Traffickers Can Tell

In the U.S., 60% of child trafficking victims had been in the care of the state at some point because of broken homes. However, Amy's story illuminates an issue that is the reality for millions of child trafficking victims across the globe. Children living outside of a safe family are among the easiest targets for trafficking. 

In an article published by Reuters back in May of this year, the journalist, Ellen Wulfhorst, shared an interview with a trafficking victim, Amy Andrews:

"She spun in and out of her abusive family home into the child welfare system, starting when she was 10 years old. By 14, she was selling sex on Hollywood’s Sunset Boulevard, working for traffickers who exploited her naïveté and need for attention.

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“Nobody wanted me. This set me up to be vulnerable and needy,” Amy told Reuters. “These predators know all the signs and look for them.

Traffickers can tell that “you’re the kid who doesn’t have any family,” shared Andrews.


Consider why.

Children need love. They are hard-wired to thrive within secure attachment to a primary caregiver. When this is missing, or when trust has been broken by violence or neglect, children will naturally seek out connection and intimacy from another source. 

Traffickers prey on the vulnerabilities of children’s need for love, affection and belonging.

Children without secure attachment can be more easily tricked into a lover-boy scheme or enticed through drug related activity. The insecurities and shame that result from the sense of being unwanted can spiral a child right into the wrong hands too quickly. Traffickers know the signs and actively seek out children and adolescents with this kind of trauma background.

These same issues exist for children around the globe who spend their lives in orphanages. 80-90% of the 8 million children living in orphanages have at least one living parent and are often there because of poverty.

Considering the amount of energy required to meet the needs of our own children, it is easy to understand why a few hired staff cannot feasibly respond to the needs of hundreds of children daily. In turn, children can lose their sense of identity which is why research shows they are much more likely to enter prostitution, engage in criminal activity or even commit suicide within their lifetime.

This is why our aim is to keep children in families. A child’s birth family might not always be a safe option but the continuum of care describes the many options of family-based care that should be considered first.

It’s God’s design.

'The human heart does not need a big house or lots of things. The human heart, especially the hurting heart, needs love" The Archibald Project.

Original reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst, Editing by Claire Cozens

Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit

Ashlee Heiligman