According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the average age of a sex trafficked child is 13 to 14 years old Each pimp can make $150,000 to $200,000 per child a year, and the average pimp has four to six girls.
One of the most vulnerable populations is a child in foster care. The FBI has been aggressively conducting operations to combat child trafficking over the past decade. In their efforts to rescue children, the FBI reports that close to 60 percent of the children were from foster care or group homes. In 2010, law enforcement officials in Los Angeles reported that 59 percent of juveniles arrested for prostitution were in the foster care system. In 2012, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimated there were approximately 399,546 children in the foster care system.
Innocence is a fragile commodity brought and sold to a community of perverted consumers who hide behind cloaks of respectability, avoiding detection like Jerry Sandusky. What makes a foster child and many others like them vulnerable is that they are forced out into the world without the “tools” they need to survive in the world.
Foster children are forced to carry a burden no child should have to bear. They are constantly searching for the sensation of unconditional love and most will search their entire lives without finding it. Born into dysfunctional or abusive households, the children who are rescued and placed into the foster care system have already experienced a high level of devastation to their self-esteem. The longer a child remains in an abusive environment, the greater the healing they need to undergo before they can accept the fact that they are indeed worthy of love. Set adrift in a sea of self-deprivation, these children ironically run from situations that offer stability. A deep-seated fear of rejection prompts them to leave before they have to bear the pain of being told once again they are not wanted. On the streets, predators use this vulnerability to strip children of any semblance of self esteem they may have had, convincing them that their only worth is as sex objects.
As a survivor of child abuse, I have experienced feelings of worthlessness and had those feelings used against me by a sexual predator who slowly destroyed my sense of self worth. I was psychologically manipulated into defining myself as an instrument of sexual pleasure and blackmailed into silence.
Children do not choose the families they are born into or the circumstances; they are merely left to spend their lives struggling to rise above the chaos their lives have been infected with. These children do not make a conscious choice to be angry, distant and constantly in the embrace of life’s darker side. They are merely burdened with the baggage of a childhood that became a vandalized fairy tale. What these children need desperately is not only a home but also, more importantly, unconditional love. Children adopted from the foster care system into stable home environments defy the odds and find the means to calm the chaos that has gripped their souls for so many years.
I once had a conversation with my therapist of many years about how I survived when so many survivors of child abuse succumb to drugs, alcohol and suicide. The answer to my question was unconditional love. As a child there was one person in my life who taught me that my life had meaning and that no matter what happened to me after that point, I would always be tethered to an undying love of life. All a child in foster care needs is that chance to know unconditional love just once in their lives.
To find out more go to Adopt US Kids at http://adoptuskids.org or call (888) 200-4005.
Michael Reagan is the son of President Ronald Reagan, a political consultant, and the author of “The New Reagan Revolution” (St. Martin’s Press).