THE FOSTER CARE COMMUNITy
Tomorrow is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day.
It is a harsh reality that foster care is connected with so many other social issues of today - one of which is human trafficking. Human trafficking is a market-driven, global industry that generates hundreds of billions of dollars in profits. The supply and demand is fruitful, and is a crime that is notoriously under-reported.
Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery when someone is exploited through force, fraud or coercion for the economic gain of another, in the form of:
Not all those who are trafficked are physically forced - in fact, most human trafficking occurs through psychological coercion, tricking, manipulation, or threats.
This criminal industry affects every type of community across the country and is present amongst various ages, ethnicities and socio-economic backgrounds; however, according to the Polaris Project, roughly two-thirds of reported survivors in 2018 were women and girls. According to the nonprofit organization Children at Risk, Texas is a leading hub for human trafficking, which spans across all of our major cities and even exists in some of the wealthiest neighborhoods.
One of the ways to get involved in the fight against human trafficking is to learn the indicators. Sometimes victims are hidden in plain sight - at a construction site, restaurants, hotels, etc - which makes it important for anyone to know and identify the signs of a human trafficking situation. Be aware of red flags such as evidence of physical abuse, fearful behavior, or rehearsed or scripted answers, and be sure to call 911 or the Human Trafficking Hotline to report any suspicions.
Another way to get involved is to support and empower our local foster care community. Reports show that roughly 60% of trafficking victims here in the United States have a history in the child welfare system. Two of the top five reasons for human trafficking are due to 1) unstable housing and 2) runaway or homeless youth - both of which are common circumstances for youth in foster care. Children in foster care often lack consistent support and a watchful eye, and can fall prey to tricks and manipulations by predators. According to the National Foster Youth Institute, traffickers will even send out one of their young female victims to group foster homes to lure others to leave. They are then led to a life of prostitution, abuse, violence and exploitation.
At Austin Angels, we know that young people who have grown up in the foster care system have received less financial, emotional, and social support than their peers, are less prepared for life after foster care, and are more likely to fall victim to life-threatening situations such as human trafficking, homelessness, incarceration or suicide. This is why our Dare to Dream Program was created to help local youth in foster care navigate life's challenges and provide them with one more healthy adult to call. Our volunteer mentors provide wisdom, advice, encouragement, and community that help empower and guide our youth towards a healthy, happy and thriving adulthood. We tell mentors that the simple act of telling their youth “I believe in you,” or answering the phone when times get hard, can change their path completely - and hopefully avoid these statistics that plague our system. Our children deserve better than this.
For more information about how you can support a youth in foster care, visit https://www.austinangels.com/daretodream.html. Click on any of the links below to learn more about the human trafficking crisis.