Human Trafficking and Child Welfare Populations
Guest Editors: M. Elizabeth Bowman and Daniela Peterka-Benton


Abstract Submission Deadline: March 15, 2024

The Child Welfare League of America (CWLA) is pleased to announce a call for abstracts for a special issue of Child Welfare journal dedicated to examining issues related to human trafficking in the United States and its impact on children, youth, and families.

The special issue will focus on the intersection of US domestic human trafficking and child welfare. We are interested in examining intersections of human trafficking and child welfare—particularly children, youth, and families who come into contact with anti-trafficking and child welfare systems. This may include special populations such as youth in juvenile justice, disproportionality of BIPOC or LGBTQ+ youth who are trafficked, familial trafficking and child welfare response, etc. Submission topics should address both systems—anti-trafficking and child welfare—with a focus on children, youth, and/or families.

Human trafficking in the United States has only been federally defined since the year 2000, and therefore research into this issue with a focus on subgroups such as LGBTQ+ youth, family trafficking, and BIPOC populations has been insufficiently studied. Further, the responses of child welfare systems to trafficking both, as intervention and prevention, as well as coordination of care with anti-trafficking organizations, requires further study. In studying human trafficking, it’s crucial to make sure scholars understand where different systems may intersect. Human trafficking and child welfare intersections have been studied in various US regions, but more specific study of populations or issues within this group is needed.

The goal of this special issue is to advance our understanding by featuring policy, theoretical, and empirical papers focused on the intersection of human trafficking and child welfare. We are especially interested in examples from other systems that might be relevant for use within the child welfare system. Guest editors are M. Elizabeth Bowman (Gallaudet University) and Daniela Peterka-Benton (Montclair State University).

We are particularly interested in manuscripts that focus on one or more of the following areas:

  1. Patterns and trends of child trafficking in the United States as a whole or in a particular state/region.
  2. Disproportionality of specific populations or groups, including youth who are LGBT, BIPOC, etc.
  3. Programs designed for inpatient or outpatient treatment of youth who have been trafficked that address their physical, emotional, and educational needs.
  4. Familial trafficking and child welfare responses or potential interventions.
  5. The intersection between child labor and sex trafficking.
  6. Cross-sector partnerships and multidisciplinary teams working to combat the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC).
  7. Geographical routes and hotspots of child trafficking to inform targeted prevention and intervention efforts.
  8. The role of technology in facilitating or combating child trafficking, including online exploitation and recruitment.
  9. Effective strategies and interventions aimed at preventing child trafficking, both at the individual and community levels.
  10. Runaway youth behavior and absconding.

Prospective authors should submit abstracts of up to 750 words, along with a current author bio and topic-relevant CV, to Child Welfare’s managing editor, Rachel Adams, at by March 15, 2024. Abstracts and, if accepted, full manuscripts should represent original work and should not have been previously published elsewhere. Please ensure that you use person-first language. Abstracts should clearly identify the topic, methods (including data sources for empirical papers), expected or preliminary findings, and practice and policy implications. Invitations to submit a full article will be extended by April 10, 2024.

Initial drafts of the selected papers are due by June 1, 2024, and final papers are expected by July 23, 2024. Publication of the special issue is targeted for fall/winter 2024.