Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Foster Care & Sex Trafficking

Our house is full of activity and great joy.  Johnny & Julie have arrived for a couple weeks for Christmas.  There are beach towels strewn from the icy cold pool to the house, the dog is on the trampoline with the kids, there are loud footsteps over-top the house as the kids play on the rooftop deck, lingering conversations at the dinner table, yummy smells of the kid's favorite foods filling the house, soon-to-be Christmas baking - life is rich!  I'm sure I will post a few pictures in the days ahead.  We are thankful for eight years ago opening our lives to a little boy half dressed eating out of a cold spaghettiO's can and a little shy girl with blond straggly hair carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders.  Here is a blog post I wrote for XP Missions this December.

I remember the day very clearly. I was listening to missionary Heidi Baker on the CD player, and I was talking to Jesus about what love looks like. I felt like the Lord said, “Will you take Breanna into your home”? I was taken aback, as my kids were young, my marriage was rocky, and I did not know how to bring another child into my life; but how could I say anything but “YES” to Jesus? I had a beautiful home and space for one more child. Little did I know then, that with Breanna would come two siblings, and that our lives would be changed forever
Many people are asking the question; “What can I do to help in the abolition of sex trafficking, our modern day slavery?” I would like to make a suggestion. If you have a loving home environment, free from emotional, physical, or sexual abuse, consider opening your life up to a foster-care child.
Children are being trafficked in the U.S. by their parents, uncles and aunts, and adults that are supposed to be “safe” in their lives. If the trafficking is found out, they are taken out of their home and put in the foster care system, which, in the U.S., is often broken. Some children in foster care are being trafficked by their caregivers. Something has to change!
Senator Rob Portman states, “There was a sting operation back in 2013 that the FBI did nationwide on child sex-trafficking, an issue that I’ve worked on a lot…Here is the amazing and very sad statistic in that — 60 percent of the victims that they recovered nationwide, from over 70 cities, were from foster care or group homes.” 
I remember these city stings when I lived in Vancouver, Washington. I would sit in on our police department training and hear of the stings about to take place. We would celebrate the kids that were rescued, but they would go right back into foster homes, and if they got a bad one, they could go back to being trafficked.
In the words of the nonprofit,  CityLimits“When children feel that no one cares about them, and are moved from one placement to another, craving attention and stability, [they] can easily find themselves seduced by traffickers who initially make them feel cared for, only to find themselves used for financial gain. Many children in foster care have been previously abused, putting them further at risk. In addition, children who are placed into foster care as adolescents are automatically placed into group homes, since foster parents generally are only willing to take young children. In fact, traffickers will often send one of their girls into group homes to find girls and urge them to leave by saying things like ‘[you] will be well taken care of financially and have a “family”’, so to speak, ‘who will care for [you].’”
The Polaris Project reports that in 2015, an estimated 1 out of 5 endangered runaways reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children were likely child sex trafficking victims. Of those, 74% were in the care of social services or foster care when they ran away.
This is a serious situation and eight years ago I felt I had to do something. I was a stay-at-home mom, raising my young family, and asking God what I could do about this horrific injustice.
Breanna was my daughter’s friend since kindergarten.  When she arrived in our lives, she was six years old (she is now 14). She was full of energy, had a skinny toothpick body, hair dull from malnutrition and she would light up a room with her excitement and her contagious smile. When she came for a visit, the house looked like a tornado had smashed through it. Some people go to a party – Breanna was the party!
After my husband and I said “yes”, Breanna, and her sister and brother, began to spend more and more time in our home. Their home situation put them highly “at-risk”, and some days they would be with us for over half a week before their mom would be ready to have them back.
I remember it clearly, I had just been at a Patricia Kings “Women on the Frontlines” in Phoenix, and as my plane landed, I knew I needed to check in on the kids on my way home.
I pulled up to their apartment and found the girls inside and mom gone – she had been put in jail. I offered to take the girls home with me until she was released.  This “checking-in” ended up resulting in the girls being placed with us as a “suitable placement” with social services, and only days later their brother being placed with us as well.
Breanna was adopted out of our home into a Christian home and her name changed. She is a beautiful teen, attending Christian school, enjoying her church youth group and family. We still correspond with her and occasionally get to see her when we are in Washington. Breanna’s sister and brother, J & J, have been in and out of our lives for the last eight years. After being removed from their mother, they went to live with their biological dad. We have been their suitable placement, their foster parents, their temporary guardians, etc.  They usually spend some of spring break, summer and Christmas with us unless there is a “situation” that places them back in our home full time. 
Foster care is rough. There are sleepless nights, drama with merging family units together and a clash of completely different values and culture. Also there is working with parents who sometimes will do what it takes to get their kids back and other times will not.
For us, being foster parents has been so worth it! My husband and I, along with our two biological kids are in love with J & J. My kids can hardly sleep at night when their plane is scheduled to land the next morning. Recently, our foster daughter began to call us mom and dad. I thought my heart was going to explode. She also writes us cards of thanks for taking her in (see photo) and what we have done for her over the years. For mother’s day this year, she made me coasters that listed my attributes that she loves (see photo).  Needless to say, I was wrecked!
Foster care needs a complete overhaul (that would be another blog post) but what can we do right now to be an answer? The foster care system in America needs loving families that will not allow kids to be abused, neglected or trafficked. If God has placed it on your heart to be a foster or adoptive parent, His voice is urging you, and you know that the environment of your home would nurture, love and be safe (and all in the home are in unity with this vision), then consider being an answer to over 400,000 kids in America who need a home.  Of course this is just one of many ways to get involved, but if you need a nudge in this direction – take this nudge and jump into the deep end. God is faithful. His grace is sufficient for you to be all that He created you to be for these kids who need love, freedom from trauma, hope, and a safe place to call home.
Written by:  Nita Weldon

Friday, December 16, 2016

Hope for the Future: Power for the Present

I am a guest blogger on the XP Mission site about once a month.   I love a platform where I can build awareness about sex trafficking and share some of my journey.  If you would like to follow what XP Missions is doing here is the link:  I am so excited at all that XP has done this past year in Cambodia . . . women and children rescued out of being trafficked, hot meals for kids, education program sponsoring kids to go to school, house of prayer started, medical care, kids club, rice distribution, entrepreneurial outlets, the list goes on and on.  Such a small handful of people, but making such a huge impact on a nation!  Like I always say, it only takes a spark to get a fire going!  I remember when I was in Cambodia, I asked our Director about some of the kids we saw on the streets and the rescue plan for them.  She became thoughtful and said if they could only sell  more handbags (, they would rescue more girls and kids.  Sobering.  If you are looking for a place to give year-end that has an excellent return, look no further, XP Missions is an excellent outlet:

This is a blog post I wrote in November for XP Missions.  I thought some of you may not be on FB (where I posted it) and so I thought I would share it today.  I will have another blog coming out next week and will try to post it on my personal blog site as well.

1My GPS was alerting me to turn left into the high school parking lot, but I was confused. In front of me was a police car with lights and what looked like a guard station. As I pulled into the lot a uniformed woman began to wave at me to stop. She came to the window and asked me my name and where I was going. I gave her my name and told her I would be helping with a presentation on sex trafficking in the auditorium. I couldn’t help but wonder if she was going to frisk me next, but she waved me through. It was as if I had just crossed the border or entered into a prison yard, but this is just how it is at some of our public schools in America.
I found my way onto campus and to the auditorium. I greeted my teammate, and started up a conversation with a coach who was waiting by the girl’s restroom. This coach was monitoring the girls who entered the restroom and when she stepped away for a minute, a teen approached me and asked if she could use the restroom.  I said, “sure” but was super curious as to what “system” was in place. Upon entering the auditorium there were teachers spread throughout as kids were finding their seats, but one person caught my attention. She had a military style stance, and large radio gear attached to the side of her pants which was going off randomly. She was on high alert and commanding kids to find a seat quickly, instructing for cell phones to be put away, etc.2
I sat in the back row surrounded by high school teens, cell phones out, headphones on, jostling and goofing off as they entered the auditorium. Sadly, in that auditorium, there could be sex traffickers. Teens trafficking teens. Today these kids were all going to sit through a presentation on the potential dangers of the internet and sex trafficking. They came in all shapes and sizes, all nationalities and dispositions, but they were ours to influence for the next 45 minutes.
3In the United States an estimated 100,000 – 300,000 kids are trafficked. Many of the kids who are sexually victimized or trafficked in the U.S. come from foster homes or are on the streets as runaways. These young people often flee abuse and violence at home, but then become victims of sexual exploitation on the streets or in care homes. Experts have reported that within 48 hours of running away, an adolescent is likely to be approached by a trafficker. These are kids sitting in our schools, in our malls, in our churches, in our parks, bowling alleys, and bus stations.
Sex Trafficking is not just happening in other countries but is happening in our backyard. Some children are being sold by their parents right out of their homes. They will go to school during the week and then will often miss Friday school as they are being trafficked on weekends by their own family members only to return to school on Monday, exhausted, battered and unnoticed. Kids from at-risk lifestyles are being targeted by “spotters” and then “groomed” to be handed off to a trafficker once they are ready. The process is much like the recent movie, Hunger Games. 4
The other day my 14 year old daughter had a dream. She dreamt that the Hunger Games had come to America. If you have not seen the movies, or read the books, The Hunger Games is a dystopian novel/movie about a 16 year old girl who lives in a future, post-apocalyptic nation in North America. The Hunger Games is an annual event in which one boy and girl aged 12-18 from each of the twelve districts surrounding the Capitol are selected by lottery to compete in a televised battle (like reality TV), hunting each other to the death.
Sadly my daughter’s dream and this fictitious movie are more of a reality than we realize in our nation and the nations of the world. Our women and children are being hunted. They are being watched, stalked, kidnapped and groomed on the internet and on the streets of today.
At XP Missions, we educate on prevention, we rescue and we provide after-care.  When a child/teen is educated on the dangers of the internet and sex trafficking there is a much greater probability that they will recognize the “Hunger Game” directed towards them. If a child can be told this is not their normal and given a “new normal” that values life and instills significance, they will begin to think outside the cycle they are in.
One of the biggest factors that pulls a person away from a Predator is HOPE. We all can be hope carriers.
“Your hopelessness about a problem is a bigger problem than the problem.” ~ Bill Johnson
5Hope arouses vision and spurs us toward actions. Hope invites us to see, to pray, to give, to serve, and to be a voice in the battle against this modern day slavery of trafficking.
As I sat in the auditorium surrounded by teens, I prayed for God’s truth to capture their hearts and the message to be heard. It only takes a seed of hope for a child sitting there to be pulled out of exploitation and rescued. It could inspire another child to take on the cause and become an abolitionist. It could cause another to value themselves and others and to break cycles of abuse. 
“Where there’s no HOPE for the future there is no power for the present. The more vision we have for the future, the more power we will have for the present.” ~Steve Backlund 
Written by: Nita Weldon

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Ephesians 6

I was reading in Ephesians six this morning and penned a little declaration for myself and thought I would go ahead and share it with you . . .

I am destined for all things and will rise victorious!  I receive truth into every thought and attitude today that will strengthen me in heavenly perspective.  I put on Holiness like a garment.  I am reconciled to Christ and presented Holy in His sight without blemish and free from accusation. I am God’s chosen one, Holy and dearly loved.   I stand steadfast inside the Lord and His power and ability.  I stand in authority. I stand firm in the faith and am courageous and strong.   I stand in alertness.  I stand against the illegal trespass of the enemy and resist him in Jesus name.  I receive peace as I subdue my enemy. I receive the peace of God which transcends all understanding and receive it’s guard over my heart and mind in Jesus. For He will keep in perfect peace my mind as it is stayed/fixed on Him.  I receive the faith of the Lord Jesus, shielding me from unbelief and lies.  Like a helmet on my head, I embrace the power of salvation’s full deliverance, taking every thought captive and bringing it under obedience to the mind of Christ.  And I release the word of God like a razor sharp sword – “No weapon formed against me will prosper, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, if God is for me, who can be against me!”.  I am positioned in the armor and authority of my King.