Pastor of Texas church and board member of a foster parent association, a father of adopted children himself, arrested for producing and transporting child pornography

The U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Eastern District of Texas announced in a statement that a grand jury indicted David Pettigrew, 48, and Chad Michael Rider, 46, on charges of conspiring to sexually exploit children. Pettigrew was also charged with transporting child pornography.

Pettigrew was the head pastor of Denison Church of the Nazarene, a board member of a foster parent association, a father of adopted children, a crossing guard, and a substitute teacher at Neblett Elementary. Pettigrew is also married to an unnamed school teacher who is a mandated reporter!

88% of children rescued in sex trafficking operations were trafficked from state custody!

The FBI compiled data that shows that of the nearly 25,000 runaways reported to NCMEC in 2017, one in seven were likely victims of child sex trafficking. Of those children, 88 percent were in the care of social services when they went missing. In 2017 alone, NCMEC’s Cyber Tip line, a national mechanism for the public and electronic service providers to report instances of suspected child sexual exploitation, received over 10 million reports.

Matt Agorist from the Freedom Thought Project explored further and wrote a chilling Report that shows that 88% of missing sex trafficked children come from US foster care system (Matt Agorist 2018) and that other governmental organizations have corroborated this horrifying trend. In a 2013 FBI 70-city nationwide raid, 60 percent of the victims came from foster care or group homes. In 2014, New York authorities estimated that 85 percent of sex trafficking victims were previously in the child welfare system. In 2012, Connecticut police rescued 88 children from sex trafficking; 86 were from the child welfare system. 

Whitney Manning, a grandmother in Virginia that advocates for foster children and raises awareness to mental health issues recently visited Washington D.C. where she met the “Grandmother of all advocacy for foster children”, Kathlee Arthur and many other advocates and family members that came together to ask for child welfare reform and to defund ASFA which is the 1997 adoption and safe families act. Kathlee Arthur explains how ASFA targets poor children and does not offer services to other children that may need them. She goes onto explain how this has created the fostercare to prison pipeline.

I also did some further research on how states could be supplying 88% of sex trafficked minors and found that the United States Department of State even reported that the United States foster care system is a problem. The 2019 Trafficking In Persons Report from the Department of States (TIP) says,

“In the United States, traffickers prey upon children in the foster care system. Recent reports have consistently indicated that a large number of victims of child sex trafficking were at one time in the foster care system.”

The 2021 TIP Report states that individuals in the United States vulnerable to human trafficking include: children in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems, including foster care; runaway and homeless youth; unaccompanied children; individuals seeking asylum; American Indians and Alaska Natives, particularly women and girls; individuals with substance use issues; migrant laborers, including undocumented workers and participants in visa programs for temporary workers; foreign national domestic workers in diplomatic households; persons with limited English proficiency; persons with disabilities; LGBTQI+ persons; and victims of intimate partner violence or domestic violence and that some U.S. citizens engage in extraterritorial child sexual exploitation and abuse in foreign countries.

Foster and adopted children are dear to my heart and they are our most vulnerable citizens. Once children enter the foster care system and other juvenile facilities, their contact with their own family and the people they know is severed through court processes. Often times foster and adopted children are moved out of state where they are not familiar with their surroundings and can easily get lost and fall into the hands of sex traffickers if they run away, which they often do. One solution that could be considered legislatively is localizing foster care in a way that children never have to lose all of their family and friends and so that they remain in places that are familiar to them where they can get to someone that they trust and will confide in when things go wrong. Too often children that are severed from their families feel unwanted and lost in this world. We can do something to change that.

Child Sex Trafficking and the Child Welfare System

Family: The Original Child Welfare System

Federal legislators have taken an increased interest in confronting the sex trafficking of children now that more and more people are becoming aware of how prevalent that problem is, and talk about it. It is estimated that over 40 million US adults living now are survivors of sexual child abuse.

The national attention towards the issue of human trafficking has created opportunities to raise awareness, educate, and advocate for better childhood outcomes.

Homeless children, foster care system, refugees, and LGBTQ youth are the most likely victims of childhood sexual assault. It is estimated that 100,000 children are sexually exploited in the United States each year.

It is clear is that many of the minors who are trafficked interact with the child welfare system at some point in their lives. Child welfare workers are in the perfect seat to identify problems with the foster care system and advocate for much needed changes that will prevent future abuse. Children that are sexually assaulted in foster care and have no ties to family never fully heal from their wounds and will always carry the scars of the abuse.

It is also clear that between 75% to as many as 98% of the children taken into state custody were never abused. Study after study shows that children with biological family are the least likely to be abused.

Predators prey on children from broken homes, group homes, foster care, and runaways. The U.S. Department of State reports that foster care is a consistent problem. Live-in parents and step parents are 20 times more likely to abuse a child than a biological parent.

City reports show that between 60% to as many as 90% of the children rescued in sex trafficking stings were in foster care before they were trafficked. Often, when they are rescued, they are returned to state custody where they will likely run away again.

Studies show that children in foster homes are 10 times more likely to be sexually abused than children that live with biological parents. Children that live in group homes are 28 times more likely to be abused.

How Foster Care Youth Become Trafficking Victims

See the source image
photo Huff Post

The CDC reports that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men experienced sexual abuse as children. Most will never tell their stories out of shame and fear. Some children do not live to tell their stories.

Predators put themselves in situations where they have access to children. A predator can be a family member, school teacher, principal, police officer, fire fighter, doctor, therapist, counselor, and even Sunday school teachers and preachers.

Children with intact families are less likely to suffer abuse. Predators prey on children from broken homes, group homes, foster care, and runaways. The U.S. Department of State reports that foster care is a consistent problem. Live-in parents and step parents are 20 times more likely to abuse a child than a biological parent.

City reports show that between 60% to as many as 90% of the children rescued in sex trafficking stings were in foster care before they were trafficked. Often, when they are rescued, they are returned to state custody where they will likely run away again.

Studies show that children in foster homes are 10 times more likely to be sexually abused than children that live with biological parents. Children that live in group homes are 28 times more likely to be abused.

Sometimes the predator is friends with the family or someone that the adults in the family think can be trusted, such as is the case often with teachers, preachers, and other children. Child sex abuse is most likely to happen when a child is between the ages of 6 to 11 years old.

One solution that will reduce child sex trafficking is to localize foster care so that children never have to run from place they are not familiar with. Many sex trafficked children ran away from a group home or a foster home when they landed in the hands of sex traffickers. Another solution to reduce both child sex trafficking and the need for foster care is to shift the ASFA funding in a way that allows states to be paid when they place a child in need with a family member.

#EndASFA #StopTitleIV #Stophumantrafficking #stopchildtrafficking #QuitShoppingForChildren #SaveYOURchildren