assessments and transform their opinions into legal advocacy.99 Where an existing placement is
imperfect, GALs should consider asking the court to order a placement to comply with additional
conditions, with an eye toward enhancing safety. These include: curfews, protocols for
unannounced visits by the assigned probation officer or social worker, adult-monitored access to
the Internet, and plans for supervision in the community, such as transportation to and from
school. On the other hand, for stated-interest attorneys whose client desires a placement that the
court is otherwise disinclined to approve, it is worthwhile to consider whether these or similar
conditions would be acceptable to the client and caregiver, and furthermore persuade the court to
permit the placement, at least on a trial basis.
Home visits are critically important in cases where the youth is CSEC-vulnerable or
CSEC-involved, especially when there is suspicion that a family member may be the perpetrator,
or is benefiting (financially or otherwise) from the child’s exploitation. In some situations, the
suspected perpetrator resides in the family home or, alternatively, where the parent is unwilling or
unable to provide appropriate supervision to ensure that their child remains safely at home.100 In
these cases, referral to the local child welfare authority may be appropriate.
In the most serious situations, placement in a secure environment may be required to
protect the child’s safety and prevent runaway behaviors. In Washington, D.C., for example,
following the recommendation of a clinician, the court will order the child to be held for
psychiatric observation and treatment.101 Although mental health hospitalization is not ideal, in
the authors’ experience it is preferable to detention, which entrenches false perceptions that the
child is an offender and may even increase the likelihood of future delinquent behavior.102
Sometimes, placement of a commercially sexually exploited child in a psychiatric
residential treatment facility must be considered. Unfortunately, “[t]here is little to no reliable
research to support the presumption that residential treatment centers improve behavioral
problems.”103 While these facilities may be of dubious efficacy, they do provide one thing:
physical security. Thus, for clients whose frequent abscondence prevents interventions and
services from initiating, the GAL may consider exploring these placements. This may prove the
most efficient way to link the child to services and transition the child back to the community as
soon as he or she is psychiatrically stabilized and at a decreased risk of running away.
IV. ADDRESSING CSEC AS A SPECIAL EDUCATION ATTORNEY
In addition to GALs, special education attorneys also serve a vital role in working with
the parents and families of children who are commercially sexually exploited. These attorneys
can assist in identifying children who are commercially sexually exploited and ensuring that those
children, whether or not the children are removed from the exploitative situation at the time,
receive appropriate school-based services to address the impact of CSEC involvement.
99 See Peterson, supra note 88, at 1094 (explaining the GAL may interview any relative or “professional who has a relationship with
the child”). “Above all, the guardian ad litem’s primary duty is to conduct an impartial investigation of the case, make an independent
assessment, and render a report or recommendation to the court . . . .” Id.
100 These examples are based on the authors’ experience.
101 D.C. CODE § 16-2315(b) (2014).
102 See COAL. FOR JUVENILE JUSTICE, supra note 29, at 12.
103 Kristin Henning, Criminalizing Normal Adolescent Behavior in Communities of Color: The Role of Prosecutors in Juvenile Justice
Reform, 98 CORNELL L. REV. 383, 454 (2013).