Services for children

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Subject: Services for children
From: Migration Research (
Date: Tue Feb 22 2000 - 08:38:56 EST

I am writing to try and examine some thoughts that we have been discussing
around the office regarding the recruitment of children for sexual
exploitation in prostitution. There is obviously great concern regarding the
induction of young people and children into such sexual exploitation,
however the typical strategies of trying to protect such young people
through placement in residential care seem to be problematic and failing the
young people and children concerned.

In Hungary we have contact with several young women who were in residential
care when they were recruited to sell sex in a very exploitative process. In
the UK a man has recently been sent to prison for four years for exploiting
a number of young teenage girls who he required to sell sex in London. He
recruited these children from local authorities children's homes. The
recruitment of children from residential care for sexual exploitation in
prostitution seems to be a tragic but reoccurring theme in the sexual abuse
of children.

Residential care in any form seems to be structurally flawed as a means of
out-of-family care. It is widely rejected by most child welfare
organisations for reasons apart from issues relating to sexual exploitation.
The institutionalising effect of residential care, even in small groups
homes, appears to almost groom children for sexual exploitation.

Therefore the rescuing of children from abusive environments for placements
in any institutional setting could actually perpetuate their victim
susceptibility. Is the provision of institutional residential care for
children sexually exploited in prostitution the best available response for
every such child in a world with limited resources, or is it a distraction
that consumes resources and offers a quick but inadequate answer to the
needs of many children? Does it often just give closure to adults who want
to believe that such a placement means each child so placed is saved?

This would then suggest that well-organised and adequately funded fostercare
would be the only appropriate out-of-family care for children. However for
children who reject fostercare and who would normally be institutionalised,
should we possibly consider the unthinkable and examine how to support
children and young people through their exploitation to empowerment? The
state is demonstrably a very poor parent and various institutional proxies
seem to share many of the structural flaws associated with institutional

Is there a pre-adult age when such a strategy might be appropriate? Is such
empowerment possible? Certainly some projects for sex workers, street
children, or runaways help young people, young teens and children transit
various exploitative situations without resorting to institutional
residential care.

The moral imperative to remove children from harm's way must serve the child
and not the agenda of any concerned adult. The complexities of child labour,
sexual exploitation, involvement with crime, make fantastic demands on all
concerned people to find effective responses.

Is it time to go beyond rescue and examine other possibilities? Our own
inadequacies in offering useful possibilities reveal our own insecurities
and reservations.

We are asking questions for which we do not have answers. We ask these
questions not as any criticism of any agency offering residential care, but
to hopefully elicit thoughtful debate regarding a subject we obviously do
not fully grasp.

We would welcome comments regarding this issue.

Yours truly,

John Davies and Salamon Alapitvany

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