Friday, December 9, 2011

Youth Aging Out of Care in Ethiopia Not Prepared

When preparing for the focus groups to begin in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Nikel Bailey and Carly Loehrke searched for individuals to work as translators. IOFA believed it was critical to have translators with social work backgrounds provide English-to-Amharic interpretation for the youth and adolescents who participated.

Mikiyas Feyissa was one such translator. He received his Bachelors of Arts degree in Business Management from Haramaya University. In the past, he has worked as the Cooperative Affairs Officer and as the Research & Communications Officer for the Organization for Women in Self Employment (WISE). Mikiyas is currently the Program Manager for Livelihood and Capacity Building at the Organization for Child Development and Transformation (CHADET) located in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

It is with this experience that we asked Mikiyas to be a guest blogger for IOFA this week. Below, he shares some insights into this vulnerable population:

With a total population of over 73.9 million, Ethiopia is the second most populous country in Africa after Nigeria. Children below the age of 18 make up fifty five percent of the population (CSA, 2007). As of 2009, it was estimated that about 5,459,139 orphans live in Ethiopia, of whom 855,720 are orphaned due to HIV/AIDS[1]. The existence of orphanages and community support in Ethiopia has been instrumental in contributing to the provision of basic services and life skills for some of these children. After the youth leave the orphanages and community support systems, they become vulnerable due to the lack of structured support in the country for youth who leave care.

I was able to discuss these issues with youth during a focus group discussion I co-facilitated for a study conducted by IOFA in Ethiopia. The opportunity helped me to realize that youth who aged out of care were endangered when they faced the cold world by themselves. Even those who are currently in care developed a fear for the time when they would age out of care. The youth even said that they will ‘beg’ if the service provided halts. The orphaned youth said that they are not yet prepared for and acquainted with the process and problems associated with aging out. They have also illustrated that they are not equipped to live independently and are uncertain of where and how they will maintain their livelihoods when they leave care, which clearly shows their vulnerability to sexual and labor exploitation.

The issue calls for a consolidated Transitions Support system in the country which would provide wholesome skills and support for youth who have just left care and for those who are about to leave care. The design of this intervention could partly include, but is not limited to: provision of a practical life skills training that will help the youth become bold enough to face the intimidating outside world, a mechanism where the youth could support each other in harsh times, a marketable vocational skills and business training for employment and self-employment, and the formation of a referral network to link youth to benefits.

Mikiyas Feyissa

Program Manager for Livelihood and Capacity Building
Organization for Child Developme
nt and Transformation (CHADET)

[1] Standard Service Delivery Guidelines, for Orphan and Vulnerable Children’s Care and Support Programs, February 2010,Federal Democratic republic of Ethiopia, Ministry of Women’s Affairs

Friday, November 18, 2011

All the effort to protect her...and it ends like this.

During the summer, IOFA had the opportunity to partner with Children's Heaven in Ethiopia. Children’s Heaven is a community-based support program for young girls who have been orphaned due to HIV/AIDS. Executive Director, Hanna Fanta, heads the program and has graciously offered to share her some of her thoughts and personal observations as a guest blogger for IOFA this week. As the leader of an organization working with orphaned youth, Hanna has grown increasingly concerned with the challenges facing her girls as they prepare to leave her care. In fact, just this past year, the problem become personal as Children’s Heaven watched its first girl graduate from their program, uncertain of her future path. Please continue reading to hear Hanna Fanta describe, in her own words, the dilemma faced by Children’s Heaven (as well as many other organizations).

Hanna Fanta
Executive Director, Children’s Heaven

Young people transitioning out of the care system are significantly exposed to unemployment, health issues, early parenthood and homelessness. Children’s Heaven is giving basic services to girl orphans to help them fulfill their vision. However, there is a gap of transitioning these young girls from care to adulthood.

Once the orphan girls exit our program, we do not have a system that could help them face the challenges that is waiting for them. At present, this has affected our first girl, Wosene, who just finished our program.

I could say that a few months before graduating Hair Dressing [vocational training], I have been noticing unusual behavior in her character due to uncertainty of her future. Her unpreparedness for the future has made her to take a wrong turn, which she has no clue what the consequence is going to be.

Wosene left the organization two months after her graduation and joined two orphan girls who are leaving by themselves in a small muddy house. Getting a job and supporting herself was not easy for her for she has no clue what to expect and how to get ready. We are afraid she is already in a position that could put her in a situation that is not her choice at all to support herself, prostitution. We are sad that all the years of our effort to protect her from harm and supporting her for a better future has to end this way. Had we had a program that supports adolescents as they transition to adulthood safely, the outcome of Wosene’s future would have been different.

To Children's Heaven Organization, which is taking care of orphan girls, to have a program that will empower our girls to face challenges in their transition is not an option. In order to make this possible, we are delighted to partner with IOFA, an organization dedicated to strengthen the lives of young people around the world.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Criminals or Victims?

On Sunday night, the TV show “Our America with Lisa Ling” told viewers the heartbreaking stories of girls, all under the age of 18, who have been victims of sex trafficking. Host Lisa Ling was guided through her investigation of child trafficking in Washington, D.C. by Tina Frundt, who is a trafficking survivor and the founder and executive director of Courtney’s House, an organization that provides services and support to child trafficking victims. Courtney’s House does street outreach work and offers intake assessments, a shelter for trafficking survivors, case management services, therapy, and medical referrals.

All too often, however, children who have been involved in the commercial sex industry are not recognized as victims of human trafficking and therefore do not receive the services they need, services like those provided at Courtney’s House. During the show, Lisa Ling repeatedly made a very important point: all children and youth who are under 18 and who are involved in commercial sex work are victims of human trafficking.

The recognition that youth under 18 who are involved in sex work are, by definition, trafficking victims is an essential first step in making sure they receive the services they need. According to the 2000 Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), anyone who is involved in commercial sex work as result of the use of force, fraud, or coercion is a victim of human trafficking. However, in the case of children under 18, the TVPA specifies that force, fraud, or coercion need not be present in order for the situation to be considered human trafficking. Here in Illinois, that definition of trafficking was reinforced by the 2010 Safe Children Act, which removed references to “juvenile prostitutes” from the Illinois Criminal Code and provided additional protections for child trafficking victims.

As an implementing partner for the Illinois Safe Children Act, IOFA is launching the ChildRight program to spread the word about this issue and to train service providers on how to identify and provide services to trafficking victims.

We hope that Sunday’s program will help draw attention to this issue. And we hope that you’ll support IOFA’s work to make sure that child trafficking victims get the support and services they need.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Is it Trafficking? The Telltale Signs.

Summar Ghias, IOFA Program Development Intern:

I was on the bus. Per the usual rush hour traffic, I was standing sandwiched between countless others on my way home from work. As I stood awkwardly close, infringing on the personal space of those who had been fortunate enough to get a seat, I noticed one young girl in particular. She sat forlorn, staring out the window and then at her phone as she texted. Her left hand had a tattoo etched on it; weaved between her thumb and index finger was a man’s name. Unable to look anywhere else because of the lack of space on the bus, I saw her read a text from an unknown number, which said, “I want to help you”. Seconds later, a woman who sat diagonally in a seat a row ahead snatched the phone away. The woman responded to the text for her with “what did you say?” Standing over them on the crowded bus, my curiosity piqued. Was this girl okay? Who was the woman and why were they not sitting together or speaking at all otherwise? Was the girl's tattoo a form of branding or did she simply have a tattoo of her boyfriend’s name?

Identifying victims is a vital step in the fight against human trafficking. An estimated minimum of 16,000 to 25,000 women and girls are victims of commercial sexual exploitation in Chicago every year.[i] While I didn’t have enough information to gauge the situation on my bus ride, there are telltale signs that you can look out for to identify victims of human trafficking.

At IOFA, we train law enforcement, legal service providers and social service agencies on some of these indicators. If the age of an individual has been verified to be under 18, and the individual is in any way involved in the commercial sex industry, or has a record of prior arrest for prostitution (or related charges), then he or she is a victim.

Some other signs are below:

  • Avoids eye contact
  • Evidence of being controlled (rarely alone)
  • Persistent fear, depression, anxiety, submissive behavior
  • Hyper vigilant or paranoid behavior
  • Loss of sense of time and space
  • No passport or other identifying documentation
  • Not speaking on own behalf and/or no English speaking
  • Evidence of inability to move or leave job or take time off
  • Unpaid for work or compensated very little
  • Lives with co-workers and "employer" - no privacy
  • Untreated illnesses and infections
  • Signs of physical abuse or substance abuse
  • Secrecy about whereabouts
  • Unaccounted for time, vagueness concerning whereabouts, and/or defensiveness in response to questions or concern
  • Keeping late night or unusual hours
  • A tattoo that he or she is reluctant to explain

If you suspect an incidence of human trafficking, please call the 24-hour National Hotline at (888) 3737-888 or IOFA at (773) 404-8831.

[i] O'Leary, C., Howard, O. "The Prostitution of Women and Girls in Metropolitan Chicago:A Preliminary Prevalence Report. Center for Impact Research. Chicago, 2001

Monday, October 17, 2011

Welcome Summar Ghias!

Summar Ghias, IOFA Program Development Intern

As a travel journalist, I had once enjoyed writing abridged tourist-friendly blurbs on the latest vacation hot spots. This type of surface examination had still managed to cater to the anthropologist in me; my research would most often unintentionally shed light on the many social and cultural nuances that are inherent to distinct locales and the societies that make them up. Three years out of college, and I knew it wasn’t enough. I thought back to the narrative journalism class that had led me to Andrea, a Guatemalan refugee who had been granted asylum, but who had endured horrific circumstances while being smuggled into the United States.

Her story was a powerful look at the ways in which violence can uproot the lives of families across the world. But what struck me most was the sexual violence her peers had gone through as a form of “entry” into the country by coyotes in the trade – something Andrea had avoided by handing over the only money she had brought with her. I decided my time as a magazine journalist was limited. I would actively pursue avenues to helping young women and girls, not simply write about the places in which they lived. Now a year into my graduate education at the Social Service Administration at University of Chicago, I find myself committed to doing just that.

As a participant in Heartland International’s summer exchange program for emerging grassroots leaders, I helped create joint projects with local participants in Nicaragua and Belize, initiating dialogue on human trafficking and assessing gaps in social services particular to each country. It is with this experience that I’m committed to helping eradicate human trafficking from the world’s vocabulary at large. I’m thrilled to be a program development intern at the International Organization for Adolescents, where I’ll be working with local and national anti-trafficking efforts in collaboration with the Cook County Human Trafficking Task Force team and on outreach and awareness raising on the subject. Let the journey begin!

Friday, September 9, 2011

"No One is Doing Anything"

From Nikel Bailey, IOFA Program Development Intern:

Living in Addis Kidan Guesthouse in Ethiopia has been just as much of a learning experience as working in the field. Every week new people have moved into the house. Whenever a new person moves in, we are asked the same question: “What brings you to Ethiopia?” It has surprised me that everyone is doing some sort of work with orphaned youth in Addis. However, they are often working only with small and young children. When I explain to them what I am doing here in regards to the Transitions Initiative they often respond by saying:

· “Wow…this is fantastic…we worry about what will happen to these youth as they get older.”
· “Where will they go?”
· “Who will help them when they are too old to stay at the orphanage that I volunteer at?”

This feedback encourages me to learn as much as possible about the youth transitioning into adulthood here in Addis. As IOFA visits different organizations and we ask if anyone is focusing on this group of youth, we are consistently told:

"No one is doing anything."

The organizations are eager to establish some sort of center, referral program or network for this population. This is exactly what IOFA’s Transitions Initiative intends to do.

In the upcoming weeks, IOFA will conduct focus groups with youth who have left care or are about to leave care. Several organizations have referred youth to participate. We have translators that have experience in the social work field confirmed to assist throughout the focus groups. I am excited to hear the youth’s personal stories of how life is/was like for them once they left the care of an orphanage and what would have helped them during that transition. It is critical that the voices of youth are heard and that IOFA integrates this feedback and ideas directly into development of the the Transitions Initiative.

Visit IOFA-Talk soon to hear about the experiences of young people aging out care in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

IOFA in Ethiopia: Support for Youth Aging out of Alternative Care Severely Lacking

With the overwhelming support from grassroots organizations in Ethiopia for IOFA's Transitions Initiative, the past week in Addis Ababa has been a successful one. Non-governmental organizations across missions are recognizing that the transitional period between adolescence and adulthood is one of the most critical stages in a young person’s life, particularly for those young people who have lived most of their lives in orphanages or other forms of institutionalized care. Many of our initial conversations, however, with organizations on the ground, confirm that the amount of support available to these youth is severely lacking. We met this week with Executive Director of Kingdom Vision International, Eyob Kolcha, to hear firsthand the concern about youth leaving care with little or no support. Mr. Kolcha stated the following:

"What are these youths to do? We rescue them when they are young so that they can know love and care, so that they have shelter and food. But when they grow up, where does our attention go? How do we expect them to survive on their own when we have made them so dependent? We can do better. We must do better. This Transition Initiative is where we can start together."

Eyob is right. We can do better and we must do better. In the upcoming weeks, as we continue our work and research in Addis Ababa, we will focus specifically on knowing how we can do better and building the Transitions Initiative around the answers to that question.

Next, IOFA will be conducting focus groups with young people who are about to leave care and who have already left care and are living on their own. We will learn about their experiences and hear about their proposed solutions. IOFA's Transitions Initiative Ethiopia is taking shape!

More to come.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

IOFA Supports Cook County Human Trafficking Task Force

IOFA is proud to support the Cook County Human Trafficking Task Force in their major effort to identify and remove young girls from severe forms of trafficking and exploitation. This week, the Cook County State's Attorney's Office and various law enforcement enforcement agencies conducted a major take down of a gang-managed human sex trafficking ring. IOFA is partnering with the CCSAO and The Salvation Army's STOP-IT program to develop and facilitate the human trafficking task force that helped to make this achievement possible.

We are delighted that law enforcement involved with this effort are building their cases and prosecuting the 9 traffickers arrested through a victim-centered approach. All of the dozens of children, adolescents, and young women violently coerced into prostitution were not arrested, but treated as victims and offered social service support. IOFA is proud to be part of this process and looks to continued work with our Cook County team!

Please read the Cook County State's Attorney's office PRESS RELEASE for more details on the effort and the IOFA partnership.

Friday, August 12, 2011

IOFA Begins Transitions Initiative Work in Ethiopia!

IOFA is proud to announce the launch of start up activities for the Transitions Initiative in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Graciously funded by the Phyllis Pehlke Fund, IOFA has placed two graduate interns (see introductions below) from the University of Chicago's School of Social Service Administration with our partner organization, Children's Heaven. Children's Heaven is a community-based support program for young girls who have been orphaned due to HIV/AIDS. From July to September, IOFA will assist Children's Heaven in the adaptation of IOFA's Project Prepare curriculum to prepare older girls in the program for their transition to adulthood and independent living. Additionally, IOFA will be conducting focus groups with young people across Addis who have aged out of institutionalized or other forms of temporary care. Similar to our assessment in Cambodia, we will gather their perspectives and experiences on emerging into a community, as a young adult, with few resources and social connections. At the end of the assessment, IOFA will determine how to pursue the Transitions Initiative in Ethiopia and will begin development of an effective and innovative support and services program for this vulnerable group.

On July 28, I led an informational meeting with 20 local non-governmental organizations working with youth in Ethiopia. The response to the Transitions Initiative was extremely positive and it is very clear that there is an extreme gap in services to youth aging out of temporary care and a high risk of exploitation and abuse as they emerge into their young adult years.

IOFA wishes to thank all the donors who gave to the Phyllis Pehlke Fund in honor of my mother-in-law. We know she would be very proud of this project and the support that IOFA will provide to vulnerable young people as they age out of temporary care and begin their transition to adulthood.

More information to come! Thanks to everyone for supporting IOFA and this critical work!



Nikel Bailey, IOFA Program Development Intern:
Helping people and communities has always been an interest of mine. This is why I continue to work in the field of social work. Having had experience working with youth and families that have suffered from trauma and are infected/affected with HIV/AIDS, I have worked as a counselor, case manager, program coordinator and facilitator. My experiences also include program research and evaluation. Currently, I am a graduate student in The School of Social Service Administration at The University of Chicago and will be graduating with a master’s degree in March 2012.

Throughout my work experience I have always asked the question: How can I best help you? I ask this question instead of jumping to give advice because it is critical that we take time to learn the strengths and needs of the people we are serving before creating an ill-fitting solution. This is why I am excited about the Transitions Initiative in Ethiopia.

During the next couple of months, we will be conducting research and assessing the needs of youth in alternative care and youth aging out of care. Through these in person interviews we will be able to shape the Transitions Initiative according to the needs of this population in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Our findings will help us best serve these, often overlooked, youth. I look forward to the remaining time I will spend at Children’s Heaven in Ethiopia this summer gathering information and implementing this new project. I am also very thankful to be a part of this new initiative.

Carly Loehrke, IOFA Program Development Intern

Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does. -William James

Throughout the world, regardless of religion, profession, gender, or culture, I have encountered people who are agents of change in their community. Living examples of change, these community leaders’ contributions are contagious- inspiring us to strive toward being able to say, “I made a difference today.”
The first time those words authentically represented my experiences came while I was working as a Peace Corps volunteer in Benin, West Africa. While there to teach English as Foreign Language at the local secondary school, I saw that the needs of our community extended well beyond that. By two years end, I was involved in several community projects- managing the construction of a community basketball court, collaborating to improve English education curriculum, and participating in an HIV/AIDS formation bike ride. However, what truly changed the trajectory of my life was the implementation of a girls’ empowerment camp. During the camp, for the first time, not only could I see the message of purpose and meaning seeping into the fabric of our girls, but it was seeping into me, too. As trite as it made sound, a year into my service, after the conclusion of the first girls’ camp, I had a new energy about me—an energy that pushed me toward professional social work.

Soon after my time in Benin ended, I began my graduate education at the University of Chicago, School of Social Service Administration (SSA). I plan to work in International Social Work, continuing to collaborate with youth across cultures. More specifically, I intend to focus my work on addressing barriers to girls’ education.

Following our first week of introductory planning meetings here in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, I am energized to be working as an intern for the The Transitions Initiative with IOFA, a comprehensive support program for orphaned youth aging out of temporary care. The same inspiration that motivated my work in Benin is present here, too. I am honored and excited to be a member of IOFA and to be here in Addis Ababa working on the Transitions Initiative.

Monday, July 11, 2011

IOFA Launches New Website!!!!

IOFA is delighted to announce the launch of our new website. Same address, updated look, and more information about our work around the world.

The IOFA Board and Team would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to Christina Zabel of Z Designer, and Victor Young & John Johnson of Happy Zebra Corp for their tireless work and attention to this great new tool for IOFA! We will be launching a large scale summer fundraising campaign in the coming weeks and we couldn't do it without this invaluable upgrade to our website.

Please keep visiting both our blog and the new website for latest IOFA news!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

IOFA Welcomes Loyola Legal Intern, Agnes Zielinksi!

Hello everyone,

My name is Agnieszka (Agnes) Zielinski and I am IOFA’s new legal intern. At IOFA, I will be assisting IOFA’s Program Specialist and Attorney, Sehla Ashai, representing victims of trafficking as well as researching a variety of issues in human trafficking in order to contribute to IOFA’s Building Child Welfare Response to Child Trafficking Project. I am very excited about this opportunity as it my chance to learn about the work IOFA has done to combat human trafficking as well as advocate for vulnerable youth.

Currently, I am a second year law student and Civitas ChildLaw fellow at Loyola University Chicago School of Law. My particular focus in law school is child advocacy. My passion for working with children has been a life-long one. I especially became interested child welfare and juvenile justice when I took a class entitled “Sexual Exploitation of Children” during undergrad. This class encouraged me to intern at the Public Defender’s office, teach youth at the juvenile detention center about their legal rights, and pursue a path in child advocacy.

I have only been at IOFA for a couple of weeks, but this position has reinforced my belief that child advocacy is the right path for me. As a child of Polish immigrants, this position truly unites my passion for working with vulnerable youth and my passion for working with immigrants. I hope to use my Polish language skills to reach out to the Polish and Eastern European community. This is an exciting time for me and I look forward to the next few months!

Friday, June 10, 2011

IOFA Welcomes Graduate Intern, Cheryl Winter, to our Chicago Office

As a frontline for victims of human trafficking, Emergency Department personnel and other health workers may be the first, and in some cases, the only service providers to come into direct contact with victims of human trafficking. Additionally, nearly one third of victims of trafficking, receive medical assistance from healthcare providers and remain unidentified while experiencing exploitation. It is imperative that health professionals be included in capacity building programs that equip providers to better identify and respond to child victims of trafficking.

This summer, we are joined by several interns, who will be assisting us with program outreach, capacity building, research and evaluation. One of these interns is Cheryl Winter, a graduate student from Washington University in Saint Louis, who is working toward dual Masters degrees in Public Health and Social Work. With a background in communications, training facilitation, and evaluation, Cheryl will dedicate her time at IOFA to developing partnerships with hospitals and healthcare providers, identifying gaps in service provision and health provider policies, and adapting training materials for health providers to better identifying and responding to the needs of trafficking victims.

Cheryl reflected on her new position with us saying, "I'm so thankful for the chance to connect with health providers and continue building the capacity of local organizations committed to ending human trafficking and providing services to victims of trafficking. It's inspiring to work on a project that not only has the potential to impact others' lives, but that is so urgently needed. It's a tremendous opportunity to work with IOFA and I'm looking forward to all that I can learn and contribute!"

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Youth Leaving Institutions: Trafficking and Exploitation

In IOFA’s research conducted with 12 Phnom Penh anti-trafficking non-governmental organizations in the summer of 2010, the risk factors of a) poverty, b) prior experience with interpersonal violence, and c) isolation were identified as primary risk factors for trafficking and exploitation. During March 2011, focus groups held with youth who had left orphanage care in Phnom Penh showed highly disproportionate experiences of all three risk factors.

1. Poverty

Nearly all post-care youth interviewed live on less than $1 a day, and many shoulder the responsibility of caring for others while they work exploitative, physically harmful jobs.
One young man described his typical work day beginning at 4 am, and continuing until 9 pm. His feet were swollen and covered in infected sores, from serving in a restaurant. He explains that he first began this job working only for food, until the management trusted him enough to pay him about $30 a month.

Another young man finds himself working 84 hours a week in a paper mill, from 6 pm to 6 am. He, too, is paid $30 a month – ten of which is withheld by his employer for the mandatory sleeping arrangements, a raised wooden platform within the paper mill shared with dozens of other mill employees.

2. History of interpersonal violence

Although the youth were not asked about experiences prior to their leaving orphanage care, many youth chose to share the heart-breaking abuses they had endured within orphanage care or at the hands of their families as children. Several youth reported forced labor and physical violence from the orphanage staff. One young woman reported physical abuse so severe in the orphanage that she ran away, and sought work in restaurants for food. One restaurant took her in – but would not let her leave. There, she was forced to work in their kitchen, and was deprived of both food and pay. After several months of forced labor, she managed to run away again, returning to her home town and begging neighbors to find her extended family to help her, before she was forced to return to the restaurant. Days later, her great aunt came to the restaurant and rescued her from her traffickers.

3. Isolation

Nearly all of the youth interviewed reported extreme isolation, and shared the belief that their communities “hate” them. They expressed deep distress, stating that “if I take a wrong turn, no one will be there to correct me.” The youth reported unanimously that they “have no friends.”

Children in government orphanages are given the surname Rorth, which means “belonging to the
government” in Khmer[1] - a designation that predisposes care leavers for social isolation from their communities. Explained the youth, in their words:

“They [society] treat us like we are not human.”

“Everyone is ready to tell me I am lazy.”

“I feel hopeless and outside of society.”

That this population is at a uniquely high risk for trafficking is reasonably intuitive; children in orphanage care, particularly those who interact with many cycles of volunteer caregivers, are at an exponentially increased risk of forming disorganized attachments[2],[3], a developmental problem that prevents them from forming positive social relationships with others. This may manifest itself in the inability to form protective community relationships (shown to prevent trafficking)[4] or, conversely, in indiscriminate affection and trust to everyone[5], including traffickers. Strict authoritarian childcare structures in orphanages preclude youth from developing safe independence and responsibility[6],[7],[8]. Indeed, a 2007 BBC report described orphanages as “magnets” for traffickers[9].
Perhaps care-leavers are overlooked as a vulnerable population because they are generally educated. However, the youth also reported extreme psychological distress, uncontrollable emotions, and paralyzing fear. Their education is useless without the social skills and communities necessary to use it. A third of Phnom Penh orphanages openly admitted they provide no support whatsoever to youth who leave their care, in a large-scale 2007 study[10]. With an estimated 10,000 children in orphanage care in Cambodia –35% of whom are older than 159 – and a recent, rapid growth of orphanages around the country (up 67% between 2005 and 2008)[11], this problem will only get bigger.

Thanks for reading, and please stay tuned for future blogs! Better yet - follow our blog by signing up on the lower left hand side of your screen!

Susan Rosas

Transitions Initiative Program Manager

[1] Hyland, Anne. 2009, March 12. “It Takes a Village: An American Heiress Aims to Rescue Cambodia by Giving Orphans a Family.” The Wallstreet Journal.
[2] Richter, L. and A. Norman (2007). AIDS orphan tourism: A threat to young children in residential care. Vulnerable Children and Youth Studies 5 (3): 217-229.
[3]Dozier, M. and J. Brick (2007). Changing caregivers: Coping with early adversity. Psychiatric Annals, 37, 411-415.

[4] Sampson, R., Raudenbush, S, & Earls, F. (1997). Neighborhoods and Violent Crime: A Multilevel Study of Collective Efficacy. Science (277), pp. 918-924.

[5] Zeanah, C., Smyke, A., Koga, S., and Carlson, E. (2005). Attachment in institutionalized and community children in Romania. Child Development,76(5):1015-1028.
[6] Wolff, Peter and Gebremeskel Fesseha. 1998. “The Orphans of Eritrea: Are Orphanages Part of the Problem or Part of the Solution?” Am J Psychiatry 155(10):1319-1324.
[7] Cline, F. 1979. “Lack of Attachment in Children.” Nurse Pract 4(35):45
[8] Kaler, S.R. and B.J. Freeman. 1994. “Analysis of Environemntal Deprivation: Cognitive and Social Development in Romanian Orphans.” J Child Psychol Psychiatry 35: 769-781.
[9] Mutch, Thembi (2007). Sex Lies and Audio Tape. British Journalism Review 18(September): 61-65
[10] Project Sky, ICC (unpublished)

Friday, May 13, 2011

REGISTRATION NOW CLOSED FOR Advanced Training on Human Trafficking on June 9th in Rockford, Illinois

Please join The Salvation Army STOP-IT Program and the International Organization for Adolescents for an advanced level training on trauma-informed services and motivational interviewing in the context of serving victims of human trafficking. Learn best practices for working with traumatized and ambivalent clients from featured guest speaker, Dr. Michael Smith. Dr. Smith has been actively engaged in combating human trafficking since joining The Salvation Army six years ago. His clinical background is in working with sexual trauma and sexual offenders. His recent research has focused on trauma-informed services to trafficking survivors.
Thursday, June 9, 2011 
Free Lunch with RSVP at 12:00 pm 
Training workshop from 1:00 pm — 4:00 pm

The Salvation Army 
Rockford Temple Corps 
500 S Rockford Ave 
Rockford, IL 61104  


Thursday, May 5, 2011

IOFA Executive Director, Shelby French, Interviewed on Zonta Women's Community Radio

IOFA had the wonderful opportunity to share our work and talk about the impact of human trafficking with Zonta Women's Community Radio yesterday via WVOX in New York and the global Zonta network. Zonta International is an international organization of professionals working together to improve the status of women & girls through service and advocacy.

Click hear to listen!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Building Child Welfare Response to Child Trafficking Handbook is here!

IOFA is thrilled to announce the release of its ground-breaking publication, the Building Child Welfare Response to Child Trafficking Handbook! Special thanks go out to the Chicago Community Trust for its generous support and to the Loyola University Center for the Human Rights of Children (CHRC).

The handbook is a critical tool that forms part of IOFA and CHRC's joint initiative to train and prepare child protection and child welfare organizations to identify and receive child trafficking victims. While the criminal justice system has been targeted nationwide for intensive training and capacity building in human trafficking investigations, child protection and child welfare agencies have been unprepared to receive these victims, resulting in a critical gap in the identification of victims and provision of services.

This comprehensive guide seeks to fill that gap by providing invaluable information and resources to child protection and child welfare workers who seek to serve child trafficking victims within their governmental or non-governmental agencies. IOFA and CHRC also builds agencies' capacity to serve child trafficking victims through the provision of training, technical assistance, and detailed review of existing training programs, policies and procedures within existing child protection frameworks.

We welcome any and all feedback on the handbook, and if you would like to learn more about how IOFA can assist you agency in the development of effective responses to child trafficking, please contact us!

Monday, May 2, 2011

IOFA's research featured in PenhPal

IOFA was asked to submit an article to the Cambodian online news source, PenhPal, to highlight our recent research. Visit We are excited about and committed to building awareness on this issue - please share the link and help us in our efforts.

Susan Rosas
Program Development Intern

Friday, April 15, 2011

Youth Leaving Orphanage Care: The Severed Family Connection

During our interviews, we asked 27 youth the question, “What can you tell me about your experiences after you left the orphanage?”
In response to this question alone, 8 young people reported returning to family’s homes after their exit from care. Six out of these eight young people stated they felt out of place in their family’s homes, or like their relatives “had their own family” to care for.
In their words:  
·         “…[I] wake up early in the morning, no time to sleep at night. If don’t do the work [my family] tells me to do, I regret it…I need to run away from this house.”
·         “They had their own family and didn’t treat me like their child.”
·         “Sometimes I can’t leave [the house], because for transportation I can only go with my auntie’s children when they let me and they feel resentful.”
·         “I did not belong there in [my family’s] place.”
10 other youth reported contacting their families when they left, but being unable to return home to them or receive support.
·          “They can’t help because they have their own family.”
·         “[My family] live in Svey Rieng. I visited them once, but will not visit again.”

Still others reported an entirely severed connection:

·         “I know where my family is in Takeo. When I was little they used to visit me in the orphanage. Now they don’t visit.”
·         “My family lives in Svey Rieng, but I have never been back.”
·         “I have no contact with my family.”

A recent study showed merely 28% of youth in Cambodian orphanage care are parentless[1]. In 2003, a study showed that families place their children in orphanage care primarily for the educational benefits, but families complained that they were either not permitted to visit their children once they were in care, or that the orphanage was so far from their homes they could not afford to visit[2]. In this same study, children in orphanage care frequently reported missing their families.

The damage to – or, in many cases, severance of – family ties has grim implications for youth when they leave orphanage care. Indeed, in nearly every culture, some dependence on family during adolescence and young adulthood (and beyond) is expected and often encouraged. This is particularly true in Cambodia, where family is generally upheld as a person’s primary responsibility and source of social support. A recent ethnographic study in Cambodia showed that a person’s family networks “help each other in whatever way they can, providing food, labour exchanges, moral support and, when possible, financial assistance…”[3].

As said by one of the youth interviewed: “Even if you have a good education, you can’t get a job without a network.”

According to a study conducted by our Phnom Penh partner, Project Sky, two-thirds of the more than 300 youth interviewed (who were still living in an orphanage) have some contact with relatives. Nearly half of these youth wish to live with their relatives when they leave the center. Importantly, of the one-third who are not in contact with relatives, 20% want to live with them.   
To some extent, it can be expected that the transition from orphanage care into a family home may be wrought with complications. The youth in an orphanage have been deprived of any responsibility for sometimes decades, have not learned basic house hold chores or agricultural skills, and have been raised in an oasis of Western-infused childcare, stripped of Cambodian culture. Their ability to function as a member of Cambodian society has been deeply impaired by their separation from society, which may only exacerbate the anticipated difficulty in rebuilding familial relationships upon reintegration.
Furthermore, youth raised in an orphanage are likely to exhibit the characteristics frequently associated with institutionalization around the world, including difficulty regulating emotions and building social relationships, cognitive limitations, severe psychological distress, and (culturally inappropriate) indiscriminate affection. We are asking youth who have been systematically disadvantaged to rely entirely on an education, devoid of necessary social skills, to independently reconstruct familial relationships with almost complete strangers in an environment likely already strained by poverty.
Youth around the world rely on family for any number of benefits, including protection. It is without question that by destroying family relationships, orphanages have gravely, if inadvertently, compromised the safety and on-going well-being of the youth who leave their care. 

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more blogs about our research.

- Susan Rosas
Program Development Intern   

[1] *Worley, Mark. “In Orphanages, Only 28% Are Parentless.” The Cambodia Daily. March 21, 2011.
[2] Nakajima, Misako. (2003). Orphans in Cambodia: a case study of families and children in a public orphanage. Capstone Project. Brattleboro: School for International Training.
[3] Gartrell, Alexandra(2010) ''A frog in a well': the exclusion of disabled people from work in Cambodia', Disability & Society, 25: 3, 289 — 301 (296)