The 2018 Trafficking in Persons Report, produced by the U.S. State Department, sheds light on the practices of modern slavery around the world and highlights specific steps governments can take to protect victims of human trafficking, prevent trafficking crimes, and prosecute traffickers in the United States and around the world. The findings in this report help inform policymakers, law enforcement, and civil society on gaps and areas of concern, as well as serve as a roadmap forward to end the scourge.
This year's report includes a section on child institutionalization and human trafficking. "The international community agrees that a family caregiving setting, or an alternative solution that is appropriate and culturally sensitive, is the most conducive environment for the growth, well-being, and safety of children," reads the report. The report states that an estimated 8 million children around the world are living in institutions, despite the fact that about 80 to 90 percent have at least one living parent. "The physical and psychological effects of staying in residential institutions, combined with societal isolation and often subpar regulatory oversight by governments, place these children in situations of heightened vulnerability to human trafficking."
For example, "several orphanages, including in Oceania, Central America, and Eastern Europe, have been found in recent years to be doubling as brothels," says the report. The report also highlights the use of forced labor in some orphanages and institutions around the globe. Furthermore, "institutional complicity can even extend to the practice of recruiting children for the facility," states the report. The report describes how some children are recruited into institutions by promising parents education, food security, safety, and healthcare for their children. "Instead of fulfilling those promises, many orphanages use the children to raise funds by forcing them to perform shows for or interact and play with potential donors to encourage more donations. Orphanages have also kept children in poor health to elicit more sympathy and money from donors."
The report also makes mention of "voluntourism" and the ways in which the practice is harmful to children, including the attachment issues that occur from having a revolving door of volunteers, the lack of background checks that increases the risk of exposing children to harm, and the money that volunteers and donors contribute to these institutions which incentivizes "nefarious orphanage owners to increase revenue by expanding child recruitment operations in order to open more facilities. These orphanages facilitate child trafficking rings by using false promises to recruit children and exploit them to profit from donations. This practice has been well-documented in several countries, including Nepal, Cambodia, and Haiti."
The report calls for a governments to "encourage family-based care options over institutional care whenever appropriate."