LAKELAND (FBCH)—Lighting the way in the sunshine state, Florida Baptist Children’s Homes (FBCH) will be among the first to start a program in Florida to immediately rescue and restore child victims of domestic sex trafficking.
Dubbed “The Porch Light, “ the first phase of the program will include one home where victims can live, receive specialized care by Christian staff, and learn to begin a new life.
While the location of the “porch light” safe home has been selected, it will remain undisclosed for the safety of the girls.
“A simple porch light will burn bright on the threshold of this safe home, and those that will open in the next phases, until every young girl victimized by sex trafficking has been rescued, restored and set free,” said FBCH president Jerry Haag.
Haag said the ever shining Porch Light will represent hope to these girls.
“Our faith-based program symbolizes the never changing love of Christ that will turn lives around and spread the truth about sex trafficking," Haag said.
Domestic minor sex trafficking occurs when children under the age of 18 are forced into prostitution or are victimized in other illicit activities. A chilling and horrific industry, human sex trafficking terrorizes and abuses young girls for profit and is happening in cities and neighborhoods across the state.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services currently estimates that there are 199,000 incidents of sexual exploitation of minors annually in the United States. According to the Department of Children in Families (DCF), in the state of Florida there are only 20 beds open for children/adolescents to receive specialized care to overcome the emotional impact of sex trafficking.
The first “porch light” home will be staffed by a director, female caregivers, and a licensed mental health counselor. It is set to open during the first quarter of 2014. Designed to comfortably hold up to five girls at one time, each girl’s stay will be approximately 9-12 months, depending on her individual and specific needs.
To limit the future number of victims, the first phase will also promote education on sex trafficking prevention and advocacy efforts throughout the state. FBCH representatives will partner with law enforcement to enter schools, churches and community groups throughout Florida to prevent more girls from becoming victims of the growing sex trade.
The first phase is simply the beginning of an unrelenting movement to rescue young girls, victimized and abused by sex trafficking.
In January 2013, Governor Scott’s signature on the Florida Safe Harbor Act changed the way victims of sex trafficking are viewed in the state of Florida. Now, rather than victims being treated as criminals, they receive help from welfare professionals.
Organizations like the Department of Children and Families (DCF) immediately stepped in to offer help and hope to these victims. In March 2013, DCF asked Haag to open safe houses where these victims could find shelter, unconditional love and a safe environment to begin something they never thought possible: a new life.
“We immediately knew our answer had to be ‘yes,’” said Haag. “We want to use our expertise in helping children to make a real, tangible and immediate difference in the lives of innocent girls who have been victimized in this way.”
On Jan. 23, FBCH hosted the Light the Night Gala to bring critical funds and awareness to The Porch Light. To spread awareness, all guests were asked to intentionally turn their porch lights on before they went to bed that night in an effort to show support of victims of sex trafficking.
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