193 – Child Institutionalization and Human Trafficking

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Chad Salitan joins Dr. Sandie Morgan and Dave Stachowiak again, to further discuss the TIP Report and its special topics. Chad serves in the State Department’s Trafficking in Persons office as a Deputy Coordinator for the Reports & Political Affairs Section to lead the U.S. government’s diplomatic engagement on sex trafficking and forced labor. Chad and Sandie discuss the many challenges that need to be restored in this special topic of child institutionalization.

Key Points

  • Lumos estimates that 80 to 90 percent of children in these institutions actually have at least one living family member, oftentimes even a living parent. We know that there is no substitute for a family setting in the growth and safety of a child.
  • Voluntourism, or volunteer tourism, is where someone visits a country and pays to go volunteer at the orphanage for a very short time frame. While the tourists think their money is going towards helping the children, it actually ends up in the pockets of directors.
  • Voluntourism additionally leads to child finders, meaning people go into local, impoverished villages and incentivize children to go into these institutions for more tourist opportunities.
  • Ill-managed institutions can consist of institutional complicity, where the actual organization itself that’s running the institution is guilty in organizing or somehow facilitating the trafficking of the residents in the institution.
  • In regards to donations, make sure the organizations are legitimate by informing yourself on their credentials, policies, and ultimately what’s really happening there.
  • As a result of a lack of family environment, children leaving or aging out of institutions have increased vulnerability because they are starved for attention, lack a social support network, do not have social maturities such as trust appropriateness, and overall fall short in managing risk.


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Dave: [00:00:00] You’re listening to the Ending Human Trafficking podcast. This is episode number 193, Child Institutionalization and Human Trafficking.

Production Credits: [00:00:10] Produced by Innovate Learning, maximizing human potential.

Dave: [00:00:30] Welcome to the Ending Human Trafficking podcast. My name is Dave Stachowiak.

Sandie: [00:00:35] And my name is Sandie Morgan.

Dave: [00:00:37] And this is the show where we empower you to study the issues, be a voice, and make a difference in ending human trafficking. On the last episode of 192, we talked about the Trafficking in Persons Report with our guests Chad Salitan and he is returning here on this episode. Chad is in the State Department’s Trafficking in Persons office as the deputy coordinator for the reports and political affairs section. He works with the management team to lead the U.S. government’s diplomatic engagement on sex trafficking and forced labor. If you didn’t listen to episode 192, it’s a great starting point to the Trafficking in Persons Report. And Sandie, we’re going to dive in a bit on one of the key topics in the report here.

Sandie: [00:01:22] Welcome back, Chad.

Chad: [00:01:24] Thank you.

Sandie: [00:01:25] We are looking at some of the special topics and I’m sure we could do an entire series of podcasts, but one of them that particularly impacted me, everybody remember my background in pediatric nursing, is the impact on children because the hallmark of global efforts to end human trafficking has been a trend too. And you all know me well enough, I’m going to use air quotes for rescue, “rescue” and house survivors in shelters. And for children, that’s often a fairly permanent placement. I have friends that I dearly love who make visits to orphanages overseas regularly. And so, Chad I think this special topic is so, helpful. So, maybe we can start with kind of a summary of how that became a special topic and then we’ll talk through that report.

Chad: [00:02:24] Great. Yes, I think we could spend a lot of time on this. How it really came to the attention of this office in earnest a few years ago. We place a heavy emphasis when we’re looking at foreign government efforts on what’s the government response to official complicity. Meaning, how are they enforcing the trafficking law when it’s government officials that are the traffickers? We consider that particularly heinous and since the Trafficking in Persons Report is a judgment of government efforts, we really want to take a special lens when it comes to what’s happening there. And we sometimes use the word orphanages other times you know child institutions, but basically, places where children are now wards of the state, the parental rights have been taken away or anything along those lines. You know a lot of those are publicly run and there are a whole host of problems that we’re going to get into on this podcast about the problem with placing a lot of children in public institutions. What particularly we’re seeing in our research was the worst of the worst that we can get into in depth, but we are seeing basically orphanages that were turning into brothels being run by state employees. So, that’s really what kicked it off for us here and since then we’ve only snowballed in terms of our problems that we’ve collected with child institutionalization.

Sandie: [00:03:48] Wow. Well, let’s just start off with how that institutionalization increases vulnerability for these kids.

Chad: [00:03:56] Yes absolutely. So, you know what we’re seeing in the research, and I’ll give a hat tip to the NGO Lumos out of London that’s doing excellent research on this. You know when you pull a kid away from a family environment it’s just not conducive to healthy cognitive development. We, of course, have a whole range of how good the care is in institutions, you know some are of course better than others but there’s just no substitute for a family setting. And unfortunately, this is just mind-blowing is that you know Lumos estimates that 80 to 90 percent of children in these institutions actually have at least one living family member, one living parent even, let alone a more distant family member. So, what we’re seeing is a lot of kids are being placed in these institutions that really don’t have to be. Just kind of like the way the government’s been doing things for so, long that we kind of have those inroads already grooved in and we’re trying to break that mentality that system that needs to be a funnel.

Sandie: [00:05:02] So, I’m really interested in looking a little more at the statement about ill-managed facilities. And my first question is to define what ill-managed means and then give us some tips on how we can address that and how we can use our voices as advocates, as donors.

Chad: [00:05:23] Absolutely. So, even though I think ill-manage we can start with the worst of the worst and then work our way back you know. So, some of the worst things we’ve seen across the world are we’ve seen where orphanage directors, for lack of a better term, actually recruit buyers, they act as pimps basically. They go out in the community and try to find people that would buy sex from a child. So, they’re actually acting as pimps with the residents there. We’ve also, seen just those directors of these institutions that just don’t care. So, what you’ll have is you’ll have older kids in the institutions pimping out the younger kids. Yeah, that’s some of the worst. But we also, see it on the Labor side too. So, you’ll see directors of these institutions that say force the kids out onto the street and beg for donations. You’ll see them forced into farm work. We’ll see, unfortunately, there’s this concept of voluntourism that you probably mentioned at the top of the podcast.

Sandie: [00:06:26] Volun-what?

Chad: [00:06:26] Voluntourism. Like volunteer tourism.

Sandie: [00:06:29] Oh my goodness.

Chad: [00:06:31] So, this voluntourism thing, volunteer tourism it’s where someone usually from a wealthier country visits Kenya, Nepal, something like that we’ve seen it documented that there and there basically will pay to go volunteer at the orphanage for a very short time frame and they want to do it because they think they’re helping, they’re told their money’s going towards helping the children. But what this does is it incentivizes nefarious institution directors or orphanage directors. So, now they have an incentive to say make sure the kids look destitute. To make sure that they don’t look healthy to make sure it looks like their facility needs donations from these tourists. So, you’re actually keeping kids in even worsening being a poor environment they were already set in because they want to attract donations. This also, incentivizes something we call child finders. Child finders meaning they’re very nefarious individuals that will go into local villages find a family that’s you know impoverished and say listen I have a school, give your kids to me, maybe even send me some money with that kid for the startup costs, we’ll take care of them, we’ll make sure their food secure, we’ll make sure that they get an education, anything like that. So, now we’re actually incentivizing more children to go into these institutions because it’s become a tourist destination.

Sandie: [00:07:58] I read a report a couple of years ago about how Thailand is addressing that as like a cottage industry because people travel to visit these kids and they go out and they actually rent kids when people are coming from a village and families make an income by renting their kids. And they put their kids in their oldest, dirtiest clothes to go and be the kids in this particular facility. How do we address that, especially if we’re in NGPs if we’re part of the faith-based donor programs? How do we do a better job?

Chad: [00:08:37] Absolutely, and I think a lot of it does have to do with the awareness impact. So, a lot of western organizers for tourism think this is a good idea. I mean they just don’t know better. So, whether it says a church group that’s organizing a trip somewhere or it is a cruise line that offers a visit to an orphanage as one of its like excursions.

Sandie: [00:09:01] No, I haven’t heard that one.

Chad: [00:09:03] Yeah that’s the thing. So, I know with a gap year, it’s not as popular in the United States, but in a lot of Europe or Australia the idea that gap year to go to be a volunteer instead of just traveling around that’s another source of where you get these kinds of short-term problematic visits. There are trip organizers that are a way to get the word out. So, we’re just now I think ramping up the public awareness on this and it will certainly continue, but that’s a big part of it is issuing those travel warnings around to make sure that wherever the biggest funnels, of course, are coming from we can hit those first.

Sandie: [00:09:41] Wow. I just think of a report which I can’t remember where it came from, but it was a financial aggregation of faith-based organizations to anti-trafficking victims’ services outside the U.S. and it was millions and millions and millions of dollars and the majority of it went to children’s programs. And now I’m wondering how much of it actually ended up in the pockets of institutional directors. It just makes me want to know a lot more about this.

Chad: [00:10:23] Yes. And if you ever I had a fascinating meeting with someone that worked on human trafficking in the government in Haiti and he was explaining the amount of money, I don’t know the exact figures, but the amount of money that goes into it like the private orphanage, cottage industry so, to speak, versus the amount of actually in the budget for the government working on this, it was just worth it. So, the idea that you know this amount of money can actually just overwhelm any kind of possible oversight in the country. We really are going to need to address it, as you said from the sending from those places that are actually creating a tourist destination in the first place.

Sandie: [00:11:03] And you know I’m always thinking about how this podcast will not just help my listeners but how it will inform and educate my students. And so, one of the vocabulary terms I’m adding to the current class is institutional complicity, would you define that term, please?

Chad: [00:11:24] So, I feel like it’s a pop quiz. Similar to what I was referring to before, where the actual organization itself that’s running the institution is guilty in organizing or somehow facilitating the trafficking of the residents in the institution.

Sandie: [00:11:44] Yes. I just cannot imagine how we can be blind when we visit places like that. And I think one of the parts about this where we can be smarter, wiser, better stewards is to ask more questions. Particularly when we’re at a fundraising event and they’re showing pictures of children and asking who those children are. And we have laws in the U.S. about how we use children’s pictures. And I think sometimes funders, donor-driven programs go outside where they’re in countries where the children are not protected to the same level. And so, we have to start asking questions about media policies. Those are basic things that can help prevent our response being an emotional heart tug and begin to be more intentional about understanding the basis for that. You really hit some buttons for me, so, let’s look at a little more further down in this report. How and why does the vulnerability extend to their departure or aging out of the institution?

Chad: [00:13:05] Exactly and this gets to the point that even if there wasn’t a situation where there was sexual or labor exploitation during childhood, afterward we see that those that had to grow up outside a family environment didn’t grow up with learning the kind of social maturities and kind of that wariness of what could become a trafficking situation. So, someone that they didn’t grow up in a family environment perhaps is a little starved for affection. So, we have the concept of the Loverboy, which anyone that’s studying trafficking knows is where someone had a fake boyfriend tries to come along and pretend he’s in love with a young girl or vice versa, and eventually he dupes her into going into prostitution to like help support them financially and then it just becomes a full-blown sex trafficking situation. Someone that could have grown outside family environment didn’t experience the love of a family arguably is more susceptible to such an offer. Then the labor trafficking side, being wary of dubious job offers. You could argue that they don’t have a social support network in a family that they don’t have anyone to gut check them. They didn’t grow with anyone to kind of test assumptions, to make them learn how to trust. So, because that barometer isn’t really set, someone might be more vulnerable to trusting someone that’s really deceiving them and forcing them into an exploitative labor situation.

Sandie: [00:14:34] And part of the issue is that they’re at an age where their ability to manage risk is still being developed. So, if they already have some stunted development because of their circumstances and then you combine that with just normal neurodevelopment, they need more support when they’re aging out to keep them safe and to help them process opportunities. And so, that part is key if you are part of a group doing work with children in any country here in the U.S. where ever, once they graduate from whatever the program is they still need assistance because their cognitive reasoning and their support and their ability to develop strong trust need support. In your report, it even outrages me more, I didn’t have to go to the gym because my heart rate got up reading this report, it says some traffickers in recognizing the heightened vulnerability of these children wait for for-they sound like predators, oh they are- they wait for and target those who leave or age out of institutions. Just the mental image of prowling outside waiting, we hear those stories hear from some of our institutions and to know that that’s happening around the world, and we have documentation, really needs to challenge many of us to go back and review how we support residential programs for our children and our youth. And I think when you’re talking about children are you setting that at like age 18?

Chad: [00:16:34] We are.

Sandie: [00:16:34] Yeah. Okay, so, we are talking about youth as well as really young children.

Chad: [00:16:40] And if I could cut in just a raise your heartbeat a little bit more when we say that they’re targeting those leaving the institutions. We actually have research to show that it’s actually in some cases they’re physically waiting outside the discharge stores of these institutions. They’re physically there and either due to indifference or lack of resources there is no policing or enforcement or any kind of halfway program to make sure that once children leave that they can do anything but have to rely on a trafficker to sustain themselves.

Sandie: [00:17:18] Unfathomable. Well in response then, the report offers some steps to protect children. Can we talk about something that will calm me down just a little bit?

Chad: [00:17:30] Yes of course now. So, some of the solutions that are more closer to our wheelhouse I have to deal specifically with trafficking have to do with oversight and you know combating that institutional complicity that we were just referring to. There’s no reason why we can’t have greater checks, they back on checks on directors and in periodic in-person visits to these institutions by those that know what to look for to ensure that they’re there isn’t any malfeasance happening. But in the broader sense, and it’s not as close to what my office works on, but we should be looking away from the child institutionalization model as a way to care for children. First of all, as we mentioned with you know 80 to 90 percent of children having a living parent and probably even more distant relative, you know we need to find a way to keep parents in their home. Not even just a family home but their home. Unfortunately, what you see across the world are a lot of policies that actually remove children from their parents. Now, of course, there are situations where that’s warranted. But you have to wonder if it’s gone too far. And we have to find a way that we don’t have to have so, many children in the institutions. Another way of looking at this, and this is, unfortunately, this actually is one of the sadder ones, sorry I thought I was going to give you hope. But in terms of disabilities, unfortunately, a child with disabilities and a lot of places there’s no health care structure to keep that child with the parents. Sometimes that’s just out of necessity but a lot of times it’s just because the government says this child is disability they need to live in this home and it’s actually a state policy to move the child into such an institution where they’re just substandard, there’s not the care there. If you really want to get your heartbeat up there’s this group called Disability Rights International that has done excellent and just horrifying research into what’s happening to some of institutions not just for children but for those with physical or mental disabilities and the kind of horrific things that are happening to them in that kind of situation.

Sandie: [00:19:32] And your research shows that they have an increased vulnerability to being trafficked?

Chad: [00:19:38] Yes. I mean just for all the reasons that we were stating before about not understanding risk and the cognitive development just amplified when you’re talking about disabilities because there’s just not that care there when you’re growing up in that environment. And I think in general too, beyond children, we have seen that there are increased vulnerabilities when it comes to just any disability. I mean some of the earliest cases in the United States had to deal with, I think it was Mexican citizens in the United States that had disabilities that were forced to beg. And I think they were, of course, more vulnerable to physical and psychological coercion because of their disabilities.

Sandie: [00:20:17] Very troubling. One of the recommendations that are very relevant to those of us here in the U.S. that support many programs that operate outside our borders. It says, “donor countries can look at ways to increase oversight of organizations and charities funneling money to residential institutions.” So, can you give me some examples of what that might look like?

Chad: [00:20:45] Certainly, so, I think that what happens is it’s really hard to say that an organization that’s working with children and has the right photos of you know the impoverished, destitute child and the looking institution that they don’t need help. But there are so, many of these institutions that are bogus.

Sandie: [00:21:04] I’ll define that technical term bogus for people, means it’s fake.

Chad: [00:21:08] Yes. What’s happening there is you know just an unscrupulous individual enriching themselves by using this as a front. So, doing the homework on who’s backing this organization? Do they have any kind of credentials? You know you don’t have to you know to go and visit yourself to ensure it’s real. But other people do that. You know there are charity watchdogs, you know charity navigator, for example, there are places that will do this research and inform you what’s really happening there. So, I think we have to be more cautious before we click the donate button to see if anyone else verified that this is the real deal.

Sandie: [00:21:49] Right. Wow. We did a previous podcast with an organization in Tanzania, podcast number 161 that talked about some alternative ways to assist kids who do need help. And I saw in your report that you also, talk about a paradigm shift away from institutional care. So, what does that look like?

Chad: [00:22:14] Right. So, as an in-between I think there are smaller settings that would be the kind of in-between step where you can have more individualized attention and love towards a child, but eventually, obviously I think a foster system is the best. Now, of course, that needs to be done right. There needs to be oversight of foster parents and a proper democracy to train and set up that system. But any way that you can get a system that resembles the family environment, that is the ultimate goal. And so, you do that through moving from a large institution all the way down to where you can have a dedicated parent whether that’s returning the child to the birth parent because you get rid of some of these policies that rightly remove parents’ rights or systems that can place a child with a family member or beyond that setting up a foster system where you have willing citizens that want to adopt and have a system a place to train them about how to care for their children and oversight over that kind of foster home, that smaller loving environment is still going to be better than any kind of institution.

Sandie: [00:23:20] Well and I love the way that this is summarized in the TIP Report because it really focuses on the health and well-being, it’s very proactive for the child. And if you have a healthy child, you’re going to reduce vulnerability to trafficking. If we just look at the moment where they might encounter a trafficker, we’re missing the boat. We just have to make them strong go back and listen to all the podcasts to build a strong child. This is so, important to be proactive and kids who are healthy and have developmental assets are much less vulnerable to being trafficked. What about you recommend the U.N. guidelines for alternative care for children. Is this something that’s going to be more and more integrated into your research as well?

Chad: [00:24:17] Yes. So, we are trying to deepen our relationship with groups like Lumos and Disability Rights International to incorporate their assessments into ours in the country narratives for the Trafficking in Persons Report. And you know when governments ask what can we do, it’s always good to point to you know a well-researched international document like something produced from the United Nations because it’s therefore agreed upon globally as the way to go. We try to target our recommendations on child institutionalization to places that are most in need of places where we’ve seen that institutional complicity, places that want to do better. So, we have been approached by some governments that know they want to move away from this model but just don’t know where to start. So, that’s where we can connect them with these resources because they recognize the problems with having scrupulous orphanage directors that are doubling as pimps and things like that.

Sandie: [00:25:10] Wow. And just kudos to you guys putting this report together on page 23 you have a photo of young children looking through a security gate. And I’ve talked a lot on this podcast about media ethics and we don’t see any faces we just see children looking out from the back, so, almost silhouettes. And that’s a great example of how we can still tell their story without re-exploiting them. And so, kudos to your team for a really well-done report.

Chad: [00:25:45] We really appreciate that. This is our big project each year so, a lot of work goes into it.

Sandie: [00:25:49] And it is appreciated. I’ll give you one last statement, anything you want to say and then we’ve got to shut it down for this week.

Chad: [00:25:58] I think I just encourage everyone to go online and type in Trafficking in Persons Report and it’s available publicly. Every year we release every June so, we’ll have another one coming up June 2019 if everything goes to plan. And the beginning of that report will have more special topics of interest like this one that anyone following trafficking will hopefully be able to see what research we’re uncovering now.

Sandie: [00:26:23] That’s great. And we’ll have a link to this PDF as well on our show notes and we hope that you’ll join us at Ensure Justice March 1st and 2nd 2019. Find a way to register at www.ensurejustice.com. Thank you so, much, Chad. And we look forward to having you back another time.

Chad: [00:26:44] Thank you very much.

Dave: [00:26:46] Chad and Sandie, thank you so, much. Sandie, so, much of the work of the Global Center for Women and Justice is centered around study the issues, be a voice, and make a difference. And I think about our conversation today of the importance of studying these issues because there’s so, much here in this report as we’ve talked about today. That if you don’t know and just are well-intending of going in and trying to help, you could actually make things worse and that’s why we also, invite you in addition to looking up the TIP Report, to take the first step and learn more about the Five Things You Must Know, a quick start guide to ending human trafficking. You can download a copy of that book for free on our Website at endinghumantrafficking.org. It is the five critical things that Sandie and the Global Center for Women and Justice have identified that will help you to fight against human trafficking the things to know before you even begin. Again, you get access to that at endinghumantrafficking.org as well as all of the show notes for this episode and in every episode. And Sandie, I’ll see you back in two weeks.

Sandie: [00:27:51] All right, Dave, thanks.

Dave: [00:27:52] Thanks, everybody.

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