Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Social Work


School of Social Work

First Reader/Committee Chair

Teresa Morris / Yawen Li


This study focused on child welfare workers and practitioners’ perceptions of Native American foster youth sex trafficked victim clients' most pressing needs. The research also sought to understand the perspectives of social workers and practitioners on services for the victimized youth. The study was conducted in a large urban county in Southern California, with social workers and practitioners that work with American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) foster youth in child protective services, clinical settings, and a tribal entity. The study adopted a post-positivism paradigm. The data was collected through interviews of individual social workers and practitioners servicing AI/AN youth in the foster system with prior experience and knowledge of Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) victimized foster youth. The results reflect the intertwining of culture and trauma among Native American CSEC foster youth victims. The study highlights the importance of ongoing psychoeducation and training among all service providers, Native communities, organizations, and the court system. Experiences and complete understanding of their unique cultures, history, and the social issue of CSEC victimization among Native youth impact their most pressing needs. The needs identified were sensitivity to culture, which entails paying attention to their past experiences, historical traumas, and the importance of regaining their traditions, and human rights. Mentorship that includes a peer mentor, family, or someone with similar experiences whom the victimized youth can identify. Engagement through building rapport by conversing with the victimized youth at their level and meeting them where they are. Mental health and substance use services, to support co-occurring disorders in victimized youth which is prevalent among this population. Lastly, youth-focused and readiness, which is respecting the youth’s willingness to express and accept help. Many times, having to be patient, flexible, and using the harm reduction model. The study also identifies the delivery methods practitioners identified as most successful with their Native American CSEC foster youth victims. Those service delivery methods included different services/linkage, like agencies that are well equipped and provide case management, and traditional methods. The importance of connection in CSEC, Native American services that are more holistic and spiritual forms of healing. Then collaboration, being vital among all service providers to successfully reach the victimized youth’s identified goal. As a result of this study, practitioners, social workers, and stakeholders will better understand the needs that AI/NA foster youth sex trafficked victims may have on a micro-level. It can also help practitioners choose programs that meet their defined needs, resulting in empathy and a more substantial commitment to help them recover, promoting partnerships among organizations in delivering services beyond foster care, developing ongoing supportive services to victims of sex trafficking, and ultimately reducing revictimization.

Included in

Social Work Commons