Sen. Jon Ossoff speaks about children missing from Georgia DFCS care Oct. 27, 2023. Ross Williams/Georgia Recorder
More than 20% of children who went missing while in custody of the Georgia Division of Family and Children between 2018 and 2022 were likely victims of child sex trafficking, according to Samantha Sahl, supervisor of the child sex trafficking recovery services Team for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Speaking at a U.S. Senate Human Rights Subcommittee hearing in Atlanta Monday, Sahl said children in foster care have often already experienced significant trauma.
“When children are then placed in foster homes or group homes that don’t have the resources, training, or support necessary to meet their needs for love, belonging, and self-exploration, running away from these placements often becomes their effort to problem solve to meet these needs,” Sahl said.
“This creates a perfect storm that traffickers are skilled at taking advantage of,” she added. “We know we have an urgent issue when children feel better on the streets or with a trafficker than they do in their foster care placements.”
Sahl said 410 children out of 1,790 were likely trafficked.
Monday’s hearing at Georgia State University College of Law was the latest in a string of public meetings and press conferences led by Georgia Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff about the state Department of Human Services division. The Senate subcommittee launched an investigation in February after media outlets reported allegations of serious abuse and neglect at DFCS. Ossoff and Tennessee Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn are leading the effort.