Sex traffickers are selling foster kids on the weekends, 25 Investigates has uncovered.
Investigative Reporter Eric Rasmussen found cases of kids in foster care pimped out on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and then returned to their taxpayer-funded group homes on Monday.
Records obtained by 25 Investigates reveal a female staff member working with foster kids at the Eliot Atlantic House in Saugus is suspected of convincing a then 16-year-old girl at the group home to sell herself for sex on the weekends.
That staff member told the foster child she “had a way they could make money together,” according to the report obtained by 25 Investigates.
The girl told investigators the staff member took her to Worcester three times and once to Boston “to have sex with unknown men for money” on the weekends.
In the report, the girl told investigators she would run away from her group home on weekends because she knew DCF couldn’t get a warrant for her until Monday.
25 Investigates is not naming the staff member because she’s not been charged with a crime at this point, but the allegations are now under state and federal investigation and the foster home has been closed.
As shocking as this case sounds, police tell 25 Investigates they see this kind of thing too often.
“If they’re being exploited, there’s usually a pattern of them running away,” said Methuen Police Captain Kristopher McCarthy. “They’ll run away Friday, Saturday, come back on Sundays.”
According to one police report from last year, Saint Ann’s group home in Methuen allowed a 14-year-old girl was missing for the weekend last May after staff let her leave with a man who said he was her brother.
But staff didn’t get that man’s identification or get his last name, according to a police report, which noted cops reported the home to DCF.
“We would hope in this case, if someone is going to visit someone else, there would be a check,” said Methuen Police Chief Joseph Solomon.
Saint Ann’s denied the allegations and called the police report “incorrect,” saying the girl left with her brother, who was well-known to the group home.
DCF later found the allegations of neglect unsupported.
But police say no one seems to know who the girl was with or what she was doing the entire weekend she was missing.
She returned to saint Ann’s the following Monday.
But investigators say that doesn’t mean she and other foster kids who repeatedly disappear on the weekends aren’t in danger.
“They might bring the kid along for a couple of weekends just to party with them before they victimize them,” said McCarthy.
DCF wouldn’t comment on the St. Ann’s missing foster child case, but emailed a statement about the Saugus investigation.
“The Department of Children and Families has received a report on this situation and is investigating in collaboration with law enforcement,” said DCF spokeswoman Andrea Grossman. “All residents have been moved to other placements to ensure their safety and well-being while the investigation occurs.”
The Eliot Atlantic House sent Boston 25 News the following statement:
“Eliot Community Human Services identified a situation at Atlantic House and immediately reported it to DCF and law enforcement. The employee in question has been terminated from employment.
The top priority of Eliot is the well-being of the children and adults we serve. The allegations are serious and deeply concerning and we are committed to doing everything possible to protect our clients.
We have voluntarily suspended services at Atlantic House. We are conducting our own internal review and are fully cooperating with investigators.
Given that the investigation remains active, we will have no further comment at this time.”