MADERA – Though the subject of human trafficking may sound like something out of a third world country, it is a huge and growing problem in California and all across the United States.
On Jan. 20, Madera County Supervisor Rick Farinelli will bring community leaders together to discuss two problems facing youth – the broken home and child trafficking.
This meeting will address the growing epidemic of child exploitation, how to spot the signs and act to help children being trafficked, and discussing the issues at home that lead children to be more easily victimized.
The Town Hall, called “Protecting Our Children,” will take place on Jan. 20, and will be hosted at the VFW Post 1981 at 2026 North Granada Drive in Madera. Doors will open to the public at 6 p.m.
Human trafficking has been likened to modern-day slavery that subjects children, women and men to force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation or forced labor. It is now considered the second most profitable international crime, only behind illicit drug trafficking. Thousands of children are sold each year in the United States alone through human traffickers, either for forced labor or prostitution.
Trafficking has been reported in all 50 states, and is particularly high in California, where easy access to the port and highway system enables easy transport across the entire nation.
Madera and Fresno sit on a major trafficking highway between the ports of San Francisco and Los Angeles/San Diego. The Madera County Child Abuse Prevention Council will present on what to look for and how to help children trapped in this trade.
“As Madera is a rest stop for many travelers crossing California, so it is for traffickers. Many of these abused kids pass right through our community on their way to bigger markets,” says Supervisor Farinelli. “It’s repulsive and heartbreaking – but there are things that we as a community can do to help these kids, and it starts with knowing the signs.”
While many trafficked children are from foreign countries, many American youth find themselves victims of trafficking or sexual exploitation. Runaway or homeless youth are particularly susceptible – one in three children is solicited for sex within 48 hours of running away or becoming homeless in the United States.
“These runaways are our society’s most vulnerable group,” says Farinelli.
Addressing this homelessness starts with addressing the broken home that enable it. Federal statistics show that 90% of all homeless and runaway children come from fatherless homes. Children from these broken homes are 32 times more likely to run away than those from a home with both a father and mother in the household. Fatherlessness is a growing national problem, with 24.6 million children living absent their biological father.
Former-Congressman George Radanovich, a long-time family advocate, will be giving a full presentation on fatherlessness in California, and how community groups can act together to respond to this root issue that puts many children and their futures in danger, including not only exploitation but gang recruitment and drug abuse.
“Any problem addressed early has the best chance for success. We as a community need to do all we can to help our kids. They’ve never been in more danger, but at least now, the tools are becoming available to do something about it,” says Supervisor Farinelli.