The complexities of human trafficking are considerable and the vulnerability of children within Michigan’s foster care system is even greater.
How can we protect all of our Michigan children from traffickers, including those in foster care? How can service providers support, guide and really help youth who already have been exploited in many ways?
Vista Maria’s specialty program supports the intricate needs of girls with trafficking-related traumas. Our Wingsprogram symbolizes the freedom to believe in self-worth, to heal, and to achieve lifelong success.  This is only a stepping-stone on the girls’ journey and walking this journey is never easy. However walking together is most important.
At Vista Maria we have learned that establishing a genuine rapport is essential when working with children. We implement what I call the “Vista Maria Difference,” which involves quality, supportive care and empowerment through education. We also practice unconditional acceptance, which builds the foundation for trust. It is this “trust” that provides an atmosphere of comfort, honesty, and the willingness to share thus ultimately achieving the greatest feeling of all…to be loved unconditionally.  
As we reflect on last month’s awareness, training and prevention activities surrounding National Slavery and Human Trafficking Awareness month, we have to ask the question, are we doing what it takes to protect our youth, including our foster youth? 
If you are reading this post then you must have an interest in human trafficking and what is happening to children.  Let us join together to be a champion for the cause, because modern day slavery at the expense of our children must end!
Take Action:  Engage and educate the youth that you know about the realities of human trafficking.  Demonstrate to the children, no matter their background, that you believe in them! Celebrate their strengths and talents so that they know they are valued, worthy of respect and most importantly loved.

Meredith Reese, LPC, is Vice President of Treatment Programs at Vista Maria, a non-profit organization established 130 years ago by the Sisters of the Good Shepherd.  The organization provides program services for youth within residential and community based care.