Featured Organization, Runaway Prevention Month: Children of the Night – The Problem of Youth Trafficking

Most shelters in America are supported by federal funds and limit shelter services to a young person for a mere 21 days; therefore, young people move from shelter to shelter, on and off the streets to shabby motels, abandoned buildings, truck stops and other unstable living conditions.

Federal and state-funded social service programs often provide the bottom rung of social services: bricks and mortar, beds or cots, minimal supervision and minimal case management for people trying to escape the streets. Often the staff who work in these programs resided on the street as youth and continue to struggle to make a living.

No one in America is providing a continuum of care for young people once they leave detention centers or foster homes. As a result, this group of vulnerable youth tends to move between shelters, motels and the streets until they turn 18 and age out of the meager services available to them. Many of these programs will only serve as temporary warehouses for people trapped living on the street.

The Problem of Runaways and Trafficking

For most of these children, life with a pimp was better than life at home and meager shelter settings cannot compete with the lifestyle afforded through prostitution and association with a pimp.

In most cases, the pimp has provided the child with a motive to work as a prostitute and a rationale for deferred gratification. “If you work hard I will put together the money and buy a business and a home and you can have my baby” is a common rationale provided by a pimp.

Without sophisticated shelter/home case management and comprehensive social services combined with adequate living quarters, these children will return to the streets because underfunded and underdeveloped shelter/homes cannot compete with the promises of a pimp.

America’s children victimized by prostitution require intense residential services where they are given an opportunity to be a child – sometimes for the first time in their lives. They need to attend school in a safe environment, to have their medical and psychological needs met and to have access to safe living arrangements when they enter adulthood. Residential care for American children is expensive and often times these children are not as sympathetic or inexpensive to care for as those in other countries.

Children of the Night is the only full-service program in North America designed specifically for American children who have been forced to prostitute right here in the United States – girls AND boys. Most of these children have been forced to prostitute in hot-sheet motels and truck stops and many have been held in jails on “material witness holds” until they testify against a pimp/trafficker. Until they have reached the Children of the Night home, life with a pimp may have been better than home or the detention centers where they have been held.

About Children of the Night: With Out Walls (WOW) 

Children of the Night is a privately funded non-profit organization established in 1979 and dedicated to rescuing America’s children from the ravages of prostitution. Throughout the years, Children of the Night has gained the reputation as one of the most prominent and successful organizations in the nation addressing the needs of America’s sex trafficked children.

Children of the Night is a unique program with some specific characteristics that make its groundbreaking, award-winning, life-changing work possible:

  1. the commitment of its founder who has made Children of the Night her life’s work
  2. the independence from public/government funds which allows for unique programming and success.

WOW is the first program taking comprehensive education and mental health services to these kids wherever they are, providing them an opportunity to permanently escape life on the streets.

Children of the Night WOW is an exciting and challenging program that will leave an indelible mark on the standard of care for American adolescents who receive out-of-home care and adults who have been unable to permanently escape life on the streets.

For more information visit: http://www.childrenofthenight.org/

Re-printed with permission from Children of the Night