Multi-System Collaboration to Fight Epidemic Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC)

The California Child Welfare Council has taken steps to combat the epidemic of commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) in the state, home to three of the nation’s 13 High Intensity Child Prostitution Areas (HICPAs), according to the FBI—the San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego metropolitan areas.

RELATED: Free Online Class on Identifying Commercially Sexually Exploited Children and Youth (CSEC) Is Hosted by CalSWEC

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Studies have estimated that anywhere from 50 to 80% of CSEC victims are or were formerly involved with the child welfare system, such as through child abuse report investigations and placement in foster care, according to the council’s report, Ending the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children: A Call for Multi-System Collaboration in California. Other victims should have received child welfare services and protections but never gained access to the system, and are instead treated like criminals and funneled into the juvenile justice system.

Calling for a statewide multi-system comprehensive and collaborative approach, the California Child Welfare Council established the Commercially Sexually Exploited Work Group under the auspices of its Child Development and Successful Youth Transitions Committee. In addition to participation by youth survivors and foster parents, the Work Group is comprised of public and private agency representatives from social services, mental health, probation, law enforcement, courts, and child advocacy groups.


A CSEC Task Force will be working to develop and implement the workgroup’s recommendations. Barrett Johnson, CalSWEC’s director of the Child Welfare In-Service Training Project, is a member of the task force, which will focus on the following four areas:

  1. Prevalence and Assessment: To understand the scope and nature of the problem and California and provide appropriate services, screen all children across systems for exploitation and risk factors and assess their CSEC-related needs on an ongoing basis.
  2. Prevention and Training: establish programs to prevent commercial sexual exploitation of children, and train child-serving professionals to understand the CSEC problem, how to identify CSEC and at-risk children, and how to provide or refer to appropriate services.
  3. Specialized Services: Develop and provide specialized services that will enable CSEC children to be safe, overcome trauma, and thrive.
  4. Multi-System and Data Coordination: Establish and support a systematic approach to multi-systems coordination, including strategies to improve service delivery to CSEC and at-risk children and enable the collection and sharing of data.


The California Child Welfare Council was created by the state legislature to serve as an advisory body to improve the collaboration and processes of the multiple agencies, programs and courts that serve children and youth in California’s child welfare and foster care systems.

The council is charged with monitoring and reporting on the responsiveness of its member agencies, programs and courts to the needs of children in their joint care. In its six-year history, it has examined and made recommendations on many challenging issues related to improving services for families and children.