Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Social Work


School of Social Work

First Reader/Committee Chair

Gretchen Heidemann Whitt


Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) is a prevalent global crisis including a range of crimes and activities involving the sexual abuse and exploitation of children for financial and non-financial gain. Due to the vulnerability of children and youth who have been in the child welfare system, this population is at a much higher risk of falling victim to CSEC. This qualitative research study focused on the resources available and the knowledge of community professionals who have regular interactions with CSEC victims, such as social workers, licensed clinicians, law enforcement, and community advocates. Data was collected through video and phone interviews (in observation of COVID-19 safety protocols) with ten professionals who work with this population. Participants were recruited by the researchers. Participants were consented prior to participation and debriefed following their interviews. The data collected from the interviews was organized via a color-coded approach using descriptive analysis. This study found that most of the participants who come into contact with at risk or active CSEC victims utilize some type of identification tool. Additionally, this study confirmed that professionals in the community are aware and have community resources that provide direct intervention services. However, resources for this population are limited and there are barriers to maintaining contact with the youth due to confidentiality and the isolating and criminal nature of the exploitation, which impedes the professionals’ ability to gauge whether or not the services are effective. Furthermore, many participants reported that they recognize CSEC is a growing crisis in the community and that a lack of funding prevents more permanent and dependable community intervention and crisis programs, which are vital to supporting this vulnerable population. This study makes contributions to micro, mezzo, and macro social work by providing the observations of professionals including social workers in the community, who have regular interaction with CSEC victims and knowledge of the barriers that prevent this population from receiving the most encompassing, supportive, and trauma-informed services. Study limitations include the small sample size and non-probability sampling method.

Included in

Social Work Commons