Tuesday, June 21, 2011

IOFA Welcomes Loyola Legal Intern, Agnes Zielinksi!

Hello everyone,

My name is Agnieszka (Agnes) Zielinski and I am IOFA’s new legal intern. At IOFA, I will be assisting IOFA’s Program Specialist and Attorney, Sehla Ashai, representing victims of trafficking as well as researching a variety of issues in human trafficking in order to contribute to IOFA’s Building Child Welfare Response to Child Trafficking Project. I am very excited about this opportunity as it my chance to learn about the work IOFA has done to combat human trafficking as well as advocate for vulnerable youth.

Currently, I am a second year law student and Civitas ChildLaw fellow at Loyola University Chicago School of Law. My particular focus in law school is child advocacy. My passion for working with children has been a life-long one. I especially became interested child welfare and juvenile justice when I took a class entitled “Sexual Exploitation of Children” during undergrad. This class encouraged me to intern at the Public Defender’s office, teach youth at the juvenile detention center about their legal rights, and pursue a path in child advocacy.

I have only been at IOFA for a couple of weeks, but this position has reinforced my belief that child advocacy is the right path for me. As a child of Polish immigrants, this position truly unites my passion for working with vulnerable youth and my passion for working with immigrants. I hope to use my Polish language skills to reach out to the Polish and Eastern European community. This is an exciting time for me and I look forward to the next few months!

Friday, June 10, 2011

IOFA Welcomes Graduate Intern, Cheryl Winter, to our Chicago Office

As a frontline for victims of human trafficking, Emergency Department personnel and other health workers may be the first, and in some cases, the only service providers to come into direct contact with victims of human trafficking. Additionally, nearly one third of victims of trafficking, receive medical assistance from healthcare providers and remain unidentified while experiencing exploitation. It is imperative that health professionals be included in capacity building programs that equip providers to better identify and respond to child victims of trafficking.

This summer, we are joined by several interns, who will be assisting us with program outreach, capacity building, research and evaluation. One of these interns is Cheryl Winter, a graduate student from Washington University in Saint Louis, who is working toward dual Masters degrees in Public Health and Social Work. With a background in communications, training facilitation, and evaluation, Cheryl will dedicate her time at IOFA to developing partnerships with hospitals and healthcare providers, identifying gaps in service provision and health provider policies, and adapting training materials for health providers to better identifying and responding to the needs of trafficking victims.

Cheryl reflected on her new position with us saying, "I'm so thankful for the chance to connect with health providers and continue building the capacity of local organizations committed to ending human trafficking and providing services to victims of trafficking. It's inspiring to work on a project that not only has the potential to impact others' lives, but that is so urgently needed. It's a tremendous opportunity to work with IOFA and I'm looking forward to all that I can learn and contribute!"

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Youth Leaving Institutions: Trafficking and Exploitation

In IOFA’s research conducted with 12 Phnom Penh anti-trafficking non-governmental organizations in the summer of 2010, the risk factors of a) poverty, b) prior experience with interpersonal violence, and c) isolation were identified as primary risk factors for trafficking and exploitation. During March 2011, focus groups held with youth who had left orphanage care in Phnom Penh showed highly disproportionate experiences of all three risk factors.

1. Poverty

Nearly all post-care youth interviewed live on less than $1 a day, and many shoulder the responsibility of caring for others while they work exploitative, physically harmful jobs.
One young man described his typical work day beginning at 4 am, and continuing until 9 pm. His feet were swollen and covered in infected sores, from serving in a restaurant. He explains that he first began this job working only for food, until the management trusted him enough to pay him about $30 a month.

Another young man finds himself working 84 hours a week in a paper mill, from 6 pm to 6 am. He, too, is paid $30 a month – ten of which is withheld by his employer for the mandatory sleeping arrangements, a raised wooden platform within the paper mill shared with dozens of other mill employees.

2. History of interpersonal violence

Although the youth were not asked about experiences prior to their leaving orphanage care, many youth chose to share the heart-breaking abuses they had endured within orphanage care or at the hands of their families as children. Several youth reported forced labor and physical violence from the orphanage staff. One young woman reported physical abuse so severe in the orphanage that she ran away, and sought work in restaurants for food. One restaurant took her in – but would not let her leave. There, she was forced to work in their kitchen, and was deprived of both food and pay. After several months of forced labor, she managed to run away again, returning to her home town and begging neighbors to find her extended family to help her, before she was forced to return to the restaurant. Days later, her great aunt came to the restaurant and rescued her from her traffickers.

3. Isolation

Nearly all of the youth interviewed reported extreme isolation, and shared the belief that their communities “hate” them. They expressed deep distress, stating that “if I take a wrong turn, no one will be there to correct me.” The youth reported unanimously that they “have no friends.”

Children in government orphanages are given the surname Rorth, which means “belonging to the
government” in Khmer[1] - a designation that predisposes care leavers for social isolation from their communities. Explained the youth, in their words:

“They [society] treat us like we are not human.”

“Everyone is ready to tell me I am lazy.”

“I feel hopeless and outside of society.”

That this population is at a uniquely high risk for trafficking is reasonably intuitive; children in orphanage care, particularly those who interact with many cycles of volunteer caregivers, are at an exponentially increased risk of forming disorganized attachments[2],[3], a developmental problem that prevents them from forming positive social relationships with others. This may manifest itself in the inability to form protective community relationships (shown to prevent trafficking)[4] or, conversely, in indiscriminate affection and trust to everyone[5], including traffickers. Strict authoritarian childcare structures in orphanages preclude youth from developing safe independence and responsibility[6],[7],[8]. Indeed, a 2007 BBC report described orphanages as “magnets” for traffickers[9].
Perhaps care-leavers are overlooked as a vulnerable population because they are generally educated. However, the youth also reported extreme psychological distress, uncontrollable emotions, and paralyzing fear. Their education is useless without the social skills and communities necessary to use it. A third of Phnom Penh orphanages openly admitted they provide no support whatsoever to youth who leave their care, in a large-scale 2007 study[10]. With an estimated 10,000 children in orphanage care in Cambodia –35% of whom are older than 159 – and a recent, rapid growth of orphanages around the country (up 67% between 2005 and 2008)[11], this problem will only get bigger.

Thanks for reading, and please stay tuned for future blogs! Better yet - follow our blog by signing up on the lower left hand side of your screen!

Susan Rosas

Transitions Initiative Program Manager

[1] Hyland, Anne. 2009, March 12. “It Takes a Village: An American Heiress Aims to Rescue Cambodia by Giving Orphans a Family.” The Wallstreet Journal.
[2] Richter, L. and A. Norman (2007). AIDS orphan tourism: A threat to young children in residential care. Vulnerable Children and Youth Studies 5 (3): 217-229.
[3]Dozier, M. and J. Brick (2007). Changing caregivers: Coping with early adversity. Psychiatric Annals, 37, 411-415.

[4] Sampson, R., Raudenbush, S, & Earls, F. (1997). Neighborhoods and Violent Crime: A Multilevel Study of Collective Efficacy. Science (277), pp. 918-924.

[5] Zeanah, C., Smyke, A., Koga, S., and Carlson, E. (2005). Attachment in institutionalized and community children in Romania. Child Development,76(5):1015-1028.
[6] Wolff, Peter and Gebremeskel Fesseha. 1998. “The Orphans of Eritrea: Are Orphanages Part of the Problem or Part of the Solution?” Am J Psychiatry 155(10):1319-1324.
[7] Cline, F. 1979. “Lack of Attachment in Children.” Nurse Pract 4(35):45
[8] Kaler, S.R. and B.J. Freeman. 1994. “Analysis of Environemntal Deprivation: Cognitive and Social Development in Romanian Orphans.” J Child Psychol Psychiatry 35: 769-781.
[9] Mutch, Thembi (2007). Sex Lies and Audio Tape. British Journalism Review 18(September): 61-65
[10] Project Sky, ICC (unpublished)