By: Elisabet Medina
Did reading that title make your stomach turn slightly? There are aspects of our lives that we wished would never change and others that we wished changed in a heartbeat. Choosing the change that we want is a luxury and grappling with the change that we don’t want is inevitable.
As leaders a big part of our role is shepherding the change process.
Change can come in transitioning of staff, new policies, new programs. We can subconsciously subvert change when using language like “when so and so was here we did things this way”. We can block new ideas from emerging when we say, “we have tried that before and it didn’t work”. Or the adage “if it's not broke don’t fix it”. While all of these statements can be right, often we can fail to appreciate the unique point in time we are in with the people right in front of us, right now, with the resources available in this unique situation. Change provides an opportunity for growth and situational leadership. It is important to recognize the opportunities, to pace change and be strategic about what change happens when.
Adaptability is a critical skill as social problems continue to evolve, political climates ebb and flow and economic tides can change the course of our work. How we lean into or avoid change speaks volumes to those around us and sets the example for others to act accordingly regardless of our title and position within an organization.
Faith is also a critical component. Faith, that we ourselves have the capacity and willingness to change, and to be able to visualize the change taking hold in order to cast vision and support our teams through change. I’ve often witnessed burnout and what I call change fatigue; when change feels like an onslaught to keep up with rather than an endeavor that is worth pursuing. Faith in ourselves, our teams, and our mission is the motivation that we need to keep going.
Unity, is fundamental for change to take effect. When there is confusion about why that change is occuring, what problem the change is addressing and each person’s role in implementing the change our bias towards the familiar can hijack the benefit of change and prevent it from taking root. It can also create division between the “old guard” and the “new guard”. Nostalgia for what was can inhibit progress. We cannot recreate the past, we cannot anticipate what the future will hold, being unified in the present is our best chance for success.
Questions to reflect on:
What is your attitude towards change?
How do you demonstrate faith in yourself and those around you?
How do you contribute to unity or unconsciously create wedges?
By: Elisabet Medina
"I remember being worried about a youth that ran away for days on end, would come back high as a kite, and had multiple “boyfriends”; in 2015 there were very limited options: if the parent was doing all that they could, the child protective services hotline had no real way to intervene, the response was to call the police. The police could do very little without the youth being forthcoming and disclosing of abuse or exploitation. It felt a lot like a no-mans land, with multiple calls leading to a dead end.
Fast forward, in 2017 prostitution has been decriminalized for minors in California with that realization incarceration further criminalizes youth who have been victimized and exploited. And child sex trafficking has been designated as form of child abuse. There is the ongoing paradigm shift to see youth as victims of child trafficking rather than as criminals. This paradigm shifting is not without its detours. Often the result of perceiving a youth as a victim comes with it an approach to child protection by any means necessary. We can form ideas that about who a victim is, and who a victim is not, how a victim is "supposed" to act and how they are not "supposed" to act.
Our expectations and perceptions can be detrimental to child labor trafficking victims. Children are exploited in industries such as agriculture, domestic work and gang involved drug sales often facing physical or sexual abuse if they do not comply. By not perceiving these children and youth as victims of trafficking to the same degree as other victims of trafficking this can create a disparity in the access to legal assistance and social services.
This is also to the detrimental to girls of color that are perceived to be adults far faster than their peers. Adultification- a term used in this report [Girlhood Interrupted: The Erasure of Black Girls’ Childhood] "to refer to the perception of Black girls as less innocent and more adult-like than white girls of the same age—as well as its possible causal connection with negative outcomes across a diverse range of public systems, including education, juvenile justice, and child welfare".
This is also a detriment to young adults who are in the sex trades and have children of their own. Often these young adults can be deemed as unfit parents and have custody of their own children taken away which perpetuates a cycle of inter-generational trauma.
When looking at violence throughout the lifetime, prevention of child exploitation does not mean eroding the rights of sex workers or to crack down on the demand for commercial sex. Rather, to prevent child exploitation we have to look at the root causes that create vulnerabilities in the first place. Root causes such as poverty, community violence, systemic racism, gender inequality and early childhood sexual abuse.
Exploitation is driven by vulnerabilities and when these vulnerabilities are met with systemic failures and lack of support, individuals are set on the trajectory of violence. Anti-trafficking work should not rest on rescuing someone from a single incident of exploitation but rather continuously mitigating the lifetime of harm from trauma. Lives can only change when met with humanity, compassion, non-judgement and choice.
Recently, I was asked what can I do about child trafficking?
Here are three ways to start: