264: How Are All The Children?


Co-hosts, Dr. Sandra Morgan and Dr. Dave Stachowiak, discuss the wellbeing of all our children. The emphasize the need to provide access to education and access to social services in order to see that all the children are fine, which will lead to a strong community.

Key Points

  • High percentage of youth who have been identified as CSEC were also previously identified by Social Services for prior abuse.
  • ACEs screening tests serve as a preventative tool to provide resources to youth who are vulnerable.
  • From 2019-2020, child labor increased for the first time in two decades.
  • Corporations and consumers play a role in demanding fair labor.


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Dave [00:00:00] You’re listening to the Ending Human Trafficking podcast. This is episode number 264, How Are All the Children?

Production Credits [00:00:08] Produced by Innovate Learning, maximizing human potential.

Dave [00:00:29] Welcome to the Ending Human Trafficking podcast. My name is Dave Stachowiak.

Sandie [00:00:34] 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. Sandie, in our last episode, we talked to Stephan Lambert about all of the current issues with substance abuse going on with kids and teens right now. It’s a fascinating and difficult conversation, but such an important one. I hope folks will go revisit if they haven’t already heard it. And it’s a great lead-in to today’s conversation, isn’t it? How are all the children?

Sandie [00:01:11] Oh my goodness. Yeah. The timing couldn’t have been better, really. And back at Vanguard, our students are back in person and it’s a very different environment, and anxiety and stress responses are different. But I was inspired by a school superintendent from Long Beach a few months ago who mentioned there is an African greeting that says, How are the children? And I thought, that’s pretty interesting. So I dug into it and spent a few hours on the internet reading and discovered that there is a Maasai warrior greeting. And the key here, Dave, is warrior. The key word. And I think sometimes we think the frontline in human trafficking is raiding brothels. But over and over again, I come back to prevention and that starts in childhood. So these warriors greet each other and Maasai warriors are very tall and very strong, and they look intimidating. And so when they greet each other with how are all the children, the correct response if you’re protecting your village is all the children are fine. So Dave, you’re a Maasai warrior. I’m a Maasai warrior. How are all the children, Dave?

Dave [00:02:53] All the children are fine. Or, are they not are?

Sandie [00:02:58] Ah, and I was telling this story at Priceless and Judge Maria Hernandez and Judge Joanne Motoike, who have worked with our children CSEC survivors for years, both said at the same time, all the children are not fine. And that’s why I believe that we need to reframe prevention as the front line. And if you start thinking about what that looks like, we aren’t going to have the number of victims further on down the road if we do prevention. Look what happened when America decided enough with lung cancer and they got on track for prevention to stop smoking? Did we end smoking? We did not. But did we reduce smoking? I haven’t been to a restaurant where they allow smoking in a really long time, and it wasn’t in California. So you can have impact with prevention. We just have to think about what that looks like. So when I started thinking about this Maasai warrior greeting, it energized me to be just a little stronger in my approach to prevention. I want to see myself as a prevention warrior.

Dave [00:04:33] When you think about that distinction between doing what you were doing before and being a prevention warrior, what’s different about your thinking or actions that you’re now taking?

Sandie [00:04:46] Well, I think I want to begin to frame the front line in terms of the battles that are going on. So for instance, right here in Orange County in the 2019-2020 Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force Report, we identified 101 children who were being commercially sexually exploited. So those numbers are horrific, right? That’s just one little county. It doesn’t encompass the nation or the globe. But here’s the part about that that we often overlook. We kind of tend to think it doesn’t happen in my community, someplace else. But 63% of those children were home grown Orange County children. So Dave, you live in Orange County? How are all the children?

Dave [00:05:54] Certainly not fine. And the other thing that comes up for me thinking about that number of course is that’s the number we know about. It doesn’t reflect really the whatever the actual number is, does it?

Sandie [00:06:07] No, it does not. I think of hidden victims that nobody even knows are there. And if somebody doesn’t see them, doesn’t understand–and not just in commercial sexual exploitation, but also in labor trafficking. Go back and listen to Shyima’s story right here in Orange County as a child maid trafficked to Orange County. One other thing about those hundred kids in the last report, 90% of them had prior abuse reports. They had already been identified by child welfare as being in an unsafe situation. So, as a warrior, I have a very different perspective on my responsibility in my community. I’m a protector, and sometimes we are not as alert to what’s going on in our community and how we can become better at protection. We’re very fortunate here in Orange County that we have a surgeon general and that we now have a program to do the adverse childhood experience test in pediatrician offices. It’s a great way to screen for kids who might be potentially in a harmful situation. And those results, which are based on a couple of decades of research with the Center for Disease Control and Kaiser, you can read about it. I’ll put links in the show notes. But the idea that we can identify through a simple screening tool kids who might be more vulnerable, those 90 percent of that 101 number right here in Orange County. So then I extrapolate that to the whole state, to the nation, and I’m excited about what I can do on the front line in prevention.

Dave [00:08:24] Our son has been ill this past week, and so we were at the pediatrician’s office and I noticed the ACEs posters are in every exam room documented all over the place and I hadn’t, I don’t recall seeing those before, and it did catch my attention of just that we are, at least here locally, like doing a good job at getting that message out amongst medical providers, and you really do see it visually when you show up.

Sandie [00:08:53] That makes me so happy to hear that. That is great. acesaware.org, you can go to that website and much like Stephan Lambert in our last episode talked about, there are ways to help our kids cope. And even if someone has had an adverse childhood experience that can compound into your adulthood, you don’t turn 18 and suddenly all of the challenges you had are over. Many times they become extra baggage for you to carry into adulthood. But ACEs Aware has great resources for responding to those adverse childhood experiences. Mental health resources, coping strategies, mindfulness, all of those kinds of resources. So as a warrior, I’m probably not going to go pick up a bow and arrow. I’m more likely to go and say, Who’s your trusted adult? Do you have access to counseling and mental health resources, social emotional learning in your school, those kinds of things? I want to build the protective fence around the children in my community.

Dave [00:10:18] And if we continue the warrior analogy, there’s a sense here of it may not be a bow and arrow, but it may be armor, right? So it’s building that. I’m not sure what the right word is I’m looking for. Somewhere there’s a Minecraft analogy here, because that’s what I play with the kids all the time. Durability. That’s the word that they use all the time. Like, you know, with all the the resources in Minecraft and you really are building durability if you are educated about these resources and those conversations are happening. It is, it’s not, like you said, Sandie, smoking is a great analogy. Smoking hasn’t disappeared. But if you look at the difference between smoking in our society today and the prevalence and what it was 25, 30 years ago, it is night and day the difference and we have the same opportunity here.

Sandie [00:11:17] Absolutely. So here we are in Orange County, but our listeners are literally around the world. So I want to look at the latest ILAB report, and the ILAB report is produced every other year by mandate here in the U.S. and it represents statistics from the International Labor Organization, the United Nations Children’s Fund, and it analyzes what is happening through the Bureau of International Labor Affairs. That’s what ILAB stands for. And so in their recent estimate, and this is why I am so concerned that the answer is all the children are not fine. We actually took a huge step backwards in 2019-2020. The absolute number of children in child labor increased for the first time in two decades, from 152 million to 160 million. That’s global, and those are big numbers. That is a 9.6% increase. That is eight million more children, eight million more children. And here’s the part that is especially disturbing. 79 million of those children are in hazardous work environments. That means they’re in dangerous places that you wouldn’t let your kids go. And I think too often our perceptions around human trafficking in children has been focused on little girls being sold for commercial sex, and that is happening. But in this report, this is about labor trafficking and more boys than girls are in labor trafficking. The child labor reports are that boys in rural and agricultural environments with entwined with a lack of access to education. And when I looked at the U.N. report, I was actually surprised when I saw that the breakdown of children being trafficked was 15 percent boys and 19 percent girls. That’s just a tiny difference between girls and boys. And because of our perceptions, we’ve been mostly inundated with the stories of sex trafficking. We haven’t really focused on what’s happening to the boys in our community.

Dave [00:14:37] Does the report cite a reason or reasons for the jump of eight million more since 2018?

Sandie [00:14:49] Well, there are some guesses and now then, you know, further research is in motion. But with COVID, many people lost their economic security. And so a parallel to this, if you go to the Sustainable Development Goals on the UN website, you’ll find that our progress in eliminating poverty took a huge step backwards. We lost a great deal of that motivation. So if poverty is an issue in a particular community, then that’s going to place families at risk. And the choice between sending your son to school or sending your son to a field to work or to a mine to work doesn’t feel like a choice anymore. It feels like survival.

Dave [00:15:51] Yeah, but such an unfortunate turn of events. I mean, the pandemic has affected us in so many ways. And yet, you know, we so I think we’ve all intuitively known that even though obviously things have transitioned with vaccines and not over by any means, but there is the sense a bit psychologically of looking at everyday activities in many places around the world of things–I don’t even want to say normal–but things starting to reset into a new way of being. And yet we are going to see the fallout for several years on this for a while, and this is just one yet another indicator of how the pandemic has really affected so many things in a negative way.

Sandie [00:16:41] And we were making progress, I think. I don’t want people to think we had overcome, but we were making progress. And now the research shows even more the glaring gaps in access to education and access to social programs. I love that we just interviewed Stephan because the anxiety and stress and not having the coping mechanisms have resulted in lots and lots of increases in substance use disorders. And so because people turn to an easy, cheap way to control their emotions. And so when we think about how that impacts communities where there are no mental health resources or very limited, then you can see how children might become less, I’m not exactly sure how to say it, but I want to say less valuable to the community. And they just are almost invisible and are basically surviving many times in some of the communities I’ve researched. There are large communities of street children, and how do they survive? So access to education and access to social resources? That’s what we need to do to create that durability and resilience in our communities.

Dave [00:18:26] For those hearing this, perhaps for the first time or perhaps hearing this anew and thinking about these trends as we now see them. Where are you inviting folks to begin to take the first step?

Sandie [00:18:39] Wow, that’s such a good good question, I think. I mean, we’re going to keep talking about about Stephan in this conversation. His bottom line proposition is that a great deal of the easy access to cheap substances is greed and making the counterfeit pills, and all of that is about greed. Well, human trafficking is about greed. And when big corporations purchase agricultural products at below market rates because they’re not paying for labor, that’s all about greed. And there are things we can do from a labor trafficking perspective. We can begin to use the tools we talked before about the Sweat and Toil app. There is a new app called Comply. And it will show you the companies and how they’re checking their supply chains. We’ll put a link in the show notes to get to that and really becoming much more knowledgeable consumers. We just did our annual Live2Free Fair Trade Fashion Show where our Vanguard students put on an event designed to teach us about the harms of fast fashion. So one of the things that I learned when they first started doing this several years ago is that a great deal of the cotton for the clothes, especially here in California with our weather, we wear lots of cotton. 20 percent of the world’s cotton is harvested in Uzbekistan, and it is a country where children often are not in school because they are working on the cotton plantations. So how do we begin to make sure that we’re not investing in cotton that was cheaper because it was harvested and supported by child labor? Those are just some examples, and I think big business has a lot of opportunity to be leaders. And as consumers, we start asking questions. We’re going to get their attention. So, for instance, go back and listen to the interview with Ben Skinner on Transparentum and how do we educate our corporations? And I think recently, Dave, I was really struck by reading in the book of Philippians chapter one about the role of knowledge and insight in living our best lives, being our best person. And knowledge and insight, that’s why you’re probably listening to this podcast right now. You want to understand more. So that would be my first step, getting more knowledge.

Dave [00:22:02] But, you know, I was thinking almost the same thing when. It’s interesting. You said knowledge and insight. I was reflecting also on what Stephan said about greed, and you know, there’s of course, the opportunity for all of us to influence organizations and especially if we are working in a large organization or partnering with other organizations to raise these conversations. And there’s also the opportunity for each one of us with especially the young people in our life, to have conversations that on their face may not seem anything about trafficking or substance abuse, but get to the bigger picture of looking at how does the world work and greed specifically? One example that Sandie is oftentimes when our family goes somewhere, our kids do something, and they get something for quote unquote free, like we’re at an event and like someone’s handing out something for free, or they can download something from a app store that we approve, but it’s quote unquote for free. We’ll often, not every time, but we have a conversation of why do you think this is free? What is it that, what is it that this organization or this entity or this piece of software is trying to do or try to incentivize you to do by making it free? And we try to frame that as in free isn’t always bad. It’s not that you can’t accept something, but just to be mindful of what is going on here. Like, what’s the larger narrative? And our kids, I think, are getting that a little more like when we often ask that, like right away, they’re like, Oh yeah, while they’re trying to get more YouTube views. So, and so, that just that, starting with some of those, I love Stephan’s invitation. Like, just look for the everyday kinds of conversations that are already, things that are already happening in life and utilizing those as an opportunity to start to frame the bigger picture, the human elements that are going on. And that way, you start to develop a resilience, a durability for when the situations get a lot more complicated.

Sandie [00:24:09] When we look at children, whether we’re looking at the big global picture or right here in our own communities, I think that we want to remember that they turn into adults. And so when you look at the numbers of adults in human trafficking, they didn’t get out when they turned 18. And it reminded me, as I was preparing for today, of a conversation I had with Judge Maria Hernandez when she came to my Vanguard class and spoke on the school to prison pipeline. I had never heard of anything like that, and she gave an example of a six-year-old who had a series of tardies and absences that were unexcused. So here’s a six-year-old, and I know Dave, you’re already thinking, Well, it’s not his fault that he’s late. It’s not his fault he’s not there. So you have to look and see about the adults around him, and you find out then that mom is working two jobs and gets home from a night shift and falls asleep and doesn’t get up to take him to school. But he’s the one with the tardies and the after school issues because of not being in class. And of course, not being on time means he’s going to be behind his fellow students and he’s going to probably start accommodating for that acting out. And as he gets older, he carries that with him. So if I’m worried or concerned about how are all the children, I am not just thinking about my own two daughters, but I’m thinking about all the children because our community then is built on how all of the children are doing. And we have to find ways to better serve, to better protect, to prevent the kinds of consequences that might happen. What would it be like if somebody figured out that little Tommy was late to school three out of five days because his mom worked the night shift and somebody arranged to pick that little kid up every day for school? Very small, very small.

Dave [00:26:56] That’s a bid difference.

Sandie [00:26:57] Yeah. So I think we can start looking for that access to education, access to social services. How are we protecting our children? If we’re protecting our children, then we know what’s happening with the adults in the community. The whole community will thrive better when our children are all fine.

Dave [00:27:24] A first step you may wish to take is to look at some of the resources that Sandie has found in these reports. And of course, we’re going to post them in our episode notes, as we always do. If you go over to endinghumantrafficking.org and look up this episode number 264, you will find the notes posted there. And of course, we’re inviting you to take the first step while you’re online. If you haven’t before, perhaps you’re picking up the episode here or the show for the first time, if you are, welcome. I hope you’ll also hop online and start with a copy of Sandie’s guide. It’s absolutely free. It’s Five Things You Must Know: A Quick Start Guide to Ending Human Trafficking. It’ll teach you the five critical things that Sandie’s identified in her work that you should know before you join the fight against human trafficking. You can get access to it by going over to endinghumantrafficking.org. And if this or a recent episode, have raised any questions for you of something you’d like to hear more from us about, I’d invite you to take a moment to reach out to us so you can do that on the website at endinghumantrafficking.org. Or you can just send a message to feedback@endinghumantrafficking.org and that’s the very best way to reach us. And we, of course, will be back with our next conversation in two weeks. Sandie, as always, thank you for your leadership and the research. I’m so looking forward to our next conversation.

Sandie [00:28:47] Thanks, Dave.

Dave [00:28:48] Have a great day, everyone.

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