Child trafficking, comprehensive needs and professional practices: A systematic review


Human trafficking is a crime that affects adults but also children and youngsters, who are subjected to extreme violence and inhumane conditions. Associated with their immaturity, the inability to protect themselves and the difficulty accessing support systems make them even more vulnerable, creating conditions for traffickers to abuse and control them. It is crucial that professionals from several areas (education, health, protection and social services, justice) who come in contact with child trafficking be prepared to do the necessary screening, needs assessment, and act according to international recommendations.


This systematic review of the literature aims to know the professionals’ practices and their understanding of comprehensive needs when working with victims of child trafficking.


Six databases were consulted: Sage, Science Direct, WebScience, PubMed, Scopus and Psycinfo (Ovid). From the analysis of the results, 17 studies were selected. This systematic review followed the protocol based on PRISMA recommendations.


All studies selected in this systematic review were developed in the last decade (2010–2018), in 14 different countries. The participants were professionals from education, health, protection and social services, justice fields and/or stakeholders in child trafficking or/and other professionals (e.g., religious leaders). The studies used mainly a qualitative methodology, using semi-structured interviews in the data collection. The results presented in those studies were organized into two main categories of analyses: comprehensive needs and professional practices. Regarding comprehensive needs, when working with child trafficking, professionals identified that it is necessary to pay attention to the specific needs of the victims, the needs in terms of the functioning of institutions and human resources, the needs in the macro-societal level and finally the importance of investing in scientific research. Based on the results, it was also possible to organize professional practices, according to international recommendations, into (in)adequate, barriers and difficulties faced.

Discussion and conclusion

Professionals who have contact with child victims of trafficking must act according to their needs. Thus, an efficient practice refers to a collaborative action assumed by a multidisciplinary team, which should integrate into their work a culturally sensitive posture, trauma-informed care and victim-centered approach. For that, professionals must receive specialized qualifications and training. This work may have implications for scientific research, public and institutional policies, but mainly for professionals’ education and practices when dealing with this phenomenon, from screening to the (re)integration of the trafficked children into society.


24 Jun 2021
Gabriela Martinho Mariana Gonçalves Marlene Matos
Children and Youth Services Review Volume 119
December 2020