The State Department issued what the Washington Post calls a withering condemnation of the institutionalization of children away from family settings, saying in its annual report on human trafficking that those who spend time in such facilities suffer long-term emotional damage. The report was prepared before the Trump administration instituted a policy of separating children from their families. It says institutions, whether run by governments or private groups, are harmful to many of the 8 million children worldwide who live in such facilities. “Studies have found that both private and government-run residential institutions for children, or places such as orphanages and psychiatric wards that do not offer a family-based setting, cannot replicate the emotional companionship and attention found in family environments that are prerequisites to healthy cognitive development,” the report says.
“The physical and psychological effects of staying in residential institutions, combined with societal isolation and often subpar regulatory oversight by governments, place these children in situations of heightened vulnerability to human trafficking,” it states. The report recommends screening for those who are suspected to be victims of trafficking so they can be referred to care and an investigation can proceed. In the report, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that human trafficking undermines national security, enriches criminals and terrorists, and is an affront to universal values. He said combating it is a priority for the Trump administration. The State Department defines modern-day slavery as coerced sex trafficking, forced labor and debt bondage, and recommends governments form task forces to address the practice. Melysa Sperber of Humanity United, said the administration’s “zero tolerance” and family separation policies have undermined US credibility in critiquing human trafficking, and she called on the White House to fill a vacancy for an ambassador to head the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.