Each year, as part of the End It Movement, dozens of the leading anti-trafficking organizations band together to raise awareness, fundraise and speak out against human trafficking. Social media lights up with red X’s on wrists in a collective cry of outrage against this evil practice in a unified stand against injustice. I hope and pray the momentum continues to build to end it.
But there is a powerful way to combat trafficking that rarely gets attention. It is not glamorous. It is inconvenient. It happens outside the spotlight. And many experts tell us it’s the very best hope for change.
Statistics show that 60-90% of trafficking victims in the United States were once involved in the child welfare system. Pimps capitalize on foster children’s deep desire to feel loved and wanted, offering a false sense of family and security.
Experts agree that in order to curb the pipeline into trafficking, (as well as prison, homelessness, PTSD and the myriad of other outcomes of our foster care system) we need to back way up and address the issues that land kids into the system in the first place.
Studies show that social isolation places families at higher risk of child abuse and neglect. And according to the CDC, the only protective factor against child abuse and neglect backed by research is a healthy social network. So building caring, supportive networks around vulnerable families is critical to keeping kids safe and out of the system.
In other words, simply befriending at-risk families is the best approach to preventing abuse and neglect and keeping kids safe.
It’s not fancy. But it’s powerful. And almost anyone can do it.
What if the simple act of sharing your home with a vulnerable child during a crisis keeps her out of the system and prevents her from being sucked into the world of trafficking in the first place? What if your family gave an at-risk child a picture of what a healthy, loving and secure family structure looks like early in her life, so if a pimp ever trued to lure her with promises of family and security, she would know it’s false? And what if you plant seeds of trust, so if worst case scenario happens and she someday does get caught up in the nightmare of trafficking, she might be more likely to trust those who try to rescue her from it?
It is possible. But we need more people willing to step up.
I believe that, though it might take an army of caring volunteers willing to be inconvenienced, it is worth every effort to build families up rather than tear them apart. I believe we should place the full weight of the Church into walking with isolated mothers and their children before kids get hurt and enter the system – rather than dedicating all of our energy to picking up the pieces of injustice we let happen while we were busy chasing the American dream.
I believe that walking alongside the brokenhearted and visiting the widow and the fatherless in their distress is a call to all who follow Christ – not a select few “good people.”
So my question is, why wait?
Why wait until kids are hurt to pay attention? Why wait until we are outraged by the brokenness we see all around us to take action?
We will never move the needle by investing all of our time and energy to reacting to the aftermath of family trauma. But we absolutely can effect change by coming alongside vulnerable parents and children early, linking arms and showing them with our sacrificial loving actions, “We are here for you. The Lord loves you. And you will not fall apart on my watch.”
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. James 1:27
Together for Good is an organization that comes alongside vulnerable families with tangible support and relational ministry, to learn more click here!