Hope—and Homes—for Trafficked Youth

Photo via New York Times

Child sex trafficking is one of our nation’s most pressing issues—and the scope of the problem is overwhelming. That’s why innovative programs that provide care and rehabilitation for trafficked children are so important.

The Chance program in Miami, Florida, is a prime example. It’s geared toward equipping foster parents with the tools they need to help trafficking victims.

Kimberley McGrath, a psychologist and Clinical Coordinator of Foster Care Services at Citrus Health Network in Miami, specializes in working with young victims of human trafficking. Miami is one of 13 cities the FBI considers a hub for child sex trafficking. Foster youth, whose histories of trauma make them more susceptible, are among the vulnerable children more likely to be targeted by traffickers.

In 2013, McGrath was asked to come up with a way to specifically help sexually exploited children in foster care. Her solution was to design a program that places trafficked children exclusively in specialized therapeutic foster homes.

In McGrath’s program, parents receive intensive training about how to care for children with severe mental, emotional or behavioral health needs. Each family has the support of a clinical team that provides counseling and crisis intervention and helps coordinate other services.

Being a foster parent is hard, harder still to parent a teenager and hardest of all to care for someone who has suffered the extreme trauma of being trafficked. Lisbeth and Ronaldo are one foster couple who took the challenge.

Two years ago when they opened their home and their hearts to a 14-year-old girl who bears the physical and psychological scars of being sold for sex. It has not been easy, but their training taught them that except for her history of trauma, their foster daughter is no different than an average teenager.

Over time, she has begun to heal. She’s now a camp counselor and an honor student. “She wants to be a social worker,” Lisbeth proudly reports.

Read the full article here.