FOSTERING COMMUNITY blog
orDINARY PEOPLE MAKING AN EXTRAORDINARY DIFFERENCE
orDINARY PEOPLE MAKING AN EXTRAORDINARY DIFFERENCE
It is a harsh reality that foster care is connected with so many other social issues of today - one of which is human trafficking.
Human trafficking is a market-driven, global industry that generates hundreds of billions of dollars in profits. It is a form of modern-day slavery when someone is exploited through force, fraud or coercion for the economic gain of another, in the form of:
Not all those who are trafficked are physically forced - in fact, most human trafficking occurs through psychological coercion, tricking, manipulation, or threats. This criminal industry affects every type of community across the country and is present amongst various ages, ethnicities and socio-economic backgrounds; however, according to the Polaris Project, roughly two-thirds of reported survivors in 2018 were women and girls. According to the nonprofit organization Children at Risk, Texas is a leading hub for human trafficking, which spans across all of our major cities and even exists in some of the wealthiest neighborhoods.
reports show that roughly 60% of trafficking victims here in the united states have a history
If we want to support the end of human trafficking, we MUST support children in foster care. Two of the top five reasons for human trafficking are due to 1) unstable housing and 2) runaway or homeless youth - both of which are common circumstances for youth in foster care. Traffickers will seek out and groom those who are most vulnerable. And because children in foster care often lack consistent support and a watchful eye, they can fall prey to tricks and manipulations by predators.
Voices for Children explains, "The trafficker will play on the vulnerability exposed by their victim to gain power and ensure loyalty. According to the Department of Justice, most often, victims fall prey to traffickers who lure them in with an offer of attention, food, clothes, a safe place to sleep, friendship, and love. During the process known as grooming, the trafficker’s goal will be to gain the victim’s trust, provide for the victim’s needs, and isolate them. The grooming process can be lengthy, as it involves earning the victim’s trust. Many foster children have experienced a lack of trusted caring adults in their life; however, pimps are willing to put in the work, as the child will serve as a financial payout for them in the future. Once the trafficker feels they have successfully made the victim dependent on them, they will manipulate or directly force the victim into prostitution. They will often use violence to retain control. With the rapid growth of digital technology, traffickers now heavily rely on social media to recruit and start the grooming process."
At Houston Angels, we know that young people who have grown up in the foster care system have received less financial, emotional, and social support than their peers, are less prepared for life after foster care, and are more likely to fall victim to life-threatening situations such as human trafficking, homelessness, incarceration or suicide. This is why our Dare to Dream Program was created to help local youth in foster care navigate life's challenges and provide them with one more healthy adult to call. Our volunteer mentors provide wisdom, advice, encouragement, and community that help empower and guide our youth towards a healthy, happy and thriving adulthood. We tell mentors that the simple act of telling their youth “I believe in you,” or answering the phone when times get hard, can change their path completely - and hopefully avoid these statistics that plague our system. Our children deserve better than this.
For more information about how you can support a youth in foster care, please visit www.houangels.org/daretodream. Click on any of the links below to learn more about the human trafficking crisis.
Jonathan grew up in West Palm Beach FL and central New Jersey, and several years ago moved with his wife and two young children (babies at the time!) to Houston. After graduating from Rutgers University with a degree in mechanical engineering, he has spent the past decade working in the oil and gas industry, learning many different sides of the business - including planning capital projects, managing turnarounds and maintenance services out in the field at the refineries, procurement, category management and more.⠀
Although he just officially joined the board this past month, Jonathan has been supporting Houston Angels behind the scenes since its early days. When his wife, Melissa, took on the role as President back in 2018, he did not have any prior experience with or knowledge of the foster care system. But as Houston Angels became an official chapter of the national organization and continued to grow, he learned all about the need for this work and enjoyed being a part of the impact, including being a part of a Love Box Group and volunteering during events and projects.⠀
He is excited to officially join the Board as part of the finance team, and play a more direct role in ensuring the organization remains in great financial and operational standing.
Tiffany has been helping Houston Angels behind the scenes since February, and officially joined our Board of Directors last month. A little more about her:
Tiffany grew up outside of Pittsburgh (Go Steelers!!) and attended Youngstown State University where she studied social work. After swearing she would never move too far from Pittsburgh, her husband was transferred to Houston where they now live with their two small sons.
Tiffany first entered into social work with a desire to work with children. After first working in an outpatient oncology setting as well as with older adults, her path eventually led her back to working with kids, providing therapy in elementary schools through a satellite program. During her time in the schools, she was able to work with children of all backgrounds, along with their families and school staff. She felt that very few things compared to being able to develop a rapport with a child in need, and knowing the positive impact you are making in that child's life.
After moving to Houston, Tiffany soon found out about Houston Angels through the President, Melissa. The more she learned about the organization the more she knew she had found her place. She is so excited to once again work with children as well as their caregivers, and assist an organization that can make a very real difference in the lives of so many.
We've had so many new followers join us lately (we're so thankful you're here!) so we thought we'd reintroduce ourselves!⠀
Houston Angels is the local chapter of a national nonprofit organization called National Angels, which was was created to support families and children experiencing foster care.⠀
We know that foster care is HARD - on the children who are placed in the system as a result of abuse/neglect at home, on the caregivers who open up their homes to them, and on the biological families being separated. We know that children in foster care are of the most vulnerable children in our population, and often fall victim to homelessness, human trafficking, incarceration, struggles with mental health, and more.⠀
The National Angels organization started as volunteer groups throwing fun service events and extracurricular activities for children in foster care. Over time, support for foster care became less about the one-time activities and gifts (which still have their time and place)... and more about the real bonds that were forming. It was about the lives being changed as a result of community, consistency, and intentionality.⠀
What started as a single chapter in Austin, TX quickly grew into a national organization with chapters opening up in major cities like DFW, Cleveland, Seattle, Houston and more all across the country. These chapters are building communities of people that walk alongside foster families and youth in their normal, everyday lives. These communities are providing much needed wrap-around support - intentional gifts, healthy relationships, mentorship, resources, emergency support and more - for kids in foster care as well as families who care for them.
love box program
The Love Box Program was created to provide our local foster care community with consistent, customized and holistic support. Our Love Box volunteers are everyday people from the Houston community, who are matched with foster families based on zip code and compatibility. These volunteers help meet practical, financial and emotional needs for the entire family.⠀
Our "Love Box" may LOOK like a traditional cardboard box, but this program is so much more than a box of stuff - it’s about relationships, connection and support.⠀
Depending on the family's needs, Love Box support could be a box filled with practical items like groceries, paper products, seasonal activities, special treats, etc. But Love Box support could also look like volunteers offering to babysit, tutoring or helping with homework, planning a child's birthday celebration, or even chipping in for a new washing machine (which has happened twice already!)⠀
And even in the midst of today's social distancing, our volunteers are still supporting their families through porch drop offs, grocery shopping, submitting online orders, sending activities for kiddos, and communicating via Zoom, FaceTime, or texts.⠀
You've heard us say that foster care is HARD. But we know that if we can wrap community support around foster families, we have a much better chance at ➡️ increasing the families' overall sense of normalcy ➡️ helping caregivers feel equipped to continue this hard work ➡️ establishing much-needed stability and relational permanency for children in foster care ➡️ steering them away from negative outcomes, and creating more opportunities for their health, happiness and thriving ✨⠀
dare to dream program
Youth who age out of the foster care system at 18 are often expected to be just as self-sufficient as their peers. But the absence of parental guidance and emotional support hinders the ability for any youth to flourish in the world -- and this is especially true for kids who have grown up in foster care.⠀
The constant lack of support and resources, combined with the multiple traumas these youth have experienced throughout their lives, greatly affects their success and well-being upon aging out. This is why youth in foster care are more likely than their peers to struggle with mental health, drop out of high school, not attend college, become homeless or incarcerated, or pregnant as a teenager.
what you can do
Our waitlists have been growing rapidly, and there is a clear need for additional community support for our city's foster families and youth. Sign up to receive our emails and follow us on social media to stay in the loop about current needs and volunteer opportunities.
Not everyone is called to foster or adopt, but everyone can play a role in this mission. And we hope you'll join us!