SEATTLE -- Across the country, sex trafficking busts are revealing new concerns over missing children. The FBI says it continues to see more and more children in the sex slave underground world who are never reported missing.
There are 300 to 500 young people sexually exploited on any given night in King County, according to estimates from local child welfare advocates. Local youth agencies say different state and federal laws makes it more difficult to ensure missing children make it on a national missing person's list. Advocates say there is a need for a standardized approach to reporting children missing.
[These are] things that could be fixed [easily], said Melinda Giovengo of Youth Care. Those are just technology fixes that should happen. If a child is reported missing here, it should literally go everywhere so those that are involved are not burdened with bureaucracy.
Giovengo is the executive director of Youth Care in Seattle, which serves as a runaway youth service provider. Giovengo says parents are often afraid of consequences they will suffer if they report their child missing.
Some of the children most at risk are those who are gone for short periods of time with their pimps, returning home regularly and living double lives, according to Youth Care. Advocates say the best way to end the growing problem is to provide children with financial and emotional support -- more than what they can find from a life of prostitution on the streets.
The difference between a child and an adult is one day, explained Giovengo. You see a lot of young people who end up in these situations, drift into these situations and then all of a sudden, they go from being a child and a victim to an adult and a criminal. We need to think about that transition as well.
There are efforts underway across the United States to streamline how officers are alerted when children go missing. Youth Care says it doesn't know of any formal legislation in Washington state.