Date of Conferral



Doctor of Social Work (DSW)


Social Work


Pablo Arriaza


Domestic minor sex trafficking (DMST) is a social problem affecting children between the ages of 12 and 17 years old. The issues related to DMST present challenges for social work practitioners because they often lack knowledge regarding how to identify and provide specialized services to this population. The purpose of the qualitative study was to collect and analyze data to develop an understanding of how social workers in the northeastern region of the United States identified challenges and thereby improved their practice skills when intervening with this vulnerable population. An epistemological paradigm, with a constructivist perspective employing Nguyen's systems theory, was used to understand the phenomena. The practice-focused research question posed to 5 clinically licensed social workers (LCSW) asked about the perceived barriers hindering social work practice when identifying victims of DMST. In addition, upon recognition of DMST victims, participants described existing community services that addressed their social work practice needs. The LCSWs attended 3 hour-long audio-recorded focus groups, offering their knowledge and experiences related to DMST in the designated region. Constant comparison was used to analyze the data provided by the participants during the focus groups. The key findings indicated a lack of proper identification tools and specialized services for this community. Findings can be used to recommend social change efforts, which included increasing communication about the victims between jurisdictions and communications with policy makers and service providers regarding the need to develop and implement training on various related topics.

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