Human trafficking victims and their children

Increasing attention is being paid to the issue of human trafficking in the United States and worldwide.  Once the victims are freed, however, their situations don’t necessarily receive as much attention.  This is particularly true of foreign-born survivors who are able to bring their children to the United States.

Dr. Maura Nsonwu, adjunct assistant professor of social work, has teamed with two faculty members from the University of Texas at Austin to study the needs of these women.  They presented their results in an article, “Human Trafficking Victims and Their Children: Assessing Needs, Vulnerabilities, Strengths, and Survivorship,” in the spring issue of the Journal of Applied Research on Children: Informing Policy for Children at Risk. (available online here).

In the study, nine victims of human trafficking were interviewed; seven were awaiting the arrival of their children in the United States or had recently been reunited with them. While the results aren’t generalizable to all trafficking victims and their children, “findings from this study are significant, and break ground with regard to our understanding of the needs of human trafficking victims and their immigrant children.  Therefore, findings may be applicable for practice and policy consideration in the human trafficking field.”

Dr. Nsonwu and her co-authors note that many foreign-born survivors are unable to return to their home countries “because of safety concerns and the wide reach of criminal trafficking networks.” The researchers identified a set of common themes in the women’s views of the emotional, social and bureaucratic challenges of reuniting with their children.  The women’s voices come through clearly in the article.  Their determination, hope and fears underline the message of Dr. Nsonwu and her colleagues that more needs to be known about these survivors and that policies and practices need to be developed that are as strong as the women’s own motivation to establish strong homes and lives for their children.

“When I found out that in this country I had support, actually in this country I felt safer and more supported than I ever did in my own country. That is why I love you all so much. I do not know everyone that helped me, but in my heart I love them all.”

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