The findings come in a report published on Tuesday by the National Board of Institutional Care (Statens institutionsstyrelse – SIS) and are drawn from interviews with 567 young people, roughly half of whom were placed in care centres for young people by social services in 2010, the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper reports.
A number of high-profile rape and prostitution cases have involved young girls who had been placed in youth care homes.
In Malmö, a 14-year-old mentally handicapped girl who fled from a nearby youth care facility was at the centre of a pimping trial involving 10 men. She had been told by other girls at the home where she could go to attempt to sell sex.
And last year, former police commissioner Göran Lindberg was convicted of several cases of rape and prostitution, one of which involved a 17-year-old girl who had been placed in a youth care facility.
Equality Minister Nyamko Sabuni found the study’s results troubling.
“The state has to take more responsibility. Not only in providing care, but also support for improving cooperation and coordination so that young people can be removed from these unbelievable awful situations as quickly as possible,” Sabuni told the newspaper.
She added that more needs to be done before young people end up being placed in youth care homes in the first place.
Every year, around 20,000 young people in Sweden are taken out of their homes by social services, either due to family problems or because of their own behavioural problems, including criminal activity and addiction. Some youth also seek care voluntarily after having run away from home.
Roughly 1,000 of these young people, who are generally between 12 and 21-years-old, end up placed with a facility run by the National Board of Institutional Care, where they are placed in special treatment homes in accordance with Sweden’s Care of Young Persons Act (Lag med särskilda bestämmelser om vård av unga – LVU).
Lengths of stay in Sweden’s residential treatment centres for young people can vary from a few weeks to two years, although about half the admissions are completed within two months.
The study also included responses from 515 adult addicts who have been placed in substance abuse centres for adults under Sweden’s Care of Alcoholics, Drug Abusers and Abusers of Volatile Solvents Act (Lag om vård av missbrukare – LVM).
According to the responses, 15 percent of adult female addicts and 4 percent of adult male addicts under the state’s care have sold sex for drugs or money.
One male respondent said he was 8-years-old when he first sold sex, although the average age at which boys and girls in the state’s care first sold sex was 15.