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  4. Fact Sheet: How DHS is Combating Child Exploitation and Abuse

Fact Sheet: How DHS is Combating Child Exploitation and Abuse

Release Date: April 17, 2024

Every day, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) leads the fight against child exploitation and abuse. As part of the Department’s mission to combat crimes of exploitation and protect victims, we investigate these abhorrent crimes, spread awareness, collaborate with interagency and international partners, and expand our reach to ensure children are safe and protected.

DHS battles child exploitation and abuse using all available tools and resources department-wide, emphasizing its commitment in April 2023 by adding “Combat Crimes of Exploitation and Protect Victims” as its sixth core mission.

As part of the Department’s ongoing work on this mission, today DHS is announcing Know2Protect, the U.S. government’s first prevention and awareness campaign to combat online child sexual exploitation and abuse. In recognition of April’s Child Abuse Prevention Month, DHS is committed to raising awareness, preventing child exploitation and abuse, and bringing perpetrators to justice.

Between October 2022 and April 2024, DHS:

  • Expanded and unified the Department’s focus on combating cybercrimes by redesignating the HSI Cyber Crimes Center as the DHS Cyber Crimes Center to enhance coordination across all DHS agencies and offices to combat cyber-related crimes and further the Department’s mission to combat online child sexual exploitation and abuse (CSEA).
  • The Blue Campaign, now part of the DHS Center for Countering Human Trafficking, increased national partnerships from 43 in FY22 to 64 in FY23. The campaign hosted 194 national trainings on the indicators of human trafficking and how to report these crimes with over 19,000 participants from the federal government, non-governmental organizations, law enforcement, and the general public. In April 2024, Blue Campaign announced a partnership with rideshare company Lyft to train their drivers, who interact with millions of riders per year, on how to recognize and report human trafficking. Read more accomplishments in the DHS Center for Countering Human Trafficking’s FY 2023 Annual Report.
  • Identified and/or assisted 2,621 child victims of exploitation through the work of Homeland Security Investigations and made more than 6,100 arrests for crimes involving the sexual exploitation of children. Learn more in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)’s FY2023 Annual Report.
  • Joined the Biden-Harris Administration and interagency partners to collaborate on actions to keep children and teens safe as part of the Kids Online Health and Safety Task Force and the White House Online Harassment and Abuse Task Force.
  • Tasked the Department’s external advisory bodies, including the Homeland Security Advisory Council, the Homeland Security Academic Partnership Council, and the Faith-Based Security Advisory Council, to each form a subcommittee to review DHS efforts to combat online child sexual exploitation and abuse. In the coming months, they will share their findings, which will help inform the Department’s future efforts to tackle these issues.
  • Began implementing a trauma-informed and victim and survivor-centered multidisciplinary work plan through the Joint Council on Combating Child Sexual Exploitation, established by President Biden and Australian Prime Minister Albanese. The Council, co-chaired by Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas, is focused on building the capacity of countries in the Indo-Pacific region to combat this crime; jointly developing policy recommendations to tackle the issue; conducting joint investigations and operations; sharing research and development efforts; preventing victimization through education and awareness campaigns; and safety-by-design.

To accomplish this work, DHS coordinates with law enforcement at home and abroad to enforce and uphold our laws, protects victims with a victim-centered approach that prioritizes respect and understanding, and works to stop this heinous crime through public education and outreach.

Enforcing Our Laws

DHS works with domestic and international partners to enforce and uphold the laws that protect children from abuse. The Department works collaboratively with the Department of Justice, the FBI, U.S Marshals, Interpol, Europol, and international law enforcement partners to arrest and prosecute perpetrators.

  • Increased U.S. government and law enforcement efforts to combat financial sextortion – a crime targeting children and teens by coercing them into sending explicit images online and extorting them for money. In the past two years HSI received 4500 sextortion tips from Cote d’Ivoire and 665 children have been identified and supported by HSI. Learn more about the crime of sextortion.
  • Helped deny more than 1,400 convicted, registered U.S. child sex offenders entry to foreign countries through travel notifications sent by the HSI Angel Watch Center. These efforts build international cooperation to ensure all countries are safe from predators.
  • Partnered with 61 regional Internet Crimes Against Children Task Forces to investigate people involved in the online victimization of children, including those who produce, receive, distribute and/or possess child sexual abuse material, or who engage in online sexual enticement of children.
  • Researched and developed modern tools and technologies that equip domestic and international law enforcement partners with advanced forensic capabilities to accomplish their mission to identify victims and apprehend child sexual abusers. For example, DHS’s Science and Technology Directorate developed the StreamView application to help law enforcement more efficiently address child exploitation cases by helping investigators aggregate, organize, and analyze investigative leads to identify the location of a crime, the victim, and bring the perpetrator to justice. Since May 2023, StreamView has led to the rescue of 68 victims, 47 arrests, eight life sentences, and dismantled eight trafficking networks having up to one million registered users.
  • The U.S. Secret Service provides forensic and technical assistance to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) and state/local law enforcement in cases involving missing and exploited children. 
  • U.S. Customs and Border Protection 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.

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.

HSI’s “Operation Renewed Hope” mission in July 2023 resulted in the generation of 311 probable identifications of previously unknown victims, including 94 positive contacts and several confirmed victim rescues from active abuse due to their locations being discovered through materials uncovered during the investigations. The investigation also led to the identification of perpetrators of child sexual abuse material. HSI completed “Operation Renewed Hope II” in Spring 2024, which resulted in the generation of 414 probable identifications of previously unknown victims, and positive identification of 30 previously unknown child sexual abuse victims, which included 8 victims rescued from active abuse.

  • Once victims of child exploitation are identified and/or rescued, the HSI Victim Assistance Program (VAP) supports them 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, and contact information for local social service programs for young victims, and agencies to assist in the healing process.
  • The Center for Countering Human Trafficking hosted its second annual virtual DHS Human Trafficking Seminar for DHS employees who are part of the Department’s mission to end human trafficking or are interested in this work. Over 900 employees from across the Department attended to learn more about DHS’s work and victim-centered approach to combating this crime.
  • HSI provides short-term immigration protections to human trafficking victims, including victims of child sex trafficking. U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) provides victim-based or humanitarian-related immigration benefits to child victims of human trafficking, abuse, and neglect, including Special Immigration Juvenile (SIJ) classification, T visa, U visa, and VAWA immigrant classification.

Educating and Increasing Public Awareness

An integral part of this work is educating and expanding public awareness to help prevent this crime and hold perpetrators accountable. DHS does this important work every day.

  • Trained more than 2,000 law enforcement officials and child advocacy personnel throughout the country to enhance their counter-child exploitation tactics.
  • Educated over 186,000 kids, teens, parents, and teachers about internet safety and how to stay safe from sexual predators through the iGuardian program. DHS recently revamped Project iGuardian materials and using those materials, HSI has trained 419 special agents and completed presentations across 32 states and 8 countries. Presentations target kids aged 10 and up and their trusted guardians and focus on sharing information about the dangers of online environments, how to stay safe online, and how to report abuse and suspicious activity.
  • USSS Childhood Smart Program Ambassadors educated more than 112,000 children, parents, and teachers across 31 states and the District of Columbia about how to prevent online sexual exploitation and child abduction. The Childhood Smart Program provides age-appropriate presentations to children as young as five as well as to adults. Presentations focus on internet and personal safety as well as other topics such as social media etiquette and cyber bullying.
  • The HSI Human Rights Violations and War Crimes Center trained over 955 individuals across the interagency on female genital mutilation or cutting, a severe form of child abuse under federal law when done to individuals under the age of 18.
  • The DHS Blue Campaign Blue Lighting Initiative, part of the Center for Countering Human Trafficking, trained over 260,000 aviation personnel to identify potential traffickers and human trafficking victims and report their suspicions to law enforcement in FY 2023. The Initiative added 31 new partners this past year, raising its total partners to 136 aviation industry organizations, including its first two official international partners.
  • The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency administers SchoolSafety.gov, an interagency website that includes information, guidance and resources on a range of school safety topics. SchoolSafety.gov houses a child exploitation section and corresponding resources to help school communities identify, prevent and respond to child exploitation. Since its launch in January 2023, the SchoolSafety.gov child exploitation section has been viewed more than 17,380 times.

What You Can Do and Resources Available

How to report suspected online child sexual exploitation and abuse in the United States:

  • Contact your local, state, campus, or tribal law enforcement officials directly. Call 911 in an emergency.
  • 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).
  • If you suspect a child might be a victim of online sexual exploitation, call the HSI Tip Line at 1-866-347-2423 and report it to NCMEC’s CyberTipline.


Last Updated: 04/24/2024
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