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Trafficked Children and Youth in the United States: Reimagining Survivors

Thursday, September 29, 2016, 5:30 pm – 7:00 pm

Human trafficking continues to capture the imagination of the global public. Gut wrenching narratives about girls kept as sexual slaves and sold into domestic servitude appear on front pages of newspapers, in academic journals, and in books. Public discourse emphasizes the particular vulnerability of trafficked children, related to bio-physiological, social, behavioral, and cognitive phases of the maturation process and underscores the necessity to act in the children's best interest. Trafficked children are always portrayed as hapless victims forced into the trafficking situation and hardly ever as actors with a great deal of volition participating in the decision to migrate.

This lecture explores the coexistence of agency and vulnerability and the interplay of trauma and resiliency in survivors of child trafficking. With an emphasis on agency and a move away from trafficked children as passive victims, this lecture examines the children's voice and the meaning they ascribe to the trafficking experiences and provides a unique perspective on the social world about matters that concern them the most as they rebuild their lives. The lecture juxtaposes the policy and programmatic responses based on the principle of the "best interest of the child" with the young survivors' perceptions of their experiences and service needs, and explores the tensions between the young people's narratives of their experiences, grounded in local, culturally diverse conceptualizations of childhoods, and the actions and discourses of child welfare programs, based on Western middle-class ideals of childhood, proscribing standardized policy and programmatic responses towards trafficked children.

George Soros Visiting Chair Elżbieta M. Goździak is Research Professor at the Institute for the Study of International Migration (ISIM) at Georgetown University. Formerly, she served as Editor of International Migration and held a senior position with the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) in the US Department of Health and Human Services. Her books include: Trafficked Children and Youth in the United States: Reimagining Survivors (Rutgers 2016); Contested Childhoods: Growing Up in Migrancy (Springer 2016) Editor, with Marie Louise Seeberg; and Migrant Children: At the Crossroads of Vulnerability and Resiliency (Palgrave 2010) with Marisa O. Ensor.