DENVER, Colo. – Colorado seemed poised to strengthen protections for foster kids Wednesday, with unanimous bipartisan passage of House Bill 15-1078 by the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.
The bill, sponsored by Sens. Laura Woods (R-Arvada) and Cheri Jahn (D-Wheatridge) and Rep. Dan Nordberg (R-Colorado Springs) and Beth McCann (D-Denver), could significantly reduce human trafficking in Colorado by requiring that Colorado’s Department of Human Services file a missing persons report with law enforcement and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children within twenty-four hours of learning that a child in its custody is unaccounted for.
Children in the state’s foster care system run away from home in much larger numbers than children not in the government’s care. Because a runaway child is more likely to become a victim of human trafficking, requiring the department to report cases of missing children could greatly reduce instances of human trafficking.
“Children in the foster care system, runaway kids, are some of the most vulnerable in our society,” Senator Woods said, “and when they go missing time is of the essence and information sharing is critical for their recovery.”
Testifying in favor of the bill were the Jefferson County Department of Human Services, the Colorado chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, Daniel Steele of the Denver Police Department, a representative of the FBI and the Colorado Innocence Lost Task Force. No witnesses testified in opposition.
“Last year, between the task force and our local law enforcement partners, we had ninety-four kids that were recovered from the commercial sex industry,” Officer Steele told the committee. “Twenty-nine of those kids came from state care: foster care, group homes, and other environments where this bill would shore up that deficiency to ensure that those kids are being immediately reported to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation and through the Federal Bureau of Investigation to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.”
The bill already passed the House of Representatives and is awaiting action in the Senate.