When I first watched the movie "Taken" back in 2008, I was shocked and horrified at the thought of people being sold as sex slaves.
It was something I thought was relegated to ancient times. The scenes of women being chained to beds or drugged into a stupor in order to "serve" their patrons stirred a raging anger and demand for justice within me. How could anyone force such evil on another person?
I wanted to help end human trafficking but I had no idea where or how I could do so. In the eight years since, my anger towards human trafficking has remained red-hot. However, I’ve largely remained ignorant about how I could help until I ran across a statistic that floored me.
Between 50% and 90% of child sex trafficking victims have been involved in some form of child welfare services, according to a number of studies.
Let me say that another way: the majority of child sex trafficking victims come right out of our own backyard, from kids in foster care. Here I was thinking that I needed to travel to Albania or get involved with some extreme form of citizen policing in order to fight human trafficking when the very kids I needed to help – kids in the foster care system – were in my own community.
If you don’t know, kids in foster care are those who are taken by the state from their birth parents or caregivers due to neglect or abuse and put into temporary homes or up for adoption. The life that these children face is extraordinarily difficult which is why human traffickers often target these vulnerable kids. Traffickers woo them by promising to meet their family and emotional needs and, once the kids are manipulated into the system, traffickers use violence or physical control to keep them there.
Let me lay it out a little differently: a big reason foster kids go into human trafficking is because they're promised love and support. Parents: WE CAN CHANGE THIS. We are experts at providing love and support to children; it’s what we do! If we, as parents, insert ourselves into the lives of foster children to help meet their family and emotional needs, we can help stop them from entering human trafficking. We can make a mountainous difference and help put an end to a great evil in this world.
There are dozens of ways to help foster children; however, I've listed seven specific ways you can help. But before even getting into that, let me share some advice I was given that changed the way I approached helping others:
Do for one what you wish you could do for everyone. Translation? Focus on helping one child for now. Just one.
If you're ready to help end human trafficking and use your parental powers of love and support, see the below seven ways you can help foster kids – listed from lightest to heaviest forms of involvement:
One Simple Wish aggregates specific requests made by foster children (through the social service agencies that support them) for items they need like clothing and school supplies. Prices range from under $25 to over $500. You can view the list of items here.
You can directly mentor a child in foster care through organizations such as Big Brothers Big Sisters. This can have a huge impact on a child’s life without requiring the mentor to provide full-time care to the child.
You can become a court-appointed special advocate (CASA) volunteer whose job is to gather information from everyone in the child’s life in order to inform judges of the child’s needs and what will be the best permanent home for them. You don’t need to be a lawyer or social worker.
You can provide a home for children in foster care who are staying with other caregivers on a full-time basis. By providing a short-term home for foster children, you are giving temporary relief to the full-time caregiver and additional love to the foster child. You can find and contact your local agency in order to become a respite care provider.
Foster parents provide a temporary home to children who have been temporarily taken from their birth parents or caregivers due to neglect or abuse. The ultimate goal is for these families to be reunited once the parent or caregiver is rehabilitated and healthy. Foster children stay with foster parents, on average, for two years. Find and contact your local agency in order to become a foster parent.
Of the 400,000+ children in foster care, 100,000+ are waiting to be adopted. Children who are not reunited with their rehabilitated birth parents and who are never adopted face incredibly difficult odds:
Adopting a foster child can keep them out of human trafficking and prevent them from becoming one of these horrible statistics. Parents: Our time to help is now.