Free tattoo removal offered to trafficked, gang-involved youth

NEW YORK — Young New Yorkers part of the child welfare system who were trafficked, involved in gangs or who are otherwise considered "at risk" will be offered free tattoo removal thanks to a new program, Administration for Children's Services officials announced Monday.

The NYC Child Tattoo Eradication Project and Network aims to help young people move on with their lives and not constantly be reminded of their trauma.

“No young person should be forced to go through life with a permanent mark of exploitation and abuse on their body,” ACS Commissioner David Hansell said  “We are thankful to the committed medical professionals who have offered pro-bono services to help some of the most vulnerable children in New York City. The NYC Child Tattoo Eradication Network will be a completely confidential program designed to limit the trauma inflicted on these children by abusers and gangs.”

Traffickers and gang leaders are known to sometimes brand their victims with symbols, including pimpsor gang names, according to the ACS.

Victims often cannot afford to get these tattoos removed  — with removal costing hundreds if not thousands of dollars depending on the size, placement and coloring. Without removal, the tattooed individuals sometimes cannot find paid work.

Officials with the program hope it will help these young people find jobs and continue to heal from their often traumatic experiences.

Hansell on Monday noted a 21 percent increase in 2017 over 2016 of NYC youth identified as either trafficked or at risk for trafficking. The 2,996 youth identified last year demonstrate the need for these new services, according to the ACS commissioner.

The project is comprised of ACS officials, as well as medical professionals with prior experience in tattoo removal.

Medical professionals with the ability and equipment to remove tattoos, and who would like to join the NYC Child Tattoo Eradication Network, are asked to email ACS at Child.tattoo.removal@acs.nyc.gov.

Below officials announce the program: