passed Tuesday in the Senate Human Services Committee.
Senate Bill 584, authored by Senator Brian Jones, is largely a correction bill, adding on a missed foster parent requirement. Specifically, SB 584 adds to Assembly Bill 865, a 2019 passed bill that requires counties to include information on providing care and supervision to children who have been commercially sexually exploited as part of the mandatory preapproval caregiver training. AB 865 also mandates that foster families who look over children ages 10 and up to receive such training within a year of being approved.
However, while extensive, AB 865 failed to provide any training on if a foster family receives a child who is a child labor trafficking victim. Senator Jones wrote SB 584 to bridge this gap, noting that foster children are more vulnerable to be targeted as possible child labor trafficking victims.
“Foster kids are particularly vulnerable to being targeted by criminals for child labor trafficking,” said Senator Jones on Wednesday in a statement. “This measure will require that the family training already provided to foster parents also includes critical information to protect children who have been victims of child labor trafficking or are more likely to become targets of child labor trafficking. Being a foster kid is challenging enough and we need to help prevent the threat of them being forced into child labor trafficking.”
Former trafficking victims gave testimony on Tuesday, adding personal stories as additional evidence as why SB 584 needed to be passed.
“Passing this bill will further help victims of labor trafficking be seen and be heard,” former child labor trafficking victim Jamelia Hinds. “Let’s get these children back to being kids.”
Trafficking experts have said the bill, while only covering a small part of the illegal trafficking world, could make all the difference for victims.
“Anyone who has been a victim of this world, or who has studied it extensively, knows how much traffickers go after foster children,” explained Gil Whaley, a child trafficking researcher who focuses on child trafficking incidents in both North and South America. “In the U.S., foster children are more emotionally vulnerable, can be led out easier due to not having a stable home, and in general are just easier targets.
“This bill is in California, so for victims the blame ultimately runs up the flagpole to the state. They create the laws and training for foster parents, and that really is where the buck stops. They’re wards of the state, so if there is a missing piece in the law, it’s on the state. It’s on the people.
“That’s why you’re seeing so much support for this. It only helps protect these kids. For any country or state, any extra training that helps foster parents identify this sort of thing and helps protect kids is a necessity.”
SB 584 was passed unanimously on Tuesday 5-0 in the Human Services Committee, with members of both parties expressing their support for the bill.
The bill is due to be heard in front of the Senate Appropriations Committee in the coming weeks.