Madera meeting to discuss child trafficking

At 6 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 20, at VFW Post 1981, Madera County Supervisor Rick Farinelli is bringing community leaders together to discuss two problems facing youth – the broken home and child trafficking. These two topics will go through the growing epidemic of child exploitation, to spotting the signs and acting to help children being trafficked, to addressing the issues that lead children to be more easily victimized.

The town hall, called “Protecting our Children,” will be hosted by the VFW Post, at 2026 North Granada Drive in Madera.

Human trafficking has been likened to modern-day slavery that subjects children, women, and men to sexual exploitation or forced labor. It is now considered the second most profitable international crime, only behind illicit drug trafficking. Thousands of children are sold each year in the United States alone through human traffickers, either for forced labor or prostitution.

Trafficking has been reported in all 50 states, and is particularly high in California, where easy access to ports and a good highway system that enables easy transport across the entire nation. Madera and Fresno sit on a major trafficking highway between the ports of San Francisco and Los Angeles/San Diego. The Madera County Child Abuse Prevention Council will make a presentation on what to look for and how to help children trapped in this trade.

“As Madera is a rest stop for many travelers crossing California, so it is for traffickers,” Farinelli said. “These abused kids pass right through our community on their way to bigger markets. It’s repulsive and heartbreaking – but there are things that we as a community can do to help these kids – and it starts with knowing the signs.”

Addressing this homelessness starts with addressing the broken homes that enable it. Federal statistics show that 90% of all homeless and runaway children come from fatherless homes. Children from these broken homes are 32 times more likely to run away than those from a home with both a father and mother in the household. Fatherlessness is a growing national problem, with 24.6 million children living absent their biological father.

Former Congressman George Radanovich, will make a presentation on fatherlessness in California, and how community groups can act together to respond to this root issue that puts many children and their futures in danger, including not only exploitation but gang recruitment and drug abuse.

“Any problem addressed early has the best chance for success. We as a community need to do all we can to help our kids. They’ve never been in more danger, but at least now, the tools are becoming available to do something about it,” said Farinelli.

- Madera County