Safe Harbor: State Efforts to Combat Child Trafficking


Child trafficking crimes—actions that facilitate the commercial sexual exploitation or forced labor of youth— present difficult criminal justice and human services challenges for government officials. State legislators, through the deliberation and enactment of policy, are at the forefront of the current intergovernmental effort to identify and implement effective procedures to combat child traffickers and pursue justice for survivors.

A recent trend in state child trafficking policy focuses on treating trafficked youth as survivors of trauma who should be provided rehabilitative services rather than as perpetrators of crimes they were forced to commit. Policies created for this purpose are a subset of child trafficking measures often referred to as safe harbor laws.

This report identifies six themes in state safe harbor laws and provides policy alternatives within each theme. The six themes are:

  1. Collaboration and coordination of state entities and resources.
  2. Decriminalization and/or diversion for actions of trafficked youth.
  3. Funds for anti-trafficking efforts and survivor services.
  4. Provision of services for youth survivors.
  5. Increased penalties for traffickers of children.
  6. Training to recognize and respond to trafficking crimes and its victims


PDF | Download a Full Copy of the Report

Additional Resources

This report and webpage were supported by grant number 2015-VF-GX-K021, awarded by the Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this product are those of the contributors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.