Foster Care and the Sex-Trafficking Pipeline

On Thursday, July 18, I had the joyful surprise of receiving a few copies of my book Until Every Child is Home: Why the Church Can and Must Care for Orphans. Moody Publishers sends authors these books for their family and friends, give-away copies. We celebrated.

When I got the contract from Moody Publishers in May 2018, I had a general outline of what I would write. I wanted believers to understand that by partnering with others in their church to foster or adopt, they could advance the overall ministry of their church. Orphan-care ministries display the gospel, provide service opportunities for all types of gifting, and give leaders a chance to exemplify the relationship between church and family. I also wanted to describe the way that orphan care provides churches a pathway into cultural apologetics. I thought I would offer a few chapters on how orphan care can help the church to be a beacon of hope in race relations. One area I did not know much about but wanted to research was the way that kids in foster care often become victims of sex-trafficking. I wanted to know what the church might do to address this problem.

My research in this area led to the composition of Part 6, “Orphan-Care and the Sex-Trafficking Epidemic.” The three chapters in this section of the book were the most difficult to write. While I was interviewing Heidi Olson, the lead Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, I nearly became ill. What she shocked me. Over the next few months, I learned that what Heidi shared is all too common on city streets in the U.S. and around the globe.

Even this month. Friday, July 19, the day after the author’s copies arrived, I received the following e-mail (edited) from Missouri Home findings. As former licensed foster parents, my wife and I still receive these notifications just to keep us in the loop.

“Hello Families, 
We have a new pick up coming in tonight out of Jackson County. She is needing a place to lay her head TONIGHT. 
“N” is a young teen female who is being brought into care tonight. “N” has been on run for the past two months from her extended-family home placement. “N” ran away due to physical abuse in the home and felt it was safest for her to be away from them. “N” was placed with her extended-family after being removed from her mother who has an active drug addiction. 
“N” stayed overnight at the hospital last week because she displayed suicidal ideations, but the hospital feels that it is not an ongoing concern and that “N” was scared to return to her extended-family home. When she found out she didn’t have to go back to that home, she was able to regulate and is being discharged currently. 
“N” and her mom have had issues where mom was aggressive with “N” and “N” defended herself. Outside of this, we do not know of any aggression concerns. “N” was likely a victim of sex trafficking, but there have been no reports of “N” sexually acting out. 
“N” is not on any medications currently and does not have an official diagnosis. She needs a home that will take her in and make her feel safe. 
If you are able to provide a safe environment for “N”, please contact Home Finding ASAP at 1-855-778-yyyy option 2.”

What “N” experienced is exactly what Heidi Olson and others described. In Part 6, “Orphan-Care and the Sex-Trafficking Epidemic,” of UECIH, I trace the sex-trafficking pipeline. Kids come into foster care because of abuse and neglect, often related to drug use by parents. Kids are placed with extended family–whose lives are also marred by drug use. Abuse and neglect become sexual and kids are sometimes trafficked by family members in order to support the kinship placement’s drug habits. Then kids run, often to the streets, where they succumb to the pressure of pimps and drugs for themselves. From a bad situation to a worse one.

How does this relate to the local church? As we become foster parents, the supply of stable homes increases and there is a decreased likelihood that kids will be placed in these kinds of potentially harmful situations. Our work is often preventative.

Saturday, July 20, the day after I received that email, two days after receiving the books from Moody Publishers, I took a copy of UECIH to a local bookstore to see if they would carry the book on their shelves. The manager of the bookstore asked me what kind of a book I had written. I told her that by genre it is non-fiction.


Don't lose any sleep over it! We have a delayed start on Sunday, March 10, 2024

EH/MK 10:30-11:20
Worship: 11:30-1:00