Every day, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) leads the fight against child exploitation and abuse. From the DHS Child Exploitation Investigations Unit (CEIU), part of the Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Cyber Crimes Center (C3), to the United States Secret Service (USSS), to the DHS Science & Technology Directorate (S&T), DHS is dedicated to battling child exploitation and abuse from every angle: identifying and rescuing victims, protecting and supporting victims and survivors, locating and apprehending perpetrators, and raising awareness through public education and outreach. In FY2022, DHS has:
- Identified and/or rescued 1,170 child victims through investigations supported by the HSI Child Exploitation Investigations Unit (CEIU). In the same time period, HSI arrested 4,459 individuals for crimes involving the sexual exploitation of children and helped to secure more than 2,147 convictions.
- Arrested more than 4,400 individuals as part of HSI’s Operation Predator, which targets child sexual predators, including producers, distributors, and receivers, of child sexual abuse material on both the clear web and dark web.
- Provided long-term immigration protections to child victims of human trafficking, abuse, and neglect, including Special Immigration Juvenile (SIJ) classification, T visa, U visa, and VAWA protection through U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS).
- Provided educational presentations and resources to 189,000 children and adults through HSI’s Project iGuardian, an initiative led by HSI in partnership with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) and Internet Crime Against Children (ICAC) Task Forces. Project iGuardian educates kids, teens, parents, and teachers throughout the country about online safety and how to stay safe from sexual predators.
- Conducted polygraph exams of online offenders (often in possession of child sexual abuse material) by USSS personnel, uncovering 90 victims of sexual abuse, 1,415 unique sexual assaults, and 2,024 instances of child sexual abuse material exchanged among adults.
- Trained more than 950 law enforcement officials and child advocacy personnel throughout the country to enhance their counter-child exploitation tactics through the USSS.
How DHS is Stopping Child Exploitation and Abuse
Identifying and Rescuing Victims
- The HSI CEIU Victim Identification Program (VIP) combines state of the art technology with traditional investigative techniques to identify and rescue victims around the globe. Since its inception in 2011, more than 11,000 child victims of sexual exploitation have been identified and/or rescued through this program.
- The DHS Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) develops and deploys leading-edge forensic tools and technologies that enable CEIU agents and analysts, and other national and international law enforcement partners, to identify and locate child victims of online sexual exploitation.
- Since April 2022, HSI has fully identified 282 child victims of financial sextortion in the United States.
- DHS continues to develop screening protocols and methods across the Department for DHS personnel to identify and report child exploitation in their day-to-day duties.
Protecting and Supporting Victims
- DHS incorporates a victim-centered approach into all Department programs, policies, and operations that involve victims of crime. This effort seeks to minimize additional trauma, mitigate undue penalization, and provide needed stability and support to victims.
- The HSI Victim Assistance Program (VAP) supports victims of child exploitation and their non-offending caretaker(s) by using highly trained forensic interview specialists to conduct victim-centered and trauma-informed forensic interviews. In addition, VAP’s victim assistance specialists provide other resources to victims such as crisis intervention, referrals for short and long term medical and/or mental health care, with local social service programs for young victims, and agencies to assist in the healing process.
- HSI provides short-term immigration protections to human trafficking victims, including victims of child sex trafficking.
Enforcing and Upholding Our Laws
- Over 1,000 convicted, registered U.S. child sex offenders have been denied entry to foreign countries through notifications shared with partners through HSI’s Angel Watch program.
- USSS provides forensic and technical assistance to NCMEC and state/local law enforcement in cases involving missing and exploited children.
- 61 regional ICAC Task Forces throughout the nation work with HSI special agents to investigate people involved in the online victimization of children, to include those who produce, receive, distribute and/or possess Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM), or who engage in online sexual enticement of children.
- Child sexual abusers are identified and apprehended through modern tools and technologies developed by S&T that equip domestic and international law enforcement partners with advanced forensic capabilities to accomplish their mission.
- U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) screens all unaccompanied children and other arriving minors for indicators of abuse or exploitation, human trafficking, and other crimes, and all suspected criminal cases are referred to HSI.
Educating and Connecting with the Public
- More than 23,000 parents, teachers, and children were educated by USSS Childhood Smart Program (CSP) Ambassadors about how to prevent online sexual exploitation and child abduction.
- Over 1,100 individuals across the interagency were trained by HSI Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Unit on female genital mutilation or cutting (FGM/C), a severe form of child abuse under federal law when done to individuals under the age of 18.
- Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), through Project iGuardian, and the United States Secret Service (USSS) both provide trainings and resources to educate children, teachers, and families about online safety and how to prevent child exploitation in their communities.
- In February 2022, more than 400 school administrators, teachers, parents, students, and law enforcement representatives attended an educational webinar on Online Safety Guidance and Resources for K-12 Schools. This briefing was an interagency effort through the Federal School Safety Clearinghouse – and included the U.S. Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, and Justice.
What You Can Do
- If you suspect a child might be a victim of online exploitation, call the HSI Tip Line at 1-866-347-2423 and fill out the online NCMEC CyberTipline form at https://report.cybertip.org/.
- If you suspect a child has been abducted or faces imminent danger, contact your local police and the NCMEC tip line at 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678).
- Learn more about the crime of Sextortion at https://www.ice.gov/features/sextortion
- Visit the HSI iGuardians website for useful tips, online resources, and contact information, as well as information for outreach presentations aimed at online safety for kids, teens, and parents at https://www.ice.gov/topics/iGuardians.
- Raise awareness of human trafficking, including child sex and forced labor trafficking, in your community using DHS Blue Campaign resources on DHS.gov/BlueCampaign. Follow DHS Blue Campaign on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter: @DHSBlueCampaign.
- Read the DHS Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking, the Importation of Goods Produced with Forced Labor, and Child Sexual Exploitation.
- Familiarize yourself with the Voluntary Principles to Counter Online Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse.
- Talk to children and youth about online safety, ways of staying safe online, including social media and gaming platforms, and where they can seek help when needed.