Lori Cohen (at right) with students from her Fall 2021 capstone group

Results from a research study conducted by a group of Yale students were discussed during a recent hearing of the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Federal Government Surveillance.

The September 13 hearing, “Children are Not for Sale: Examining the Threat of Exploitation of Children in the U.S. and Abroad,” included testimony by a number of expert witnesses, including Lori Cohen, chief executive officer for PACT (Protect All Children from Trafficking), and a previous capstone course instructor at the Jackson School of Global Affairs.  

Undergraduate students in Cohen’s Fall 2021 senior capstone course conducted data analysis, interviewed U.S.-based service providers, and contributed to the writing of the report, in partnership with PACT (formerly known as ECPAT-USA), the leading anti-child trafficking organization in the United States seeking to end the commercial sexual exploitation of children through awareness, advocacy, policy, and legislation. 

In her testimony, Cohen highlighted results from the 2022 report, which explored the impact of COVID-19 on child migration and the vulnerability to trafficking and sexual exploitation. 

“When I traveled with a team of Yale students to visit transitional shelter facilities for migrant children and their families in Southern California, we learned that screening for trafficking was not incorporated into safety protocols. PACT also learned that our own government institutions like Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) receive very limited training on human trafficking, resulting in missed opportunities to identify at-risk children,” Cohen told lawmakers. 

“This is exactly the sort of mission the Capstone Program is designed to fulfill,” said Casey King, director of the program.

“Team senior year research that contributes directly to making policy in D.C. and throughout the world. With a seriousness of purpose, and guided by talented faculty leads, Jackson Global Affairs seniors can and do directly contribute to addressing some of the most compelling global challenges of our time,” he said. 

“Unlike any of my other academic work at Yale, participating in Jackson’s Capstone program gave me the chance to learn about an urgent global issue and to contribute to addressing it. Under Professor Cohen’s guidance, and with the support of professional researchers at a leading child protection agency, my team produced high-quality research about the impact of COVID-19 on child trafficking connected with migration to the US. This issue was, and remains, extremely pressing,” said Joelle Besch ’22, who was a student in the capstone course.

“It was incredible to see our work refined and published by PACT, and now referenced in Professor Cohen’s expert testimony in Congress. As I look back at my Jackson Capstone experience, I am not only proud of the qualitative interviewing, data analysis, and social science writing skills I gained, but also of the fact that my work has continued to have a real-world impact because of Jackson’s partnership with PACT.”

Learn more about the capstone program