In response to the growing problem of child trafficking, Erica Greve founded Unlikely Heroes (UH) in 2011. Dedicated to rescuing children from sex slavery worldwide and helping them to restore their well-being, UH’s holistic, cross-cultural, and individualized care model has made it a pioneers in rescue and restoration practices for Commercially Sexually Exploited Children (CSEC).
UH currently operates four restoration homes in the Philippines, Thailand and Mexico. In May of 2014, as a result of its global reputation, UH was asked to send teams to Nigeria to provide on-the-ground support, counseling, and medical services to the only escaped child victims of the Chibok schoolgirl kidnapping and many of the family members, who continue to wait for the return of the schoolgirls yet to be rescued.
While UH is celebrating success in the international field, it is continuing to work diligently to extend its field efforts to the U.S. In December 2015, UH will be opening a residential care facility for CSEC victims. This new children’s restoration home will provide wraparound support services for 10 rescued children, including safety, therapy, education, life skills, medical care and legal support. UH’s newest home is part of a larger effort to confront the problems of sex trafficking that exists in the U.S. And the numbers surrounding the issue are hard to ignore.
Experts estimate that annually there are at least 100,000 CSEC victims in America; and the average age of entry for U.S. child trafficking is 13. Despite the large number of child and juvenile victims in the U.S., a 2007 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services study showed that services available for these victims were inadequate across the board. In 2012, only 168 CSEC victims were living in a residential shelter that provided specific treatment services.
UH’s newest restoration home seeks to change that. With UH’s newest home, the nationwide number of bed-space for child victims of human trafficking will increase from 168 to 178 ─ a 7% rise. As Erica and her team break ground in America, they seek not only to provide physical shelter to CSEC victims, but also treatment services that address the specific needs of these traumatized children. UH’s restoration model is founded on three fundamental elements: 1) Providing an exceptional home environment with a family-care model 2) Giving individualized care services specific to each victim’s unique form of trauma and preparation for re-integration into society 3) Engaging in the community, and activism at the grassroots level, in conjunction with advocacy on a policy level.
Despite the daunting size of the task, Unlikely Heroes remains hopeful and 100 percent committed, as its model has shown strong success in the non-U.S. homes, with many of the children graduating from high school, acquiring jobs and becoming healthy moms. Such success is the reason Erica and her team continue to believe in the strength of their program to give a second chance at life to some of the world’s most vulnerable, exploited and forgotten children.