Human trafficking, today’s modern form of slavery, continues to impact the lives of millions of people. This hundred billion dollar industry has victimized women, men, and children, and the horrors that come with sex trafficking, forced labor, forced marriage, and more, demand a corresponding comprehensive set of services designed for prevention, rehabilitation, and recovery.
One of the most integral services in trafficking survivor protection and assistance is the provision of specialized homes. However, in San Bernardino, California, for example, there are no specialized residential placements for female foster youth who are victims or are at-risk of sex trafficking. The result of its 2018 Children’s Network Congregate Care Needs Assessment showed that the county is in dire need of bed availability, along with other specialized services for this population.
This gap lies at the core of the establishment of Magdalena’s Daughters, a non-profit organization founded in 2018 that aims to provide a solution to the lack of available placements for the youth to live in. Its focus on foster youth who have been removed and placed from one home to another is in recognition of their vulnerability to sexual exploitation and their exposure to other circumstances that may reinforce the trauma that they have had.
Although Magdalena’s Daughters currently does not have any homes yet, they are working to offer housing opportunities and increasing bed availability for the San Bernardino area in the next couple of years.
More notably, it seeks to address the different driving forces behind the commercial sexual exploitation of young individuals. Not only will Magdalena’s Daughters offer intensive therapeutic services to facilitate healing and trauma recovery, but it will also promote overall quality of living by encouraging healthy relationships and setting in place a family-oriented environment for its target clientele.
This family set up is particularly essential for the youth as it hopes to deliver a healthy model of how to develop non-toxic connections with others, a skill that will be instrumental as they become adults. Aside from this, a sense of safety will also be nurtured through education centered on safety skills intended to prevent future victimization. In addition, Magdalena’s Daughters also plans to prioritize individual needs during treatment, encourage creativity, teach life skills, and expose foster youth to various careers.
Ashley Hill stands at the helm of this cause-oriented institution. She is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who has worked with foster youth for five years and a state-certified human trafficking advocate, who has provided case management and therapeutic services for foster youth in group homes and foster homes.
As a former case manager to victims of sex trafficking, she has witnessed firsthand the factors in play that lead the youth to fall into the vicious cycle of sexual exploitation. And not only has Ashley noted for herself the lack of residential setting, but she has also observed a general need for an improvement in the services given to those at-risk.
Right now, Magdalena’s Daughters is raising funding for a pilot study exploring foster youth in the face of commercial sexual exploitation, and at the same time, is raising more awareness about trafficking in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
With its mission to provide intensive therapeutic residential services, life skills, and education to transform the lives of sexually exploited and at-risk female foster youth, Magdalena’s Daughters is addressing an issue that has not received the amount of attention it deserves globally. And through its programs and services geared toward prevention, rehabilitation, and recovery, it hopes to be a place of healing and hope for survivors.