Child exploitation – summary findings

Published: May 1, 2023 · Updated: June 8, 2023

This summary of an extended literature scan in relation to child labour and sexual exploitation was commissioned to understand the role that welfare agencies play in prevention and intervention, including what is happening internationally.


The literature scan spans child sexual and labour exploitation and human trafficking. It reviews a number of evidence-based screening tools and identifies key risk factors.

The findings will inform our work and how our guidance may need to be updated. It will also help us build a programme of awareness and education for practitioners to assist in identifying, preventing, and responding to child exploitation.

Key findings

The scan identifies several factors which make children and young people more at risk of exploitation including:

  • homelessness and runaways
  • undocumented or unaccompanied migrants
  • adverse childhood experiences
  • mental health or substance abuse issues, and
  • potential prior involvement with child welfare agencies. 

We also identified several groups who are more at risk of child sexual exploitation. These include:

  • young people of colour; including indigenous populations
  • those identifying as LGBTQ+
  • those with learning disabilities or who are neurodiverse.

From a victim centered perspective, we can see that multi-disciplinary interventions are most effective, including medical care, substance use treatment, mental health support and assistance with housing and general medical care.

There are no validated screening tools in use internationally to identify child labour exploitation. However, there are a number of tools available in cases of suspected sexual exploitation. Any of these tools would need validation and amendment for the New Zealand context before being used.