Training experiences of emergency department providers in the recognition of child trafficking

Kirsten Bechtel, Sarah Passmore, Jamie Kondis, Ingrid Walker Descartes, Adebimpe Adewusi, Virginia Greenbaum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Trafficked children face challenges to obtaining appropriate health care that may be addressed by clinician training. We evaluated emergency department (ED) staff's training experiences regarding child trafficking and attitudes toward educational efforts to provide informed recommendations for improvement in the recognition and evaluation of trafficked children in the ED setting. Methods: In this cross-sectional study of general and pediatric ED staff across 6 cities in the United States, participants completed a 25-question, online anonymous survey. Differences in proportions between categorical data were examined using χ2/Fisher exact tests. Differences in means were evaluated using Student t test and 1-way analysis of variance. Results: The 484 participants included physicians (33.0%), nurses (27.4%), resident physicians (12.2%), and social workers (10.1%). Only 12.4% reported being very confident in recognizing child trafficking. Barriers to recognition included lack of awareness and training on child sex trafficking (37.4%, 58.3%) and labor trafficking (38.4%, 50.6%), sensitivity of the topic (44.4%), lack of institutional guidelines (29.8%) and social work coverage (26.0%), and the assumption that children will not disclose victimization (16.5%). Although 62.2% of the respondents had prior training in child sex trafficking, only 13.3% reported that it was adequate. Barriers to training included lack of easy access (82.5%), belief that prior training was adequate (13.3%), poor-quality curricula (5.1%), and low priority of topic (4.1%). Recommendations for training included a 1-hour module/webinar/lecture (43.1%), rounds (40.5%), written guidelines (9.8%), and individualized, case-based learning (6.6%). Conclusions: We found that although most ED providers stated that they had prior training in the recognition of child trafficking, few expressed confidence in their ability to recognize and evaluate trafficked children. Barriers to education included a lack of awareness of and access to available curricula. Providers supported a variety of formats for further education. Strategies for improving educational access are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E988-E992
JournalPediatric emergency care
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2022


  • Child trafficking
  • Emergency department providers
  • Recognition
  • Training


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