DFCS Online Policies & Procedures

  DFCS Online Policies & Procedures

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Handbook 13: Cross Program Protocols
13-19 Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC)
Cross Program Protocols
13-19 Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC)
Reference Points
CSEC Victim Identification
Methods of Exploitation
Language and Terminology of the Pimp Structure
Myth Busters
Strategies and Approaches to Engaging CSEC Population
CSEC Multidisciplinary Team Meeting
Other References

Reference Points
Effective Date: 4/4/2014
Last Updated: 4/4/2014
 Legal Basis:
Popup Window Federal Law: United States Code Annotated, 18 USCA 2251
Popup Window California Penal Code Section: 236.1
Popup Window California Penal Code Section: 311.3 
 Non CWS/CMS Forms:
MS Word Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) MDT Referral Form
 CWS/CMS Forms:


As defined in the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000, sex trafficking of minors or children is defined as the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act … in which the person

induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age.”

Another definition used by the organizations, Motivating, Inspiring, Supporting and Serving Sexually Exploited Youth (MISSSEY) and Girls Educational and Mentoring Services (GEMS) of Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) is taking an unfair advantage of the imbalance of power that exists between an adult and a child under the age of 18 for the purpose of sexual pleasure.  It occurs in several forms, including child sex trafficking and child pornography.  The sexual activity involves a child in exchange for something of value or promise thereof, to another person or persons. It is a form of violence against children, where the child is treated as a commercial sexual object. According to MISSSEY and GEMS, the most common age of a child being sexually exploited is 12 years old. 

Within the United States, California has emerged as a magnet for CSEC, with the Bay Area identified as one of the nation’s highest child sex trafficking zones.  Despite the preconception that human trafficking is a third world phenomenon, it is clear that the commercial sexual exploitation of children is a crisis happening in the United States. Santa Clara County has seen a significant increase in commercial sexual exploitation because victims are not detained and often scared and/or intimidated not to provide information about their exploiter and local law enforcement agencies have few resources to target this activity. This increases the likelihood that pimps will get away with the exploitation locally.  This is an attractive criminal business because pimps can make more money selling children than they can selling drugs because children are a reusable commodity.

The children who fall prey to exploiters and pimps frequently have had contact with the child welfare system. An alarming number of children who are commercially sexually exploited have histories of abuse and neglect.  Foster youth are often targeted because of their unique vulnerabilities and accessibility.  Researchers have found that child sexual abuse increases the risk of exploitation and is the most common characteristic of commercially sexually exploited children.

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CSEC Victim Identification  

If the age of an individual has been verified to be under 18 and the individual is in any way involved in the commercial sex industry – sex trafficking or pornography as examples, or has a record or prior arrest for prostitution (or related charges), then he or she is a CSEC victim. (2012 National H.E.A.T. Watch Conference www.Heat-Watch.org)

Below are a list of some risk factors and indicators of exploitation in identifying CSEC Victims: (Sources include MISSSEY, GEMS, SAGE, 2012 National H.E.A.T. Watch Conference.)

  • Youth in the foster care system, especially victims of sexual abuse, are at higher risk of being sexually exploited.
  • Victims tend to be female; however, males & transgender youth are also at risk.
  • Typical age range is 12-18 years old with some children being as young as 10 years old.
  • Significant running away (AWOL) behaviors
    • A child who runs away is at risk of being recruited for sexual exploitation within the first 72 hours of leaving.
    • Homeless or runaway youth who are in the position of surviving on their own may be forced to exchange sex for survival needs, such as housing or shelter.
  • Relationship with adults or older men.
  • Evidence of controlling or dominating relationships including repeated phone calls from a “boyfriend” and /or excessive concern about displeasing partner.
  • Unexplained shopping trips or possession of expensive items.
  • Not in control of their own money.
  • Use of lingo or slang from “the life” among peers or referring to a boyfriend as “Daddy.”
  • Unaccounted for time, vagueness/secrecy concerning whereabouts, and/or defensiveness in response to questions or concern.
  • Keeping late-night or unusual hours.
  • Wearing sexually provocative clothing.
    • Not all children in the commercial sex industry wear such clothing. Sexually provocative clothing is not a warning sign in and of itself. Wearing new clothes of any style, or getting hair or nails done with no financial means to do this independently, is a more general indicator of potential sexual exploitation.
  • Has an explicitly sexual online profile via internet community sites, such as MySpace.com, Blackplanet.com, Facebook.com, etc.
  • Excessive frequenting of internet chat rooms or classified sites such as: Craigslist.org, MyRedbook.com, and Backpages.com known for recruitment into prostitution.
  • Frequent law enforcement/probation involvement (citations for prostitution).
  • Youth living in group homes and youth shelters are targeted by exploiters for sexual exploitation.  Additionally, youth in group homes may be asked to recruit other youth residing in the group home.
  • Visible signs of abuse, such as unexplained bruises, black eyes, cuts, marks, branding or tattooing.
  • Pimps and other sexual exploiters often tattoo or brand children and youth, particularly girls. Youth are commonly branded with their exploiter’s name tattooed on their neck, chest, or arms.
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Methods of Exploitation  

Exploiters’ methods or techniques include targeting victims by isolating, through coercion, with violence, through seduction, and by recruitment.  

Many exploiters prey on CSEC victims in the settings below:

  • Street trafficking:  The “Stroll” or “Track”- the common area or cross streets where street trafficking is known to occur on a nightly basis. 
    • According to the Santa Clara County Sheriff and San Jose Police Department, some commonly known areas in San Jose are: Alum Rock Avenue, Monterey Highway, North First Street and The Alameda
    • Attire may not be sexually provocative, and may include shirt, jeans, tennis shoes, and a backpack.
  • Adult coffee shops
  • Pornography
  • Stripping
  • Erotic/nude massage
  • Escort services
  • Phone sex lines
  • Private parties
  • Gang-based prostitution
  • Interfamilial pimping
  • Forms of internet-based commercial sexual exploitation, which includes social media websites.

The following are frequent websites/social media that are used to advertise for sexual encounters: 

    • www.MyRedbook.com
    • www.Facebook.com
    • www.craigslist.com
    • www.MySpace.com
    • www.BlackPlanet.com
    • www.Backpage.com
    • Instagram
    • SnapChat
    • The Metro newspaper in the ads

Please Note:

  • Accessing these websites needs DFCS management approval.  Facebook is available to everyone for work related research. 
  • If you need access to these websites for case specific reasons, please contact the RISC coordinator. 
  • Management approval is granted on a case-by-case basis. 
  • The county can review computer usage at any time.


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Language and Terminology of the Pimp Structure        

These definitions are provided to help Social Workers understand the language that is commonly used with this population and to help engage those clients who may be impacted. The following definitions are provided by the Polaris Project:

  • “Daddy”- a term used to describe one’s own pimp, evoking images of fatherhood
  • “Bottom” or “Bottom Bitch”- the girl who has been with the pimp the longest and often takes on a mid-level controlling role to keep the other victims in line.
  • “Dates,” “Johns,” and “Tricks”- terms used to describe buyers of commercial sex.
  • “Square”- a term used that describes trying to go straight and get out of the life, or that describes law enforcement and those that don’t understand “the game.”
  • The “Stroll” or “Track”- the common area or cross streets where street prostitution is known to occur on a nightly basis.
  • “Wife in Law”- each individual in the group of girls that are with the same pimp.
  • “Stable”- refers to the group of girls under the pimps control (i.e. a pimp’s stable).
  • “Pimp Circle”- the process of multiple pimps swarming and surrounding one girl and hissing insults at her, for the purpose of humiliation and intimidation.
  • “Out of Pocket”- a term used to describe when a girl breaks “the rules” by making eye contact with another pimp.


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Myth Busters  

Below are common myths that relate to Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (Source: 2012 National H.E.A.T. Watch Conference www.Heat-Watch.org):

The Myth of NIMBY (Not in My Backyard):

    • Many still believe that buying and selling of children for sex only happens abroad, or certainly “not in my backyard.” Remarkably, many do not know that the commercial sexual exploitation of children is a rapidly growing and highly lucrative domestic industry, no less serious because international borders are not crossed, and that a child trafficked from another country or within California suffers the same harm.

The Myth of the Scarlet Letter:

    • Our society places a premium on women and girls being chaste. Since chastity is often equated with respect and credibility, many still believe that “fast girls deserve what they get.” As CSEC youth are sexually active, they are often marked with the scarlet letter of promiscuity, criticized, shunned, and forgotten. Labeling a child as “fast,” “loose,” or “promiscuous” advances the criminal enterprise by shifting the responsibility to the child and away from the trafficker where it rightfully belongs.

The Myth of Consent:

    •  Many do not view CSEC as child abuse because of the belief that the child is consenting to sex. Nevertheless, consent is legally invalid for CSEC youth. In California, consent is irrelevant for the evaluation of abuse because a child under the age of 18 is legally incapable of giving consent under any circumstance. What looks like consent is in fact obtained and maintained by fraud, pressure, and/or force and is therefore unfounded.

The Myth of Choice:

    • Labeling a child as a “prostitute” implies a concept of choice and suggests an element of voluntariness. The term prostitute is often associated with criminal wrongdoing and “child prostitutes” are typically arrested and treated as criminals. In reality, CSEC youth are victims of trickery and abuse.
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Strategies and Approaches to engaging CSEC Population  

Strategies and approaches to the CSEC population in Santa Clara County are relatively new and continuing to evolve.  The following should be considered when working with a CSEC youth (Commercially Sexually Exploited Children (CSEC) Task Force Fact Sheets December 2012):

  • Change your language by refraining from using the word “prostitute”.  This implies the child has a choice.  These children are victims and are being trafficked by adults. 
  • Interventions and services should take into account the severe physical and psychological violence and trauma CSEC youth have experienced.
  • Victims of sexual exploitation have immediate and long-term needs that should be addressed.
    • Immediate interventions should include a safe placement, physical health exam, and mental health services that address multi-layered trauma.
    • Long-term services should comprehensively address the victims’ needs, and may include child care, housing, educational assistance, employment assistance, life skills training, financial management, legal services, and mental health services.
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CSEC Multidisciplinary Team Meeting  

A CSEC Multidisciplinary Team Meeting (MDT) is comprised of a team of experts including members of the Department and Family and Children’s Services CSEC committee, a Santa Clara County Detective and the representatives from community based organizations who frequently work with CSEC youth.

If you have a youth on your caseload who you believe is engaging in, or at risk of sexual exploitation, please contact the RISC coordinator Cynde Elkins at (408) 501-6813 or Cynthia.Elkins@ssa.sccgov.org to request a CSEC Multi-Disciplinary Team (MDT) meeting.

  • CSEC MDTs occur on the first Wednesday of the month from 10am-12pm in the San Jose Room.  One hour is allotted for each MDT meeting. 


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Information on Sexual Exploitation and Human Trafficking can be found on the following websites:

  • MISSSEY (Motivating, Inspiring, Supporting, and Serving Sexually Exploited Youth) www.misssey.org.  This agency is based in Oakland, CA.
  • The SAGE Project (Standing Against Global Exploitation) www.sagesf.org.  This agency is based in San Francisco, CA.
  • GEMS (Girls Educational and Mentoring Services) www.gems-girls.org This agency is based in New York.
  • The Polaris Project www.polarisproject.org. This is a national resource based in Washington DC.
  • Carissa Phelps-CSEC survivor and attorney www.carissaphelps.com. Founder and CEO of Runaway Girl, FPC, which is a charitable based organization that provides training and employment opportunities for survivors of human trafficking.
  • H.E.A.T. Watch www.HEAT-Watch.org  This is a program of the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office.
  • National Center for Missing and Exploited Children www.missingkids.com


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Mary Bianchi, DFCS CSEC Committee Chair

Telephone: (408) 501-6890


Cynde Elkins, RISC coordinator

Telephone: (408) 501-6813

Email: Cynthia.Elkins@ssa.sccgov.org


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Other References  
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