Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services Secretary Terri Ricks. (Greg LaRose/Louisiana Illuminator)
A new law requires Louisiana authorities to direct all reports of suspected child trafficking to the state Department of Children and Family Services. Its director told lawmakers Thursday the DCFS mandated reporting hotline has handled 78 juvenile trafficking calls this year, the large majority of them involving sex trafficking.
Of the cases authorities have been required to report to DFCS since Jan. 1, there were 69 that involved child sex trafficking and nine for child labor trafficking, DCFS Secretary Terri Ricks told the Senate Select Committee on Women and Children. A total of 89 victims were reported through the hotline.
Ricks cited numbers DCFS had compiled as of Monday, March 13.
The DFCS staff has launched investigations into 39 cases that involved parents or caretakers. Victims and their families are also connected to support services in coordination with the Governor’s Office of Human Trafficking, Ricks said.
In addition to the 78 cases reported since Jan. 1, Ricks said DCFS has also received additional information on nine previous child trafficking cases through its hotline.
Sen. Beth Mizell, R-Franklinton, authored a law last year that directed DCFS to expand its trafficking hotline to field all calls involving the trafficking of minors. Previously, the department only handled cases in which a parent or caregiver was believed to be involved in trafficking of a child.
Reporting authorities are also required to contact police in trafficking cases, and Ricks said her office shares appropriate findings with law enforcement. Mizell’s proposal was brought forward when it was discovered the state’s child welfare agency wasn’t looped in on all trafficking cases involving children.
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