brand logo

Am Fam Physician. 2015;91(10):674-676

Original article: Caring for Unaccompanied Minors from Central America [Curbside Consultation]

Issue date: November 1, 2014

to the editor: We read with great interest the commentary describing challenges associated with caring for unaccompanied minors from Central America. The considerations also inform the care of minors involved in human trafficking, specifically domestic minor sex trafficking (DMST), who may also seek care from family physicians.

According to the Office of Refugee Resettlement, unaccompanied minors are especially vulnerable to sexual violence, exploitation, and trafficking.1 Defined by the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 as a “severe form of trafficking in persons,”2 DMST, in which minors are forced to participate in prostitution, pornography, or erotic entertainment, is one of the most common forms of human trafficking in the United States.3 A significant difference between the care of these patients and other unaccompanied minors is that the former requires an additional, crucial step: identification.

Minors who are exploited by DMST are not likely to disclose their status, especially while still being trafficked, which makes it difficult for clinicians to identify these patients when they present for care. Two studies found that 28% to 50% of trafficking survivors reported health care system encounters while they were being exploited.4 The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children conservatively estimates at least 100,000 children are exploited by DMST each year.5 Such numbers represent many missed opportunities to identify, care for, and potentially assist in freeing minors from this form of slavery.

Family physicians can prepare to recognize and care for this vulnerable, neglected population by utilizing suggested resources for general information and continuing education in Table 1. In doing so, to echo Drs. Bishop and Ramirez, we can help bring these patients “out of the shadows.”

SourceSponsorsWebsite
Caring for Trafficked Persons: Guidance for Health ProvidersInternational Organization for Migration, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Traffickinghttp://publications.iom.int/bookstore/free/CT_Handbook.pdf
Child Sex Trafficking Webinar SeriesChildren's Healthcare of Atlantahttp://www.choa.org/csecwebinars
Confronting Commercial Sexual Exploitation and Sex Trafficking of Minors in the United States: A Guide for the Health Care SectorInstitute of Medicine, National Research Councilhttp://www.iom.edu/~/media/Files/Resources/SexTrafficking/guideforhealthcaresector.pdf
Human Trafficking Continuing EducationChristian Medical and Dental Associationshttp://cmda.org/resources/publication/human-trafficking-continuing-education
National Human Trafficking Resource CenterPolaris Projecthttp://traffickingresourcecenter.org/
Rescue and Restore CampaignOffice of Refugee Resettlementhttp://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/orr/resource/about-rescue-restore

Email letter submissions to afplet@aafp.org. Letters should be fewer than 400 words and limited to six references, one table or figure, and three authors. Letters submitted for publication in AFP must not be submitted to any other publication. Letters may be edited to meet style and space requirements.

This series is coordinated by Kenny Lin, MD, MPH, deputy editor.

Continue Reading


More in AFP

More in Pubmed

Copyright © 2015 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.

This content is owned by the AAFP. A person viewing it online may make one printout of the material and may use that printout only for his or her personal, non-commercial reference. This material may not otherwise be downloaded, copied, printed, stored, transmitted or reproduced in any medium, whether now known or later invented, except as authorized in writing by the AAFP.  See permissions for copyright questions and/or permission requests.