FOSTER CARE INVESTIGATION: Sen. Ossoff Presses Federal Agencies Amidst Bipartisan Probe into Safety of Foster Kids

Sen. Ossoff: “What is happening to foster children across the United States is unacceptable”

Sen. Ossoff to Federal Officials: “There is absolute urgency, every day, that we protect these children. And we’re going to continue to press you, and I hope continue to work with you, to improve these systems”

Washington, D.C. — As part of his ongoing bipartisan investigation into the abuse and neglect of children in foster care, U.S. Senator Jon Ossoff today pressed Federal Agencies on their efforts to protect the nation’s most vulnerable children.

Human Rights Subcommittee Chairman Ossoff and Ranking Member Marsha Blackburn convened a U.S. Senate Human Rights Subcommittee hearing in Washington, D.C. to receive testimony from U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) and Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) officials about their roles protecting foster children nationwide.

“What is happening to foster children across the United States is unacceptable,” Sen. Ossoff said. “The placements in homes where the caregivers are not appropriately vetted — and this Subcommittee has heard testimony from the mother of a child who was murdered by one of those unvetted caregivers — it’s unacceptable. The number of children who are going missing from foster care across the United States, and the number of children who are then likely, according to NCMEC statistics, victims of sex trafficking — is unacceptable.”

“The reports that this Subcommittee has received about congregate care settings that sound comparable to detention or incarceration, and which drive some of these children, according to the testimony we’ve heard, to run away because in a state foster agency that is meant to be their sanctuary, they’re treated like prisoners, and then upon running away find themselves preyed upon by traffickers — it’s unacceptable,” Sen. Ossoff said.

Sen. Ossoff pressed the Department of Health & Human Services on its role protecting foster children and whether its authorities and efforts to monitor state foster care agencies are sufficient.

Sen. Ossoff also asked the FBI for details about efforts to investigate and prosecute the exploitation and trafficking of foster youth.

In February, following reports from independent watchdogs and the press that children in the care of Georgia DFCS have been subjected to abuse and neglect, Chairman Ossoff and Ranking Member Blackburn launched a bipartisan inquiry to assess the safety of children in foster care.

In a Human Rights Subcommittee hearing in Atlanta last month, NCMEC testified that any time a child goes missing, no matter how long, they are vulnerable to serious harm or exploitation, including child sex trafficking.

Please find transcripts of Sen. Ossoff’s opening statement, lines of questioning, and closing statements below as well as links to each:

Sen. Ossoff’s Opening Statement:

SEN. OSSOFF: “Eight months ago, the Subcommittee opened a bipartisan inquiry into the safety and human rights of children in foster care across the United States, because protecting America’s most vulnerable children from abuse and neglect is a moral imperative.

“We’re talking about the most vulnerable children in the United States. Children who have been abused and neglected. Children who have been trafficked. And for these children, state foster agencies are meant to be a sanctuary, a safe haven, and often a last resort.

“Naturally, I take the greatest interest and have the highest obligation in and to children in my home State of Georgia.

“And as a result, the Subcommittee as part of this inquiry, has undertaken a deep-dive case study into the safety of foster care in Georgia, where we have found significant evidence that children have been left vulnerable to abuse and neglect. Where children have been trafficked and harmed after being placed with unfit caregivers, placed in isolation and conditions akin to solitary confinement at group homes — and the Subcommittee recognizes that these represent national dynamics and trends and challenges that impact the safety and welfare of vulnerable children across the country.

“So today, we’re going to dive deeper into the Federal government’s efforts and responsibilities to protect children in foster care from abuse, from neglect, [and] from sex trafficking, hearing from distinguished witnesses representing the Department of Health and Human Services and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

“We will hear first from Rebecca Jones Gaston, who is the Commissioner of HHS Administration for Children and Families, and the previous Director of Child Welfare for the State of Oregon. Commissioner, again, we know you have other commitments this afternoon and we will work to accommodate your schedule and appreciate your attendance.

“And after Commissioner Jones Gaston, we will hear from Deputy Assistant Director Jose Perez of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who helped lead “Operation Cross Country,” which recovered 200 victims of sex trafficking, many of them children who had gone missing.”

Sen. Ossoff’s first line of questioning:

SEN. OSSOFF: “I want to begin, Commissioner Jones Gaston, discussing the role that HHS plays in protecting foster children across the country. The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act requires child welfare agencies to have procedures to receive, screen, and investigate reports of child abuse and neglect, and requires those states to include child sex trafficking in their definition of abuse and neglect. How does HHS ensure that state child welfare agencies screen in victims of child sex trafficking in practice, and not just as a matter of policy on paper?

COMMISSIONER JONES GASTON: “So, the oversight of child welfare agencies across the country that are IV-E agencies receiving Federal funds from the Children’s Bureau, we have a oversight process called the Child and Family Services Review. And that process involves case review, data review, and interviews with young people, community members, parents that are involved in the cases that are being reviewed. That’s the primary mechanism for oversight in the long term. States are also required to have a Title IV-E Plan that they’ve submitted, that includes the policies and procedures that they have in place that adhere and follow Federal law and regulation, and those plans are reviewed and approved at the Children’s Bureau.”

SEN. OSSOFF: “I appreciate that, and where I want to press a little bit further here is, having a plan or a policy documented on paper is an important start. If there are failures to implement those plans or policies, if it’s policy without effective practice, then the objective of ensuring that vulnerable children are protected, may not be achieved.

“Are there tools in statute or in practice that HHS either has or lacks to ensure for example, that this requirement that child sex abuse cases be screened in and not screened out upon a report or an allegation that that these policies are implemented? Or do you need more tools in order to ensure that those policies are implemented?”

COMMISSIONER JONES GASTON: “So, when the requirement came out, that child abuse, that calls to the hotline that indicated concerns around trafficking needed to be screened in, efforts were made in providing technical assistance and support to jurisdictions to understand what the law is and make plans for how they were going to implement that practice. 

“Some required state legislative action, some required regulatory action at the state level. ACF has the overarching Federal rules and regulations, each state actually runs their child welfare system and has their definition of what child abuse and neglect are. So, I want to make sure that’s clear. And then through the Child and Family Services review that I spoke about, is one mechanism for review.

“We have regional offices that do joint planning with agencies in regards to how they are implementing the requirements that exist Federally, and technical assistance mechanisms that are available and provided to state agencies regarding workforce training, ability to connect with others that have already made changes in regards to those rules and regulations.

“And again, through the review process, or if an issue gets raised up to us, there is then the process of possibly doing partial reviews, where we’re going in and seeing in the case review process, if the if the Federal rules and regulations are being followed and the actual practice on the ground.”

SEN. OSSOFF: “Okay, we’ll dig in a little bit more on that in a moment. First, I want to talk about children who are reported missing or who run away and are recovered. Federal law requires state child welfare agencies to have policies and procedures in place to screen children who are recovered after running away from foster care. And the purpose of that screening is to determine whether they were victims of sex trafficking and to provide appropriate services.

“A 2022 HHS inspector general audit examining the records of children who were recovered after going missing from care across five states, found that in most cases reviewed, there was no evidence that these children had received the required screening. My question for you is how does HHS work with states to improve compliance with those screening requirements?”

COMMISSIONER JONES GASTON: “Well, first of all, the safety of children is priority for us. And we are working really closely with our partners in the Office of Trafficking in Persons. And just last year, issued an information memorandum that identified again the requirements that exist, but also resources for training, and then doing technical assistance through our regional offices to ensure that states have the appropriate policies and practices in place, and identifying technical assistance in their development of the various assessment tools that they have, and in working in close partnership  with our OTIP partners, in regards to continuing to provide training and learning opportunities for the IV-E agencies that we serve.”

SEN. OSSOFF: “Okay, let’s talk a little bit about NCMEC, and we’ll get into this with the FBI as well. But, Commissioner, under Federal law, of course, state foster care agencies are required to report children missing from care to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children or NCMEC, as well as to the National Crime Information Center. But an HHS OIG audit from March of 2023 reviewing data collected from 46 state child welfare agencies across the country found that 45% of the missing child episodes in the review sample, were never reported by states to NCMEC. So how can HHS and how does HHS work with these state agencies to improve their compliance with the requirement that there be reporting to NCMEC of children missing from care?”

COMMISSIONER JONES GASTON: “So, one of the mechanisms that we’ve done is issue information Miranda, and program guidance in regards to the requirements, and through our regional offices, then during review to make sure that the IV-E agencies have the appropriate processes in place, and offering them technical assistance, in areas where they identify they need assistance in improving practice in regards to their workforce. And again, working really closely with our OTIP partners in making sure that we are providing assistance, technical assistance, and awareness out to the IV-E agencies regarding the tools that are available, and the technical assistance that’s available so that they can be working on improving their practice.”

SEN. OSSOFF: “Let’s talk about the medication of children in foster care. So, to receive Federal funding for child welfare services, states are required to have a plan for the oversight of prescription medications including psychotropic and opioid medications that are prescribed to children in foster care.

“A 2018 HHS OIG review for a sample of foster children in five states, found that one in three children in foster care who were treated with psychotropic medications, did not receive the required treatment planning or medication monitoring. What is HHS doing? What can HHS do to appropriately and adequately monitor the use of psychotropic medication and the state policies and procedures and practices governing the medication of children with psychotropic drugs?”

COMMISSIONER JONES GASTON: “The Child and Family Services Plan, which is the five-year plan, that we do joint planning with state agencies, and is one place where they are required to report what their plans and strategies are for managing the care of the children that they are over. And then there are annual progress review reports that are submitted, and so through that, and the relationship with the regional offices and the technical assistance that we provide, in addition to the Child and Family Services review, which is the periodic review is opportunity for us to have conversations and dig in with jurisdictions about what their practice looks like, how they’re doing, and what assistance they need to continue to improve, or if they need assistance in identifying examples of policies and procedures that they need to implement at the state level.”

SEN. OSSOFF: “Thank you. And the Subcommittee’s heard substantial concern from advocates, attorneys, as well as former foster youth about overmedication and the appropriate use of opioids and psychotropic medication for foster children so we want to dig in a little more deeply there.”

Sen. Ossoff’s second line of questioning:

SEN. OSSOFF: “Thank you Ranking Member Blackburn. I want to continue, Mr. Perez, the discussion about the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, as well as NCIC, the National Crime Information Center.

“According to data from NCMEC’s website in 2022, there were 359,000 entries into the NCIC database for missing children. 359,000.

“How does the FBI track and prioritize which missing child cases are Federally investigated? What is the burden sharing between local, state, and Federal agencies when those reports come in? And how do you decide what gets escalated, what gets referred and who the lead agency is for a particular case?”

DEPUTY ASSISTANT DIRECTOR PEREZ: “Thank you, sir. We receive information or allegations, if you will, of a kidnapping from a variety of different elements. It could be from a private citizen, it could be from local law enforcement, or from NCMEC.

“Reports of missing children might not necessarily equate to something that gives us judicial authority or statutory authority to investigate. Usually, how we identify and prioritize these would be if there’s indication of a child of tender years, 12 and under, who’s gone missing based on some type of suspicious circumstances, with some indication that it was involuntary or that they’re being held against their will, or that they were again taken for environment against their will and being held, then that is something we would immediately deploy resources to.

“Usually in these instances, local police are usually the first responders if you will, in this instance, where a family member or a victim of the child might, would probably call local law enforcement. We would immediately engage in those situations. We have regularly, I’ve been a part of a number of those. And when it’s a child of tender years, really regardless, if there’s an immediate identification of some type of suspicious circumstances, we will launch resources to embed with the local police to make that determination.

“Oftentimes, this could be a runaway situation, but we want to vet that out and work with our local partners. So, if there’s if there, as far as a lead agency that can kind of ebb and flow, we will work continuously with our local partners, through our task forces or otherwise to determine really just the best avenue ultimately for prosecution.

“But in those instances, when a child has gone missing under truly suspicious circumstances where we believe it’s a kidnapping, that is an all-hands-on deck scenario for an entire FBI field division, potentially, where we’re going to work and really put our badges to the side regardless of the department and the number one priority there is the recovery of that child, secondarily, making sure we identify that subject and hold them accountable.”

SEN. OSSOFF: “I appreciate that breakdown. And it’s instructive. I would note that last month, NCMEC testified before this Subcommittee that children who go missing from foster care are especially vulnerable to being trafficked.

“And we’ve heard from experts, advocates, attorneys, who represent victims of child sex exploitation and trafficking, who have testified to the particular vulnerability of foster children to trafficking.

“You testified in your opening statement that each of the FBI’s 56 field offices have received complaints about human trafficking reports, of human trafficking, and that the FBI is working to build more relationships and awareness. Talk about what that means how our relationships and awareness, a piece of this enforcement and investigation process?”

DEPUTY ASSISTANT DIRECTOR PEREZ: “So, the relationship piece are really goes across all our all our programs and violations, if you will, at a field office level. So we continually look to engage with our Federal, state, and local law enforcement partners to identify violations, human trafficking, child exploitation, really variety of threats, if you will, that we can offer assistance. 

“So, whether there is an immediate Federal nexus or not, we’re always looking to provide resources to local law enforcement. In addition to that, we regularly engage through private sector outreach and interactions with non-government agencies or organizations who might have access to information or might be what we would refer to as a tripwire — an element where someone can provide us advanced real-time notice of some type of threat.

“So, we do that through our field offices, we have a section of partner engagement. We have a number of entities throughout the field offices and at headquarters that really drives interaction with private sector, with non-government entities. 

“Our Victim Services Division spends a lot of time working with local police departments too, to try to build that relationship to when we do identify victims of a Federal crime to make sure we’re providing proper victim services — so, I would say that’s where regular engagement.

“On the human trafficking piece, we’re also working to really share best practices on prosecutions, on investigations, so that we can be better at investigating, holding people accountable, prosecuting these cases, and then providing the necessary services to the victims. So, we do that again through communication and collaboration.”

SEN. OSSOFF: “Thank you, Mr. Perez. Commissioner Jones Gaston, we discussed earlier in this hearing some of the requirements standards conditions of receiving Federal support for state governments and state agencies.

“HHS provides many millions of dollars each year to state foster care systems nationwide, and as a condition of receiving Federal funding, those state foster care agencies and state welfare systems are subject to monitoring by HHS — We’ve discussed some of that. 

“You described in your testimony that one of the primary ways that HHS monitors state foster care performance are the Child and Family Services Review process. And among other things, that process, the CFSR process, measures whether states are adequately assessing risk and managing safety threats to children. Whether they are making concerted efforts properly to address reports of abuse and neglect to assess risk, again, assess risk and manage safety.

“First of all, why is it important that HHS monitor state’s performance in this area?”

COMMISSIONER JONES GASTON: “Well, safety for children is paramount. And our oversight of the application and implementation of Federal requirements in child welfare agencies is a piece of that. The ability to have appropriate responses, and timeliness is critical, and again, as has been stated, for vulnerable children, and being able to provide protections for children that need it. 

“The CFSR process, as stated is our primary monitoring tool that we have. However, I do want to just note, that we also have, the ongoing relationship and work that the regional offices do with the state agencies, during that monitoring process, but also as issues arise, and the ability to talk about how things are being implemented, questions that we might have about the outcomes that children are experiencing are an important part of that.”

SEN. OSSOFF: “And so for states that are not in substantial conformity, with those Federal standards, we discussed, adequately assessing risk and managing safety threats. What is HHS’ role in helping to improve their performance?”

COMMISSIONER JONES GASTON: “So the CFSR process involves a sampling of cases, where there’s a deep dive into the following of the procedures and requirements at the Federal level, conversations and interviews with young people, parents, foster parents, community members, partners, all involved in family and children’s lives, and then, it is assessed whether or not they are in in compliance or not in conformity with the expected measure.

“If there’s nonconformity, then there is a process that plays out around building a Program Improvement Plan, and that is done with our team and the state agencies team in identifying what strategies are going to be employed, what is the benchmark that they’re working towards improving to, and then having ongoing conversations, and check-ins along the way during that two-year period. If, at the end of that Program Improvement Planned, the state still has not successfully met the set measure in the plan, then there is a financial penalty that is applied to that agency.”

SEN. OSSOFF: “And am I correct that, Georgia DFCS is one of those state child welfare programs that was penalized, because it did not complete its Program Improvement Plan?”


“Every state that’s been through a Child and Family Services review has been involved in a Program Improvement Plan. Georgia, at the end of the third round of the CFSR, did not successfully meet the marker in the Program Improvement Plan and was issued a penalty.” 

SEN. OSSOFF: “In addition to monitoring by HHS, Federal law requires states to establish Citizen Review Panels, comprised of members who have expertise in child welfare, to evaluate and issue annual reports on the state’s efforts to fulfill its child protection obligations. Why is it important for states to have these panels in place?”

COMMISSIONER JONES GASTON: “Child Welfare can’t do its work alone. The work of protecting children and working with families is, in fact a community and societal responsibility. And so, having citizens of the community, as part of an assessment process, and digging into doing case reviews, and giving a non-agency perspective on what’s happening around a particular case, or overall in regards to the agency’s practices, is important to be able to have diverse perspectives and insight into what’s happening, in order to be able to really fully continue to focus on and continued improvement, in practice, and striving for better and better outcomes.”

Sen. Ossoff’s third line of questioning:

SEN. OSSOFF: “I want to continue with the FBI, Mr. Perez, and dig in further on the efforts that are being made to investigate and prosecute, the trafficking and exploitation of children. In August of this year, the FBI reported that during Operation Cross Country, and I believe you are intimately involved in this operation, that 200 victims of sex trafficking, many of whom were children and who had gone missing, were recovered. Were all the children who were reported missing, all the children who were found, who had gone missing, had they been reported properly to NCIC as a missing child, at the time that they were recovered by law enforcement?”

DEPUTY DIRECTOR PEREZ: “Sir, I do not have that answer, I can tell you that when we encounter a few things, we look to identify locations of victims, and also at times, through identification. Sometimes when we say identification that could be in an online case where we’ve identified a child victim that’s being exploited, and then there’s also a locate, meaning that we’ve actually physically located a child that’s being exploited. I don’t have information to speak specifically if all those children were entered into NCIC or not, sir.”

SEN. OSSOFF: “Thank you, Mr. Perez. Are you familiar with Child Advocacy Centers? These are the national, regional and local organizations that help coordinate the investigation, treatment and prosecution of child abuse?”


SEN. OSSOFF: “In your view, why are these Child Advocacy Centers valuable partners for the FBI and other law enforcement agencies to help recover missing and trafficked children?”

DEPUTY DIRECTOR PEREZ: “So, from, one of our strategies, when it comes to exploitation of children and adults, we look to take a victim-centered-trauma informed approach, meaning that beyond holding the perpetrators accountable, we want to make sure that we’re providing the proper care, and techniques when discussing the abuse with the victim, and ensuring that we do not continue a pattern of abuse. So we do that.

“We’ve taken steps internally within the FBI to expand that to develop what we refer to as our Child Adolescent forensic interviewers, meaning that every time we encounter a child victim, we have trained personnel, professional personnel, who are fully dedicated to have those communications and ensure that we get proper information, but at the same time, that we’re not revictimizing a child.

“We seek to do that across the country. However, resources being limited, there’s oftentimes where we look to really augment those resources through the Child Advocacy Centers. So we’ll partner up with those elements, depending sometimes if our resources are not available, or either provide a venue for the interview, or those kinds of things. So it’s an invaluable partner. It really just augments our ability to treat victims in an informed way, in a sensitive way, to make sure that we prevent revictimization.”

SEN. OSSOFF: “Thank you, Mr. Perez. Commissioner, we’ve got about six minutes till you have to depart. We talked about the CFSR process. We talked about the Program Improvement Plans that are developed jointly where they’re issued to states that are in substantial nonconformity with the Federal standards, for example, on assessing risk and managing safety threats to children. 

“You noted that penalties can be assessed in some cases where the program plan is not fully properly successfully implemented. Earlier, when we were talking about, for example, the requirement under CAPTA that states include child sex trafficking in their definition of abuse and neglect, or that the requirement that child welfare agencies screen in victims of child sex trafficking in practice and not just in policy, and that’s an important distinction, because putting something in a policy manual, is not always the same thing as implementing that policy in practice by your state partners. Here we’re talking about state child welfare and foster care agencies.

“In the case of the CFSR, you have a remedy the PIP program, penalties associated with non-compliance. So, before we get into remedies on other aspects, my first question is, is that working? Is that driving an improvement in performance, an improvement in compliance with these Federal standards by state foster care agencies?

“I ask this because as we contemplate legislative solutions to strengthen the protection of vulnerable children across the country, we need to understand whether the tools with which we’ve already empowered you are sufficient as you’re implementing them.”

COMMISSIONER JONES GASTON: “Thank you, Chairman, the CFSR, we’re in our fourth round. It has been in place since the early 2000s. And I had mentioned earlier that every state when they go through the review ends up in some form of a Program Improvement Plan. 

“Many jurisdictions have been able to actually successfully exit their Program Improvement Plan without a penalty. And so, to that end, I would say that the review process does work in the instance of being able to hone in, identify strategies in partnership with the states.

“I think continued quality improvement is something that we are continually working on with the levers we do have, and the technical assistance we can provide, the oversight of the Child Welfare System. Rather, I’ll correct that, the oversight of the Federal implementation and the Federal rules sits with ACF. The actual implementation of the Child Welfare System and the running of the Child Welfare System is at the local level, at the state level. And so, it does require partnership, and working really closely with the jurisdiction in that balance between practice and policy, as you’re indicating.”

SEN. OSSOFF: “And so, in the other conditions, requirements, and standards with CFSR, you have a Program Improvement Plan process, there are penalties, where there’s failure to implement the Program Improvement Plan. It sounds to me like what you’re saying is, that you think that those incentives are driving states, not in all cases, we discussed, Georgia faced a penalty for not successfully completing its Program Improvement Plan, but other states are, many states are, according to your testimony, completing those Program Improvement Plans successfully, and the sense I’m getting is that you think that’s working.

“For Federal standards that are not captured directly by the CFSR, asking you earlier, for example, if a state does not successfully implement policies and procedures to screen children who are recovered, after they’ve been missing, for sex trafficking, and this OIG report looked at five states and found that in most cases, there was no evidence that the children had been appropriately screened, by the state agencies to be clear, not by HHS, but by the state agencies. 

“When we were discussing that problem, what I heard was you can provide technical assistance, you can provide best practices, you can remind states of the Federal standards, but do you have a remedy akin to the Program Improvement Plan, and the penalties associated with it? Is there are there sticks and carrots? Or are there just best practices that you communicate to the best of your ability within the confines of your relationship with that state agency?”

COMMISSIONER JONES GASTON: “Well the other mechanisms that we have are to do partial reviews, if there’s an issue that comes to our attention, and we can go in and do a partial review, which in many ways would mirror the CFSR process, but around a particular issue, and can issue corrective action plans, depending on the area in which it sits in, as far as the legislative statutory driver, would depend on what the what the mechanism is, and whether or not there is a significant financial penalty that can be employed or not.”

SEN. OSSOFF: “I’ve got you for about three more minutes. So please drill down on those partial reviews, as concisely and precisely as you can, what those corrective action plans entail. And what happens if states don’t successfully implement them.”

COMMISSIONER JONES GASTON: “The partial reviews would be looking at whatever the particular issue, so they usually come about because an issue has been raised, or there is a concern around following a particular Federal requirement and digging into that. 

“The reviews would include talking with individuals, the case review, similar case review processes as we would do in the CFSR, and working with the jurisdiction, in regards to what they have done, and then issuing a corrective action plan. 

“And then regarding the penalties and the actions beyond that, would depend on what the circumstance was, and was it tied to a CFSR review and those sorts of things. And happy to be able to have my team, work with my team, to get back with you, around the various funding streams and the mechanisms that we have related to penalties, related to those different funding streams, if that makes sense.”

Sen. Ossoff’s closing statement:

SEN. OSSOFF: “This is where I would like your commitment here at this hearing, that you and your colleagues will be responsive, as you have been thus far, and provide the technical assistance that this Subcommittee may need to consider how statutes might change so that you have the tools you need to hold these state agencies accountable.

“The reason that we are looking so intensely at this issue, and I believe that both you, Commissioner, and you, Mr. Perez at the FBI, share this commitment based upon this testimony, is because what is happening to foster children across the United States is unacceptable.

“The placements in homes where the caregivers are not appropriately vetted — and this Subcommittee has heard testimony from the mother of a child who was murdered by one of those unvetted caregivers. It’s unacceptable. 

“The number of children who are going missing from foster care across the United States, and the number of children who are then likely, according to NCMEC statistics, victims of sex trafficking is unacceptable. 

“The reports that this Subcommittee has received about congregate care settings that sound comparable to detention, or incarceration, and which drive some of these children — according to the testimony we’ve heard — to run away, because in a state foster agency that is meant to be their sanctuary, they’re treated like prisoners, and then upon running away find themselves preyed upon by traffickers. It’s unacceptable. 

“And the reason that we are holding these hearings is to understand in large part, what Congress can do about it.

“So your testimony here today has helped to inform us. But we need to go deeper, Commissioner, on whether the tools that are at your disposal are sufficient to drive the kind of change that is urgent. 

“Because as Ranking Member Blackburn said, citing the statistic about how frequently a child in this country is bought, or sold, or sexually trafficked, there is absolute urgency, every day, that we protect these children.

“And we’re gonna continue to press you, and I hope continue to work with you, to improve these systems. 

“Thank you both for your testimony here today. Please, I just want a one-word commitment from each of you that you will timely, and fully, to the best of your ability respond with further information and technical assistance the Subcommittee that may require moving forward, Commissioner?”

COMMISSIONER JONES GASTON: “We’d be happy to do that.”

SEN. OSSOFF: “Mr. Perez?”


SEN. OSSOFF: “Thank you both for being here.”

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