Date of Award

Fall 12-2023

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Forensic Mental Health Counseling



First Advisor or Mentor

Elizabeth Jeglic

Second Reader

Sharron Spriggs

Third Advisor

Ann Marie Kavanagh


Sex trafficking is a global crime and human rights issue that benefits abusers at the detriment of vulnerable groups, including children involved in the United States welfare system. This meta-synthesis explored the risk factors present within the United States foster care system that expose children to potential victimization. Using qualitative research, the purpose of this study was to review sex trafficking exploitation and analyze the current policies creating this vulnerability in the nation’s child welfare services. Upon completing a systematic literature search, nine studies were included by meeting the following criteria: qualitative or quantitative research studies published in English any time after 2011 with a focus on the vulnerabilities of the United States foster care system and a domestic focus on sex trafficking exploitation. Risk factors found in this review include running away behavior, childhood maltreatment, lack of supervision and guidance, psychological and behavioral problems, and survival sex. These risk factors will be discussed further within the foster care system setting to determine how they impact one’s likelihood of being victimized through sex trafficking.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.