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County to Explore Training to Spot Signs of Sexually Exploited Children

Pimps and gang members often target children in foster care and group homes. But parents and even trained social workers often miss the signs of such exploitation, according to experts and survivors.

The Los Angeles Board of Supervisors asked staffers today to look into programs to train foster parents, social workers and other caregivers to spot the signs of sexual exploitation in children.

Hundreds of children, some as young as 12 years old, are sold for sex each year in Los Angeles County, according to Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Don Knabe, who have championed efforts to stop sex trafficking.

Pimps and gang members often target children in foster care and group homes.

But parents and even trained social workers often miss the signs of such exploitation, according to experts and survivors.

"Education is the best inoculation," said Rachel Thomas, a survivor of sex trafficking who founded Sowers Education Group with her husband to alert girls to the dangers. "If I had known what to look for, if my parents had known what to look for, I may have been spared."

Thomas said that more than half of victims are from the child welfare system.

"Most of them are not being kidnapped randomly. They are lured. There's a grooming process. A recognizable honeymoon phase with recognizable signs," Thomas told the board.

The board directed staffers to return in 30 days with a report on the feasibility of requiring colleges who train social workers to develop courses on the subject and mandating that foster parents and group home staffers complete annual training on sexual exploitation. Potential sources of funding will also be evaluated.

—City News Service

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