Shining a Light: Youth in Residential Treatment with History of Sexual Exploitation

Elizabeth Schnur, Jenny Muirhead, Camela Steinke, Jonathan Huefner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Residential treatment providers increasingly are aware of histories of sexual exploitation among youth they serve, and have begun to question whether these youth require specialized programs and treatment. While it is evident that Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) is a significant problem with profound emotional and behavioral consequences, there is little research focusing on treatment. This study assesses the perceived incidence of CSEC among youth in residential treatment, and explores treatment currently provided by residential programs. A survey instrument was administered to members of The Association of Children’s Residential Centers (ACRC), and follow-up interviews were undertaken with providers of CSEC-focused program. Nearly two-thirds of organizations reported CSEC history among youth. Despite this high proportion, only six agencies provided explicit, discrete programs/units specifically to treat these youth. Follow-up phone interviews conducted with the six providers with specialized treatment programs/units revealed many commonalities with respect to referral source, admission criteria, and treatment approach. Recommendations are proposed for improving screening, awareness, treatment, evaluation and research for CSEC-involved youth in residential treatment, and to increase communication and interaction both among providers of services to CSEC youth as well as with the advocacy community.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3-19
Number of pages17
JournalResidential Treatment for Children and Youth
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC)
  • Youth
  • program evaluation
  • residential treatment
  • trauma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Law


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