Think back to when you were a child. Hopefully, it was a time filled with fond memories of going to the park or beach with your family, countless hours playing in the yard or in the street with friends, chasing after the ice cream man in the summer and having fun in school. Unfortunately, for children living in poverty around the world, such activities are but a dream. For the estimated 1.2 million children impacted by child trafficking each year (according to the International Labor Organization), simply living at home with their family would be a dream.
Child trafficking is an issue throughout the world, not simply one country. However, in this blog post, I’d like to focus on the situation in Ghana, given the significant media coverage the country recently received for detaining a U.S. couple accused of child trafficking when trying to adopt four children through an unlicensed adoption agency. I do not question the couple’s desire to provide a loving home to four vulnerable children, but I do believe Ghana made the right decision. Requiring proper verification and working only with a licensed agency are important measures to protect children from trafficking and harm.
Child trafficking through illegal adoption is a growing concern in Ghana. The most traditional instances of child trafficking occur when parents who cannot afford to provide for their children send them to stay with relatives or people they know. According to Kojo Forson, Bethany’s country director in Ghana, nearly 80% of trafficking cases in Ghana involve perpetrators known to the child and his or her family. Often times, these children are seen as cheap labor, and forced to work in hazardous situations, from the fishing industry on Lake Volta, to mining or quarrying stone, to selling ice water in heavy traffic. In some instances, children are induced to beg or, even worse, sold into prostitution. Escape is unlikely, as children can’t find their way home or the guilt in letting their family down is too powerful a deterrent.
So, what can be done to decrease, and maybe even one day eliminate child trafficking? Lay the foundation for an orphan care system that will educate local countrymen about the impact of child slavery. In Ghana, the government has recognized this and is taking the lead to put stronger systems in place to prevent child slavery. Other important measures are to develop job training programs that will enable families to create a source of income so they are able to care for their biological children, and provide both local governments and non-government organizations – such as faith-based organizations – with the training and resources necessary to recruit families to serve as foster or adoptive parents within their own country. It will take loving families around the world, stepping up and opening their homes to the most vulnerable—children who are older or with special needs—to protect those who are most susceptible to being trafficked or sold.
Ghana’s challenges in relation to child trafficking aren’t unique – one need only look at Haiti and their ongoing cultural acceptance of restevac children. But just as initiatives in Haiti are taking hold and helping to change local thinking relative to restevac children, work is underway on the ground in Ghana to improve child welfare services and recruit local families to serve as foster care families.
Please remember those children living in slavery in Ghana and consider raising awareness in your church community to help support family preservation through the abolishment of child trafficking. Together we can create a world where every child has a loving family.