Children who are sexually exploited often return to their pimps or traffickers, even when offered safe alternatives, county officials told the Board of Supervisors Tuesday.

As part of a program being expanded countywide, sheriff’s deputies have been trained not to arrest children working the streets, but to connect them to county agencies and community-based organizations that can help.

Sheriff Jim McDonnell and other county officials have adopted the slogan, “There is no such thing as a child prostitute.”

The Los Angeles County Law Enforcement First Responder Protocol for Commercially Sexually Exploited Children began as a pilot program with sheriff’s Compton and Century stations and Long Beach Police Department. Last month, it was rolled out to the Los Angeles Police Department’s 77th and Southeast divisions.

The program is set to be expanded to include all Los Angeles County sheriff’s stations by August.

In its first 18 months of implementation, 81 youth have been “recovered” because of the protocol, according to Michelle Guymon, director of the Probation Department’s child sex trafficking unit.

However, “some of our AWOLs have increased after the initial (72-hour) time frame,” Supervisor Don Knabe said, before asking Guymon for an explanation.

“There are a variety of triggers” and kids “go back to their exploiter out of love or out of fear of consequences, if they don’t go back,” Guymon said.

Sometimes it is as simple as parents or others not understanding what they’ve been through. In other cases, kids are distrustful of the system,” the probation director said.

Diane Iglesias, a senior deputy director with the Department of Children and Family Services, told the boa rd that some children are ready to be helped.