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County Foster Kids Recruited as Child Prostitutes

A chilling report says foster children averaging 12-years-old are being recruited from group homes for sex trade. The average life expectancy for these child prostitutes is 18.

Some children in the county's foster care system are being recruited as child prostitutes from emergency shelters or group homes, members of the L.A. County Board of Supervisors acknowledged Tuesday.

And of youth arrested on prostitution charges in Los Angeles County, a majority comes from the county's foster care system, the Los Angeles Times reported, citing county officials. The newspaper said that, according to the county, "in some cases, pimps use underage sex workers to recruit fellow group home residents."

``The average age of entry into prostitution is 12 years old, and the
average life expectancy following entry is seven years,'' said Supervisor
Michael Antonovich, citing sources from the U.S. Department of Justice and the
FBI.

How youth in county foster care, particularly in the emergency shelter, would be able to leave the shelter was not immediately clear. But as the accompanying video shows, the typical approach to young girls is to shower them with attention gifts, and a recruiter or pimp can earn up to $140,000 per child.

The issue of foster children being ensnared into the sex trade is not only a local problem. The National Foster Care Coalition is seeking $5 million to counter the preying on vulnerable foster children, who have double the rate of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as do veterans, according to the coalition.

Proposition 35, approved by voters earlier this month, increases prison terms for human traffickers, requires convicted traffickers to register as sex offenders, mandates training for law enforcement officers and requires criminal fines to help victims.

Supervisor Knabe has also backed initiatives by the county's Probation Department to fight child prostitution and thrown his support behind an ad campaign designed to raise awareness of the issue.

But Antonovich said he was especially concerned about children in the county's foster care system.

``These children often come from broken homes with a history of neglect and abuse, and foster children often overlap with runaway and homeless youth with a lack of resources that makes them more vulnerable,'' Antonovich said.

In 2010, 174 children under the age of 18 were arrested for prostitution-related crimes in the county, according to Antonovich. The accompanying video says they are all girls. He said pimps were recruiting foster care children at the DCFS emergency center and from group homes across the county.

The board directed the Department of Children and Family Services to collaborate with the Probation Department, District Attorney's Office, Sheriff's Department, other law enforcement agencies and the Department of Mental Health to find additional ways to combat the problem.

In the YouTube with this story, which was made as part of an anti-child-sex-trade ad campaign, an L.A. County Sheriff's deputy named Jeff said:

"It's a whole new level of depravity when some guy says, 'You know what? I got a job for you .... and walks her into this life." The deputy tells the videographer that 98% of juveniles in the sex trade have pimps."

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