CARE House of Oakland County: It shouldn't hurt to be a child.
CARE House of Oakland County: It shouldn't hurt to be a child.

The issue of human trafficking, or the sale of humans for slave labor and/or sexual exploitation, has come into prominence over the last several years. The numbers are staggering – nearly 21 million people worldwide are victims of human trafficking, the majority of them women and children. Runaway children are especially at risk – the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children estimates that, of the 18,500 children reported as missing in 2016, one sixth of them were likely victims of sex trafficking.

Our friends at the Macomb County Care House  shared a story yesterday on their Facebook account that offers a unique perspective on the work we do. As we mentioned a couple of weeks ago, the group of people who developed the CAC model did so in part because they were having trouble securing convictions for cases of child sexual abuse. One problem they ran into was in presenting these child victims as credible witnesses.

Natalie Shure’s piece, “Why Young Sexual Assault Victims Tell Incoherent Stories,” helps explain how troubling the investigative experience can be for young people.

Names and details in this story have been changed to protect the anonymity of our clients.

Nina is 9 years old. She has a cat named Phillip and her favorite class in school is art. She lives in here in Oakland County with her mom and dad, and she loves them both very much.

Every Monday, her parents have a date night, and Nina stays at home with her babysitter, Paul. Paul is 15 and he’s been a close family friend for years.

Hi there! This is Blythe Spitsbergen, CARE House’s Executive Director. On the occasion of our 40th anniversary, I’ve been taking the time to revisit our history and consider how our organization has changed and grown. Maybe the biggest difference between then and now is that, when we opened in 1977, we didn’t provide forensic interviews or therapy services for suspected victims of child abuse. In fact, the child advocacy model that we follow today hadn’t even been invented yet.

The 21st Annual Circle of Friends Luncheon took place last Thursday, January 2, at the Townsend Hotel in Birmingham. The luncheon focused on children in foster care, the struggles they face, and what we can do to help them. It featured remarks from the event honoree, retiring Oakland County Family Court Judge Joan E. Young; event chair and foster parent Tamara Rambus; and memoirist and foster care parent and advocate, Ashley Rhodes-Courter.

pp2(l-r: Ashley Rhodes-Courter and the Honorable Joan E.

As people who work with a specific subset of the population – that is, victims of child abuse and neglect – we have a vested interest in researching relevant statistics and sharing them with the community. All the data in the world, though (for instance: at any one time, there are 13,000 children in foster care in the State of Michigan; in 2015 alone, over 10,000 children were removed from their homes due to abuse or neglect, 53% of whom were five years old and younger) doesn’t convey what it really feels like to experience the foster care system.

Chuck Ludwig is CARE House’s class clown, and it’s a rare day that passes without hearing his jokes and his laughter at those some jokes echoing through the halls. He is, by his own admission, still something of a kid at heart (“Sometimes adults drive me crazy,” he admits) which is one of the reasons he has such an affinity for working with kids.

“I grew up in a great and very positive environment,” he explains, “and as I got my education and began to see the hurdles kids in the system have to overcome, and the way the system is set up, I really saw the lack of creativity in the way we solve problems.