In 2013, the FBI conducted a nationwide raid to break up human trafficking operations in over 70 cities.
Law enforcement found that many of the victims were minors; some as young as 11. They were rescued from truck stops, motels and suburban homes. Many of these kids were never reported as missing, despite being under the supervision of state child welfare systems.
In fact, the FBI discovered that 60% were children from foster care or group homes. At any point, some 100,000 children in the United States are exploited in the billion-dollar sex trafficking industry, the FBI estimates. These are shocking but not surprising statistics for those of us who work in child welfare.
At For The Children, we believe the best response to this growing risk is to address many of the root causes that make children vulnerable in the first place:
Childhood Trauma: Studies show that enduring abuse or neglect is one of the strongest predictors for victims of sex trafficking. Since our inception, we have been focused on helping children in foster care who have experienced abuse and/or neglect.
Through our transformative summer camps, we give children who have endured so much trauma a safe, stable and nurturing environment where they can begin to build trusting relationships again. We teach them how to have warm, loving interactions with adults, and how to know when something is not appropriate.
Lack of Guidance: Children and teens who have an underdeveloped ability to analyze decisions and understand consequences make themselves more susceptible to sex trafficking. That’s why our mentoring programs at FTC are so vital to the health and maturity of our communities.
With training that we provide, our mentors work closely with our mentees to help them make better decisions and understand the consequences of those decisions. Our mentors bring with them life wisdom from all backgrounds, and provide the presence of a caring, attentive adult that these children crave, need and deserve.
Foster Care System: There’s strong evidence that just being in the foster care system is a leading indicator for victims of sex trafficking. Apart from the trauma that might have led to them becoming a part of the child welfare system, the experience of living in the foster care system is itself a traumatizing event. And the more placements and foster families that these children endure, the more the experience becomes its own source of instability, leading to behaviors that make them vulnerable to sex trafficking, including running away and homelessness.
For The Children has always encouraged fostering and adoption among our chapters and volunteers as a remedy against the endless cycle of foster care. We have hundreds of stories of families who have foster or adopted children and teens who were first brought into our care through summer camps and mentoring programs.
As long as there are people who can profit from human trafficking, there will be this grave danger facing our children in foster care. At FTC, we are doing everything we can to give the most vulnerable kids a place where they can have loving interactions with adults who care deeply about them, and create an environment where they can heal from trauma.
To start a For The Children chapter in your community, click here.