Written by: Donna Krauser Chief of Out of Home Care
Florida may be considered the Sunshine State and synonymous with family fun and Disney; but did you know that Florida is one of top three Human Trafficking Destinations in U.S.? Additionally, children and youth in foster care are the most vulnerable demographic to human trafficking placing them at the highest risk in our community.
Human trafficking includes forced labor, domestic servitude, and commercial sex trafficking. Sex trafficking is a form of modern day slavery. Human trafficking is second largest illegal business in the world, second only to drug trafficking. Children in foster care are a primary target group for traffickers that exploit vulnerabilities for financial profit.
As human beings, we are wired to connect to others to feel a sense of belonging and family. Children who are abused and neglected are no different, and in the absence of safe and reliable caregivers, are at-risk of attaching to any individual who gives them positive attention, whether that person is safe or not. Traffickers manipulate vulnerable youth into their trap by showering them with gifts and compliments, promising to take care of and provide for victims. These “favors” from human traffickers become debts to be paid back by victims which require victims to do whatever the trafficker demands.
Children’s Home Network (CHN) helps to stop the cycle of abuse and neglect including human trafficking through intervention and prevention services including two programs, Kid’s Village and Adolescents in Motherhood (AIM) who serve children typically between the ages of 6 – 17, and we consider every one of these youth at high risk for exploitation.
Unfortunately, prior to our care, many of our children have already been exposed to the horror of human trafficking. Recognizing this sad reality, CHN partners with an organization called More Too Life, a Human and Sex Trafficking intervention and service provider, to train and equip caregiver staff to meet the unique needs of our children. Additionally, CHN and More Too Life provide wrap-around support, mentoring and education to support child victims through teaching resiliency and aiding in the safety and recovery for victims of human trafficking. This includes peer support, internet and social media safety training, and most important, safe connections with caring adult.
What can you do?
Offer kindness and support for children and families in need to prevent children from entering foster care.
Learn about internet safety and monitor children’s communications and social media accounts closely. Traffickers often utilize social media to recruit and continue to control victims.
Consider becoming a foster parent. Through action, convey to vulnerable children that they are lovable, capable and worthwhile!