A movement is afoot across America to provide shelters for children who have been victims of commercial sexual exploitation.  The movement is reminiscent of the domestic violence (DV) shelters set up years ago when the violence against women began being addressed.  Most DV shelters take adults only so it is important to look at this need and the challenges that these shelters face.

There is a need for mutual learning in this community and Abolition International Shelter Association has created a model of cooperative learning and networking to walk alongside organizations, groups, and churches in their development of safe houses.

The discussion must include a strong network of service providers and cooperative relationships with law enforcement.  The capacity of the organization must be built with many partners to provide the appropriate trauma care these children will require, along with the educational and life skills to minimize re-victimization.  A continuum of care model from the initial rescue to full restoration will take time, energy and resources.  These organization must be “in it” for the long haul and with a sustainable plan for funding and networking with others.  The hurdles are high but the very lives of these children are at stake. No half-baked efforts will do!

Those groups that are intentionally Christian in their approach also must do good due diligence in complying with state and federal laws concerning group homes and licensing so that their approach is holistic and comprehensive.  Being known as “do-gooders” by others who choose not to be intentionally faith-based, the faith-based groups must be especially careful to do good work and do it in the right way as to ultimately bring honor in the public arena to their faith.

Ultimately, the goal is to love these children, not to force them to take on a certain religious belief.  The government can not endorse a specific faith, nor should it – otherwise the freedom of the child to choose their beliefs would be hindered.  God’s giving them an opportunity to choose but they must not be forced – that is not a choice! Most of these children have had their choices taken from them in so many other ways – this is not the place to take yet another choice away!

Let’s open this dialogue far and wide across the U.S.!!!