At the end of the summer, Princess Madeleine and I visited two projects in Florida, USA: Kristi House in Miami, and Children’s Harbor in Pembroke Pines. Both projects have been part of the Childhood USA project portfolio since 2008, and it is great to visit and hear their latest news.
Kristi House is the Child Advocacy Center (CAC) in Miami-Dade County and runs other programs as well. One of them is called G.O.L.D, Girls Owning their Lives and Dreams. GOLD was created to connect community organizer, law enforcement and other agencies and form a network to prevent and intervene in sexual trafficking in Miami metro area. With more than 60% of the population in Miami born outside of the US, Miami is a hub of human and other traffic, coming from the south and transported throughout the US. Since GOLD started, Kristi House has also dedicated a lot of time to the Safe Harbor Act, which was passed earlier this year. The legislation treats children who are involved in sexual exploitation as victims, not as criminals.
But Kristi House also works directly with the victims of trafficking. On January 1, they will open a 30-day emergency shelter for girls who have been trafficked and need a place to stay. The home is located on the outskirts of Miami, and will house 6 trafficked girls at a time and give them a chance to break free from physical, emotional and sexual abuse and exploitation. After the 30 days, the girls move to a longer-term care facility for further care and rehabilitation services.
Children’s Harbor is an organization that provides homes for children in foster care. Childhood supports the Residence Maternity program for pregnant and parenting teenage girls.
As usual, it is very quiet and organized when we arrive at Children’s Harbor. There are small children, but usually they are involved in some activity inside, or are at school. The girls in the program, who are home, are with their babies.
Many of the girls who reside here have lived in several foster care homes before they come to Children’s Harbor. Being pregnant, they are not often welcome in a regular foster family. Children’s Harbor employs house parents who help with the babies so the girls can complete high school. When we visited, three babies less than one month old were sleeping quietly, and the teen moms take turns watching the babies to do their homework.
Children’s Harbor also takes in sibling groups. When a family is broken up and the children are removed by social services, they try to keep the siblings together. This way, the brothers and sisters can feel less alone. As scary as it can be to suddenly live somewhere else, being together makes it more familiar and comforting.
Both these organizations provide services for children in alternative care, one of Childhood’s target groups. Although a family is always considered a better place for a child, this is not always an option. House parents, like those at Children’s Harbor, often have their own children living there too. Family-like settings like this in one is just one stop on a continuum of care for children among the organizations that Childhood funds. Read more on children in alternative care here.