Why the local pimp does not want you to foster or adopt

September 12, 2019

Within two months of working in the forensics division of the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) unit at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri,[1] Heidi Olson realized that many of the girls she examined were actually victims of human trafficking.[2] SANE nurses investigate cases of suspected assault and collect evidence for law enforcement.[3] When law enforcement officials bust a prostitution ring or apprehend a child on the run, they take the kids to the hospital for evaluation. 

It turns out that trafficking victims have a common history, a pattern or formula, which she first saw in the case of a 16-year-old girl. This girl had been in a group home in the custody of the state. She ran from her group home but not from social media. Through Facebook, she met a group of traffickers who promised her food, shelter, and safety. Having earned this girl’s trust, they were able to move her from Missouri to Indiana where they put her to work selling herself. Police in Indiana arrested an older girl she was with and realized that this particular girl was a missing person and returned her to Missouri. 

When Heidi examined this young woman, she had four sexually transmitted diseases, genital trauma, cigarette burns, and signs of general physical abuse. “This did not seem like your average sexual assault case—not that there is an average—but this seemed extreme, repeated,” Heidi told me. “I suspected she was being trafficked.” Heidi called law enforcement, the FBI, and Children’s Division—but no one came to check the case. She had to discharge the girl to the care of the girl’s grandmother, only to discover later that the girl ran away from her grandmother that night and was being trafficked again. 

That case ignited within Heidi a desire for justice. “I told myself, We cannot let this happen again,” Heidi said. “Every system that is supposed to help these kids has failed.” Today Heidi is the SANE program coordinator at Children’s Mercy. She teaches nurses how to recognize trafficking and work with agencies to break the cycle of abuse as early in a child’s life as possible. Heidi also trains nurses, law enforcement, and community agencies to recognize the formula of sex-trafficking, a pattern she has seen repeatedly since that first young girl’s case. 

The sex-trafficking pattern

Heidi learned that the common history sex-trafficking victims share shows itself in five factors.[4]

1. First, these kids are born to parents whose lives are characterized by criminal behavior. Sometimes this criminal behavior includes sexual abuse by the parents or an extended family member. Heidi told me that Children’s Mercy sees an average of 35 to 490 children a month who have been sexually assaulted (a staggering number, but small compared to the 300 per month that Children’s Mercy reports for both sexual and physical abuse). Since sexual forensic evidence can only be collected within a five-day window, these are just the verifiable assaults. “Previous sexual assault is a big risk factor for being trafficked,” Heidi said. “In our community, there are hundreds of kids ripe for trafficking.” 

2. Second, beside sexual abuse, illegal drug use frequently surfaces in these families, creating a handle for sex traffickers to later lure these kids, who have been exposed to those substances at an early age. In the family of origin and extended kin, illegal drugs are esteemed. Drugs equal money, clout, esteem, and power. Drugs are thus seen as valuable, desirable, and necessary. 

You and I can bring vulnerable kids into our homes with the goal of giving them an identity with us and in Christ so they don’t identify with drugs and pimps.

3. Third, as a result of these criminal activities in the immediate family, these kids are placed in foster care. Kids who are trafficked nearly always became wards of the state early in their lives. In fact, Heidi told me that every victim of child trafficking she has treated was at one time a ward of the state. One hundred percent. “I am sure there are kids who are trafficked who haven’t been in foster care, but in my experience, they almost always are or have been,” she said. 

The criminal behavior of the family of origin results in the child being removed from the home and placed in foster care or group homes. Often the foster placements are with extended family, labeled “kinship placements.” The problem? These family members often practice the same dangerous activities as the biological parent(s) the children were originally removed from. Abuse—including further sexual abuse—and drugs follow these kids from one family member to another. This prompts Children’s Division to step in a second, third, or fourth time. With each consecutive placement, the child becomes less attached to the foster home. 

4. Fourth, the one stable factor in these kids’ lives is social media. Having begun an online presence, they make connections, chat, offer nuggets of personal information, and reveal themselves through both images and words. And pimps are social media experts. 

5. Fifth, kids who become trafficked have run away from their foster home placement or their group home.[5] Kids on the run are vulnerable. They are desperate to avoid getting reported to Children’s Division as that would restart the cycle of foster placements or group home assignments. “Imagine you are 14. You are living on the street—or attempting to. You can’t even meet your own basic needs,” Heidi explained. Where might these kids find shelter? Yes, the trusted figure on the other end of that social media connection. 

On the street, these kids have no money and no protection. In this compromised state, they become increasingly susceptible to two often interrelated forces: pimps and drugs. Since the child on the run likely has a history that includes the idea that drugs are money, identity, and security, they become easy targets. Pimps know this. The men, women, and organizations that traffic kids for money know that these children are candidates for addiction. Drugs are an extremely persuasive force in the hands of criminals preying on former foster kids who have run away. 

How do these children fall victim so easily? Some pimps are reported to have seemed caring and genuine—at first. “These traffickers are not thugs,” Heidi said. “They have a strategic business model.” Pimps start by making promises and fulfilling them. They promise their victims food and shelter, take them to the movies, buy them a cell phone, get them tattoos. Pimps provide an identity for vulnerable kids. And as the pimp earns trust, the pimp begins to break the kids in for sexual service. 

Part of this scenario is nearly always drugs. Get the kids hooked on drugs and the promise of drugs will persuade them to give themselves away sexually. To establish in the kids’ mind that they are the property of the pimp, sometimes the pimp will move them to a different location. These kids are forced to live in drug houses in town and cities they do not know, and they are sold day after day. Heidi noted that the Indy 500, the Super Bowl, military bases, and truck stops are destination points for pimps when they want to take their girls on the road.[6] Since these pimps need buyers, they take their supply (kids) to their highest concentration of customers (demand). What keeps the kids from running again? Fear, threats, and drugs. “Meth is the trafficker’s drug of choice,” Heidi told me. 

What might break this cycle in a kid’s life? Death, or more commonly, severe disease or genital bleeding. A trafficked kid with a sexually transmitted infection (STI, as they are currently labeled) comes to a hospital emergency room late at night—and nurses like Heidi are called in to do an examination. 

The average age of trafficked kids who come to Children’s Mercy is 12 to 13 years old. But Heidi has seen children as young as two and several in their mid-teens. When these nurses examine these children, they get one shot at helping them. “The vast majority of them, we never see again,” Heidi said. “We have this little moment in time when our worlds collide, and I think there is this sense of urgency that we need to intervene now to help.” 

The Good Samaritan and vulnerable children

Fortunately, there is hope. You and I can bring vulnerable kids into our homes with the goal of giving them an identity with us and in Christ so they don’t identify with drugs and pimps. Prevention is the best tactic for fighting the foster-care-to-sex-trafficking pipeline. Welcoming kids who might be trafficked is applying Jesus’ famous parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25–37 to our mission. 

When a Jewish scribe asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life, Jesus answered with his own question, “What is written in the Law?” Jewish scribes were power brokers in Jesus’ day. In a culture of illiteracy, they could not only read and write, they were professional interpreters of the Jewish Scriptures. This scribe displayed his training by citing two foundational Old Testament passages, Deuteronomy 6:9–25 and Leviticus 19:18, telling Jesus that these texts in the law required Israelites to love God with all their lives and to love others as themselves. Jesus affirmed the scribe’s answer saying, “Do this and you will live.” 

But the scene shifted when this scribe asked Jesus to specify exactly who his neighbor was. This scribe was looking for a way to limit the demands he would place upon himself and others in regard to caring for those in need around them. Jesus took up the lawyer’s question by offering the parable of the good Samaritan. 

The parable begins with a nondescript man quickly becoming vulnerable to the point of death. This man left Jerusalem and as he was heading to Jericho, he was robbed, beaten, and left for dead. It is not a stretch to let this robbed, wounded man represent kids in foster care. Kids who have been abused and exposed to drugs, whose parents are incarcerated, differ little from the half-dead man in Jesus’ parable. As Jesus crafted the scene, both a priest and a Levite passed by and offered this man no help. These two religious figures did not obligate themselves to this man despite his vulnerable condition. They did not believe themselves responsible to care for this man even in his desperate state. It was the Samaritan—one whose Jewish lineage lacked the purity of a priest or a Levite—who broadened his shoulders to care for the wounded man. 

Jesus concluded his parable by questioning the scribe, “Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers’ hands?” Jesus led the scribe to understand that we should be more concerned with being neighborly to the vulnerable than categorizing who is or who is not worthy of our care. As New Testament commentator Darrell Bock put it, “The issue is not thinking about who someone else is, but what kind of a person I am.”[7]

As believers partner together in their churches to act neighborly to vulnerable children, we can break the sex-trafficking pattern at step three—before children are sold for sex. Churches cannot prevent criminally-minded parents from having children nor can we prevent the abuse some kids may endure early in life. But if Children’s Division is swamped with foster-parent applications from your church and mine, social workers are less likely to continue to place kids in kinship placements where the cycle of abuse might lead to a runaway and the sex-trafficking formula operating in another child’s life. And in light of the increasing influence of pornography in our culture, which has a strong connection to trafficking, our churches will need to be more willing to care for vulnerable kids in the future. 

Where does this all begin?

Many don’t realize the pornography and trafficking connection. But Heidi told me, “That is where it all begins. Pornography gives permission. It objectifies women to the point of being tools for sexual gratification.” Heidi noted that the pervasive influence of pornography is affecting younger and younger boys. The average age of a sexual assault perpetrator identified at Children’s Mercy is 11 to 15 years old.[8] These are not the (usually) men purchasing sex but the perpetrators committing assaults against kids generally their own age. Where do these preteen boys learn of aggressive sexual activity? Pornography. And if boys act this way as preteens, they are likely to keep pimps in business later in their lives as their demand grows stronger. From a business perspective, pornography is a pimp’s marketing tool—and since sexual imagery pervades our culture, pimps do not have to pay an advertising agency. 

But pornography is not just a contributing factor in the sex-trafficking epidemic, it is also often the end result of trafficking. According to Heidi, nearly all the trafficking victims she has treated report at some point being filmed as they were sold. Pimps see vulnerable kids as supply for the demand of their clientele. But the church offers something better: the church has the supply for the emotional and relational brokenness kids without parents desperately need. We have the chance to be the good Samaritan to kids robbed of a family.

Excerpted from Until Every Child is Home: Why the Church Can and Must Care for Orphans by Todd Chipman (©2019). Published by Moody Publishers. Used by permission.


  1. ^ https://www.childrensmercy.org/departments-and-clinics/child-adversity-and-resilience/safety-care-and-nurturing/. Accessed March 3, 2019.
  2. ^ “Sex Trafficking,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” accessed March 3, 2019, https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/ sexualviolence/trafficking.html. 
  3. ^ Heidi Olson, “Recognizing Human Trafficking for Health Care Workers,” The Children’s Mercy Hospital, accessed March 3, 2019, https:// www.cmics.org/pbp/LoadImagesFiles/LoadFile?contentGUID=5EB 6F7E4-BEED-4D18-8E81-8AC4143CD533. 
  4. ^ Jennifer Hansen, MD, “Child Sex Trafficking in our Communities,” The Children’s Mercy Hospital, accessed March 3, 2019, https://www .childrensmercy.org/siteassets/media-documents-for-depts-section/ documents-for-health-care-providers/nursing-childsextrafficking.pdf. 
  5. ^ “Traffickers will often send one of their girls into group homes to find girls and urge them to leave by saying things like they will be well taken care of financially and have a ‘family’ so to speak who will care for them.” Dawn Post, “Why Human Traffickers Prey on Foster Kids,” CityLimits.org, January 23, 2015, https://citylimits.org/2015/01/23/ why-traffickers-prey-on-foster-care-kids/). 
  6. ^ Holly V. Hays, “Ahead of Indy 500, Residents Urged to Look for Signs of Human Trafficking,” Indystar.com, updated May 24, 2018, https:// www.indystar.com/story/news/crime/2018/05/24/indy-500-impd-human-trafficking-ahead-race/634131002/; Kyle Boyd, “522 ‘Johns’, 30 Pimps Arrested in Super Bowl Sex Trafficking Sting,” WISHTV.COM, updated February 9, 2017. 
  7. ^ Darrell L. Bock, Jesus According to Scripture: Restoring the Portrait from the Gospels (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2002), 255. 
  8. ^ Sarah Plake, “Children abusing children: Children’s Mercy sees dangerous trend involving children and porn,” 41 Action News KSHB.com, November 30, 2018, https://www.kshb.com/news/local-news/children-abusing-children-childrens-mercy-sees-dangerous-trend-involving-children-and-porn.

Todd R. Chipman

Todd R. Chipman, Ph.D., has been the teaching pastor at The Master’s Community Church (SBC), Kansas City, Kansas, since 2000. Todd also serves as an assistant professor of Biblical Studies at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Todd and his wife Julie have five biological children and adopted a sibling set of … Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24