142 Children’s Legal Rights Journal [Vol. 39:2 2019]
U.S. district court opined, “[ i]n regard to some things, a child of such tender years is incapable of
consent.”110 The court also stated that, while the child may have consented to the terms of
employment, “such intended employment was one injurious to its morals and inconsistent with its
proper care and education.”111
Several studies have concluded that adolescent brains are not as fully developed as those
of adults. Evidence shows that the brain does not stop maturing until the early twenties in those
areas that govern impulsivity, judgment, planning, the foresight of consequences, and other
characteristics that make people morally culpable.112 The U.S. justice system distinguishes
between adults and children.113 However, U.S. law does not make this distinction in the context of
labor trafficking. “A 12-year-old child must submit evidence and prove eligibility for protection
in the same manner as a 30-year-old adult.”114
It is unreasonable to place the burden of proving force, fraud, or coercion on children.
Children are vulnerable and, in many cases, will do whatever an adult asks of them. A child, for
example, can be coached to deny any foul play. In some cases, a child may not even know he or
she has been a victim of trafficking until after being released from the custody of traffickers.115
A broader and more flexible definition of labor trafficking that distinguishes children from
adults would make it easier to identify child victims of trafficking. Identifying cases of labor
trafficking is hard enough because of its clandestine nature; placing the burden of proof on a child
makes it even more onerous. A broader definition of labor trafficking would also eliminate a
child’s burden of proving fraud, force, or coercion since, in most instances, children cannot prove
those factors by themselves.
Another important recommendation is the creation of a central system of information
gathering and data collection for victims of trafficking in the United States. A UCLA study
conducted in 2016 indicated that there was no comprehensive, representative sample of the status
of sex trafficking in the United States.116 The study also found “weak methodologies in empirical
evidence and small data sets that urge readers to not republish as a national representative.”117 It
concluded that a lack of uniform data-collection policies across states and communities is a
In general, a central system of identification and referral is important to ensure victims
receive appropriate services when needed. A central database can help form a clearer picture of a
country’s trafficking problem and it can provide guidance on how to respond appropriately. The
database can profile traffickers, as well as victims, and it can be used to track anyone who is
processed within the system. The system can also serve as a means of central record keeping on
110 United States v. Ancarola, 1 F. 676, 682 (C.C.S.D.N. Y. 1880).
112 Elizabeth Sowell et al., Mapping Continued Brain Growth and Gray Matter Density Reduction in Dorsal Frontal
Cortex: Inverse Relationships During Postadolescent Brain Maturation, 21 J. NEUROSCIENCE 8819, 8819 (2001).
113 Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551 (2005); Miller v. Alabama, 132 S. Ct. 2455 (2012).
114 Katherine Kaufka Walts, Child Labor Trafficking in the United States: A Hidden Crime, 5 SOC. INCLUSION 59, 65
116 SARAH GODOY ET AL., SHEDDING LIGHT ON SEX TRAFFICKING: RESEARCH, DATA, AND TECHNOLOGIES WITH THE
GREATEST IMPACT 6 (May 2016), http://innovation.luskin.ucla.edu/sites/default/files/Luskin%20HT%20Report.pdf.