Light up the dark: How Chicago parents can help combat human trafficking

A strange feeling settled into my gut when a police officer walked toward us during an event that friends were hosting this past weekend.

How you can help

-Love your kids and their friends with as much grace and unconditional love as you can possibly muster so they always know they have some place to turn.


-Support foster families and adoptive families who are caring for orphans, one of the most violated populations, by rallying around these families. You probably know some families who are on this journey. Our adoption page is


-Donate toward scholarships for orphans who are paired with families for a hosting period at New Horizons for Children.


– Apply to be a host family for an orphan through New Horizons for Children or another hosting organization.


-Become a mentor through your local Boys’ and Girls’ club or YMCA or church for at-risk kids who need a positive role models.


– Know the red flags of trafficking and program the phone number for the Polaris Project into your phone so you can report suspected incidences. Call 1-888-373-7888 or text BeFree (233733).



The National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) is a national, toll-free hotline, available to answer calls and texts from anywhere in the country, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, every day of the year.

I wondered what violation had possibly been committed in the planning of Love Walks, an adoption fundraiser and orphan-care/trafficking awareness event, complete with a 3-mile walk, bake sale, games and other fun things that the kids in our small group at church put together as ways to raise money. They’d done everything in compliance with preserve rules … so what was the problem?

The officer reported that the Love Walks signs needed to be removed because they were political and offensive.The signs, posted along the path of the walk, shared statistics about trafficking and modern-day slavery and told the stories of people who had been caught in such terrible travesties. Apparently someone was bothered enough by the stories that he or she called the police to report them.

I don’t know the person who called and complained, and I don’t know the person’s reason. Perhaps the signs with intense stories should have displayed a PG-13 rating because it’s important to protect our children from information until they are equipped to handle it. Hindsight, you know.

Honestly, the person who reported it was right. The signs were offensive … but they weren’t offensive for the sake of being offensive.

They were offensive because human trafficking IS offensive. Trafficking and slavery are modern-day, epic travesties. There’s nothing beautiful or lovely about it. If the stories stir something inside of us it’s because they should.

We should be angry.

We should be sad.

We should find them offensive because they are!

As we walked the path removing our signs, I read the stories and clearly saw the juxtaposition as our kids bounded along the path.

They are loved. Safe as we can possibly make them. Protected as much as we can humanly protect them.

Not all kids are born into the same circumstances. Not all kids are protected from predators by families who love and can care for them. Not all kids have someone to protect them.

Orphans, clearly, are a huge population at risk for exploitation and slavery. Searching for love and a way to make a living after aging out of state care, orphans are often lured into slavery by “boyfriends” or taken against their will and forced into trafficking. Without families (thank God for great foster parents, host parents and adoptive parents) who are actively involved and consistently engaged in their lives, orphans are unfortunately walking targets for predators.

Through research done by New Horizons for Children, the organization has found that in Eastern Europe less than 50 percent of the orphan population will LIVE to see their 20th birthdays. Of the orphans that survive their 20th birthdays, 50 percent will end up in organized crime, drugs or prostitution.

Are you offended by that?

I am!

My family is!

Our small group is!

And clearly some people walking the path that day were offended, too! So much so that he or she called and reported us to the police for sharing very difficult stories in an effort to raise awareness.

Unfortunately, while removing the signs does, indeed, remove the offensiveness from our line of vision, it doesn’t remove the actual problem. Averting our eyes from the horrid truth doesn’t make it any less less horrid or less true. It doesn’t actually make it all go away. It just casts the problem back into the darkness.

Maybe we take these atrocities extra personally now that we’ve held in our arms a child who we pray will never become one of those statistics, a child we’re working diligently to bring home to a forever family.

Those signs were a way of inviting people, who felt something stir deep within them when reading, to help change the world in which these atrocities are real. They were intended by the creator to help shed light onto a terrible problem and stir people toward action.

I wish I had a moment with each offended person who read the signs so that I could respectfully enter into a conversation and say something like, “You’re offended. I get that. You should be! I am offended, too. Let me share with you why we’re walking today. You know, it’s true that we can’t do everything. But each of us can do something. We can each shed light into darkness. Why not light your own candle, and help us push back against the dark? Here are ways YOU can do *something.*”

Imagine how what that would look like … all of our candles burning, all of our candles aglow … together lighting up the dark.

Imagine how that would look if we all acknowledged this hard reality and we accepted that while we can’t do everything, we can each do something to push back the darkness.

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