Foreign Policy Blogs

The Slaves Among Us: Children for Sale!


Human slavery, child trafficking, its all something that happens in a country far away, maybe someplace you've never even heard of, right? Well yes it does and the problem is huge, but it's also right here at home. Yes, child trafficking and slavery is a major issue in the United States, the Land of the Free!

The State Department estimates that between 600,000 and 800,000 people are victims of trafficking across the world every year and that up to half are children. Every year 14,500 to 17,500 according to the Department of Justice (DOJ), mostly woman and children are trafficked across US borders. The majority of those trafficked into the US come from East Asia and the Pacific (5,000 to 7,000 victims). And then South America, Eastern and Central Europe and Eurasia (3,500 to 5,500 victims), according to the DOJ. The majority of these children are used as forced into prostitution and held as sex slaves. Thousands and thousands of American children are forced into prostitution or become victims of child pornography. I've seen figures ranging from 100,000 to 300,000 children forced into the commercial sex industry in the US. Another 300,000 children in the US are at risk of being victims of trafficking every year. These numbers may scare and shock many of you, but the real scare is that these numbers are estimates, as the true number of victims is and may never be known. Some have suggested that 33% of child abuse cases are never reported and the true numbers of victims in all areas of human trafficking are near impossible to define.

The problem of trafficking children into and within the US is a major issue, and while in recent years some headway has been made by lawmakers, little impact has been felt. Only in the past few years have I noticed an increase in news articles and in-depth reporting on the issues, but to hear a story when you watch you local news is something I've yet to witness. And I know how most Americans are, I come from Middle America, where there are tons of you who have yet to subscribe to cable and I know the majority of people don't religiously watch the world news, CNN, BBC and read the Times, let alone constantly search for new information.

So what do we do and how do we do it? For the average Joe's and Jane's of the world, the most important thing to do is be aware and not just see it as a big number you have no control over. We can all make a difference, just talking to your friends next time you go for a drink and informing them of this detrimental situation is a good start. Write you local and state law makers, stay aware and don't let the issue seem so distantlook around there maybe a victim on your own street. There is no real city or state wide statistics on child trafficking, but I know, as do so many others that just around the corner a child is being victimized.

A short time ago I learned the story of on girl who was a victim of trafficking from a wealthy Virginia suburb. Just recently I've heard two stories on the news, one in which a mother tried to use a baby as a down payment on a car (CNN Story) and another where a couple tried to sell an infant for $3,000 and an SUV (NBC Story).

The story I just heard echoes the stories featured Teen Girls’ Stories of Sex Trafficking in the U.S., featured on ABC Primetime. In the story "The FBI estimates that well over 100,000 children and young women are trafficked in America today. They range in age from 9 to 19, with the average age being 11." The story illustrates how these child victims are not the children most presume they are they are everyday average kids from normal American families.

I've personally witnessed another person attempting to sell an infant, it was more than ten years ago now in Jamaica when I was on a spring brake trip. A guy actually offered to sell a baby to me and a girlfriend while we where shopping in the market, I was dumbfounded as was my friend. Suddenly our shock was broke when we heard the piecing screams of the child's mother, her boyfriend had taken the child while she was sleeping and looked to be trying to get some money for drugs and alcohol. It didn't surprise me a night or two later when a guy offered to trade my friend Mike the cane he had been admiring from me. Though it all seemed surreal and funny at the time as parting college kids, its no laughing matter, this is the everyday scenario for one too many children around the world. Jamaica is currently on the US State Departments Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP) as a Tier 2 Watch List Country, and is both a source country and active in internal trafficking, mainly for the purposes of sexual exploitation, but also labor.

Sites like have and are being used as portals to solicit and offer prostitution services. Read a CBS affiliate article Craigs List Responds to Prostitution Fears that ran in November 1995, much of the fuel for the fire came after a 4 year old child was being solicited on the site. However the site is self policing and relies on users to report any suspicious activity and we all know how much really gets reported this way.

The reality of it all is that human slavery has never gone away, we got rid of legal slavery and the ownership of human beings, but today's slavery is far worse and much more wide spread. Human value is very little and you can buy a child over the internet or off the side of a street for almost nothing at all.

Sign the “Increase Resources to Combat Child Sex Tourism” petition.


Stop Child Trafficking

Child Trafficking

Charity Network Inc. 

Polaris ProjectAnti Trafficking Alliance

Global Alliance Against Trafficking in Woman

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

‘Guidence for Identifying a Child Victim of Trafficking’ by USCCB



Cassandra Clifford

Cassandra Clifford is the Founder and Executive Director of Bridge to Freedom Foundation, which works to enhance and improve the services and opportunities available to survivors of modern slavery. She holds an M.A., International Relations from Dublin City University in Ireland, as well as a B.A., Marketing and A.S., Fashion Merchandise/Marketing from Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island.

Cassandra has previously worked in both the corporate and charity sector for various industries and causes, including; Child Trafficking, Learning Disabilities, Publishing, Marketing, Public Relations and Fashion. Currently Cassandra is conducting independent research on the use of rape as a weapon of war, as well as America’s Pimp Culture and its Impact on Modern Slavery. In addition to her many purists Cassandra is also working to develop a series of children’s books.

Cassandra currently resides in the Washington, D.C. metro area, where she also writes for the Examiner, as the DC Human Rights Examiner, and serves as an active leadership member of DC Stop Modern Slavery.

Areas of Focus:
Children's Rights; Human Rights; Conflict