Commercial sexual exploitation of children: protection laws, interventions, and services in Merced County

This exploratory, mixed-methods research study explored the effectiveness of protection laws and services for commercially sexually exploited (CSE) children in Merced County. In addition, the study examined the protocols and procedures, preventative approaches from a child welfare services (CWS) agency perspective, and the impact of the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) – California S.B. 855 / A.B. 2035. Thirty social workers voluntarily participated in the self-administered Likert scaling questionnaire, which consisted of 13 CSEC related statements and 1 open-ended question regarding desired services. Two social workers were interviewed by this researcher; the interview consisted of 9 open-ended questions regarding the CSEC. A quantitative analysis was conducted for questionnaire responses to statements 1-13. A qualitative analysis was conducted for the questionnaire’s open-ended question and social worker interviews. Results indicated a lack of sufficient funding and services in the areas of counseling and shelters for CSE children in Merced County. More services between local community agencies to provide trauma-based counseling, inpatient substance abuse treatment, and immediate and appropriate shelters are needed. Social workers at this CWS agency feel more public awareness and preventative outreach services on the issue and deterrence of CSEC are needed. Keywords: commercial sexual exploitation of children, sex traffickers, sex trafficking of children, commercial sex trafficking, human trafficking, child prostitution, child sexual abuse.