By Mary Kuhlman
The criminal case against Indiana native and celebrity Jared Fogle on charges involving child pornography and paying for sex with children is among recent headlines bringing to light crimes against children.
The trafficking of children for work or sex is a crime that's often hidden, but a growing problem, according to Robin Donaldson, chief operating officer of Indiana Youth Services Association.
Donaldson will speak today at a human trafficking
forum near Indianapolis.
She explains child trafficking does not always involve abduction, because in 36 percent of cases youth are being trafficked by a family member.
"It's not the kid who's standing out on the corner," she explains. "It could be potentially a parent who is selling their youth, whether it's for sex-trafficking or for labor-trafficking, in order pay the rent, or in some cases, to buy the drugs that they're addicted to."
Donaldson says last year, Indiana authorities investigated about 40 child trafficking cases
, and 2015 is set to outpace that number with 30 investigations to date.
At today's forum, school counselors, parents, youth ministers and others who work with children will learn to better identify trafficking, and how to connect children to services.
The forum begins at 11:30 a.m. at Greenwood Christian Church.
The Indiana Protection for Abused and Trafficking Humans Task Force does outreach and education around the state to help prevent children from getting pulled into labor or sex trafficking.
And because trafficking victims sometimes form a trauma-bond with their captor, Donaldson says the Indiana Youth Services Association is also working to ensure support and counseling services are available.
"They feel a relationship and a connection to the trafficker and now because they're making money and they have things that they didn't have before," she explains. "They don't recognize that they are being taken advantage of in that situation and it makes it difficult."
According to the FBI, nearly 300,000 children in the U.S. are at risk of becoming victims of commercial sexual exploitation.
And the Office of the Indiana Attorney General reports most children are 12 to 14-years-old when they first become a victim of sex trafficking.