NewsJan 05, 2018 by Abigail Sanchez
In Texas, an estimated 79,000 children are sex trafficked, but there is only one facility in the state that specializes in care for child sex trafficking victims. This facility only has 30 beds available. The Refuge Ranch plans to change that, however, and is set to open this year with a sustainable financial plan and specialized care for victims.
The Refuge Ranch will provide long-term shelter and services for 48 survivors under 19-years-old.
Trafficking survivor Toni McKinley, who will work as a therapist for the Refuge, is already providing therapy for survivors in the Austin area. "I can't tell you how many calls I get," she told CBN News, and she says the need for shelters for these kids is overwhelming.
Overseer of Police Department's Human Trafficking Unit, Sgt. Kevin Covington, told CBN News that until the Refuge opens, he doesn't have many good options for places to take rescued victims.
"There's different things we can try but outside of them having the Refuge or putting them on a plane back home—there's no real good answers," Covington explained.
With 79,000 estimated to be trapped in the sex trade, and only 30 slots currently available in shelters, Toni McKinley comments that the message traffickers send kids will only be reinforced: "no one cares about you and no one can help you".
The Refuge's structure was built by Brooke Crowder, who has worked with sex trafficking survivors for years and saw the great need for organizations specializing in care for child victims in Austin, TX.
"I kept saying, 'why are we not doing this?'" Crowder told CBN News, "and then it became 'why am I not doing this?'"
It's challenging to work with child victims because of the bleakness of the subject, and it's also difficult because of the complexity of trauma the victims go through.
"It's also quite costly," Crowder says, "and there's really not a model out there that people can say 'ok, we'll build this here.'"
So she built a model. This model keeps the price down through a network of partnerships.
"We're not bearing the cost of our on-site charter school—the University of Texas is doing that," Crowder explains. And "We're not bearing the cost of the medical care. We're partnering with a federally qualified health care clinic."
These partnerships are cost effective and allow the Refuge staff to focus on the custom care plan for each child that enters the The Refuge Ranch.
The Refuge staff are committed to Jesus, but are not going to impose any of their faith on the survivors. They will, however, because of their faith, offer chapel and prayer time, and they will continue to welcome survivors from all religious backgrounds.
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