Committee chairmen from both parties in Congress announced an agreement on legislation that includes measures to curtail sex trafficking among young people in foster care and to expedite the move of children from foster care to adoptive homes. The Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act, H.R. 4980, resolves differences in bills approved by the House of Representatives and a Senate committee.
Russell D. Moore, president of the SBC's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, welcomed the announcement.
"We care about children because Jesus taught us to," Moore said. "Christians ought to recognize that a just society cannot ignore the vulnerable.
"I applaud legislators seeking to find a way to end trafficking and abuse and to find families for children who need homes," he said in a written statement for Baptist Press. "Let's hope that we see more of this sort of bipartisan agreement on an issue that ought to matter to all of us."
According to the June 26 announcement, the new bill:
-- Mandates that state child welfare agencies "identify, document, and determine appropriate services" for children in foster care who either are victims or at risk of being victims of sex trafficking.
-- Changes the basis for judging a state's performance on adoptions of children in foster care from the number to the rate of increase.
-- Strengthens incentives for states to increase adoptions of older children.
The legislation also institutes requirements designed to improve child support programs, including in international cases.
Both houses of Congress still must approve the bill.
An estimated 100,000 American children are involved in the sex trade each year, according to the Polaris Project, a leading anti-trafficking organization.
In announcing the agreement, Rep. Dave Camp, R.-Mich., chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said, "Children in foster care deserve a place to call home, not just for a few months or years but for good."
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D.-Ore., said the bill "helps build the bridges to permanent families and stable relationships, which are key to protecting children from predators. I am committed to seeing this effort cross the finish line quickly so vulnerable children in foster care don't end up in the streets, homeless shelters or the juvenile justice system where they are more likely to fall victim to pimps and traffickers."
The ERLC has been a leading advocate for policies to combat human trafficking since the move to address the domestic and international problem resulted in the first anti-trafficking law in 2000.
Compiled by Washington bureau chief Tom Strode. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
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