In case you were too busy to read the link above, it details the story of a sex trafficking victim named Tara Burns. I won't do a thorough summary because I'd like you to hear her story from the only perspective that truly matters (hers) but for the sake of this article will include the following synopsis of her experiences.
As a child Tara was sold into sex work by her abusive father. It wasn't until she was 15 that the state finally stepped in to protect her despite the fact that she had already found respite with another family . Tara's problems didn't end when she entered in foster care though, after several failed placements with foster homes and shelters, she was back out on the streets with no one to help her. Social workers called her a liar, foster homes offered the same abuse she had already escaped, and shelters closed their doors to her. That's when Tara began fending for herself in the only way she knew how, by providing sexual services for men on the street. Hardened by a lack of trust and repeat failed experiences with state service providers, the worst case scenario became the only viable option for this youth.
Tara Burns is a story of harrowing obstacles, many of which feature community and state service providers functioning as villains to her safety. As a former foster youth myself and as someone who works at a National non-profit meant to serve and better the lives of youth in foster care, Tara's story highlighted for me the heart breaking faults in our child welfare system and out reach efforts to our nations most vulnerable. Foster care as a service is founded on the principle of keeping children safe and re-creating a nurturing home environment when all other options in their life are un-accommodating to the needs of a child. But what happens when the very people entrusted with an already compromised youth are the very people infringing on their ability to achieve safety and stability? To answer this question is to discover the very cracks in which youth are described as "slipping through" the hands of social services. Direct service providers such as shelter overseers, case workers, and foster parents are the very core of child welfare effectiveness, yet the means in which we hold these people accountable for their quality of work is a grossly incompetent process. Case workers are over taxed by enormous case loads and foster parents across the country have been found to enter into this charitable arena of child care for a number of ill informed or nefarious reasons. This is not to say that All foster parents or case workers are negligent and cruel to youth. I myself found permanence at age 16 with a loving foster home via the effective assistance of my local DHS office. Unfortunately the cost of having even just one ineffective service provider could be the difference between a youth receiving critical services or subjecting themselves to the violence and exploitation of the streets. This being an even sadder juxtaposition considering that in Tara's and in many other cases, the very avenue's children are susceptible of traveling down are the ones's the state insisted on rescuing them from in the first place.
There are many take away's from Tara's story but the most compelling (in my opinion) is the image of a young girl literally shivering right outside the doors of an institution designed to help people just like her. What does it mean to have Child welfare services if the individuals allocated to administer them are unwilling or unable to provide the types of accommodations needed by the population they serve? In the case of youth, there should never be a set number of chances they're awarded. As child victims, their path to success is riddled with obstacles too numerous and inconceivable to list. Foster care services can not erase trauma but at the very least should be able to provide the foundations for a youth's healthy development. This is not a standard that can be achieved by institutions or individuals that believe their help is conditional or that their jobs end at 5pm. Foster children are the nations children and the responsibility to care for them needs to extend past a quanatative evaluation.
Tara went on to achieve higher education and has published three books on her experiences as a sex worker. Currently she enjoys writing and cultivating a life in the wilderness