After her own harrowing ordeal when her daughter was trafficked for sex, a Houston-area mother has set up a program to help families whose lives have been upended by child predators and traffickers.
Kelly Litvak founded ChildProof America in 2017 and, on March 1, will launch a helpline and program for families who are in crisis mode.
For now, the helpline will be available from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays. “It’s an opportunity for parents to call and have lengthy conversations,” Litvak told The Epoch Times on Feb. 3.
“It’s more of a, ‘Help me understand the behaviors my child is displaying,’ ‘What is this I found on the cellphone?’ ‘My child has gone. What are resources that we can tap into?’”
Litvak said ChildProof America is already getting calls from desperate parents around the country, more so since the pandemic has kept children at home and online even more.
The calls are coming in from places as far-flung as Seattle, Minneapolis, Las Vegas, California, Colorado, and the larger Houston area.
Some of those calls will turn into cases that the new Family Guides program will be involved in.
“A case is a parent that is calling because they have a child in some stage of crisis. That child can be in the home and engaging with predators through social media. That child can have been identified as leaving that home and having an in-person interaction,” Litvak said.
For example, Litvak outlined a recent “extremely alarming” case involving a 12-year-old girl. The girl had no devices at home but was required to be on a computer at school, where she started opening social media accounts.
One evening, the girl’s mother was checking her homework and found the social media accounts.
“And on one account, there were 84 men talking to this little girl,” Litvak said. “And the girl had taken a picture of … the front of her house … telling one of these predators, ‘This is my bedroom here, this window on the left.’
“She gave the address and invited this man to come through the window to get access to her.”
Litvak said the girl’s mother took a thumbdrive of all the conversations to the police but was told they couldn’t do anything. So she called ChildProof America and was linked up with her local Internet Crimes Against Children department.
Family Guides Program
To begin with, the Family Guides program will only be available for those in the greater Houston areas of Katy, Woodlands, Memorial, and Sugar Land.
A potential new Family Guides case will go through a screening process to determine whether the child is likely in a trafficking situation, said Litvak. If so, two case volunteers, who have been through extensive training and background checks, will be assigned to the family for up to 90 days.
“When parents call us, they don’t even really know what human trafficking is, they just know their kid’s in trouble—somebody is pursuing them for sex. They don’t really understand the whole mythology behind human trafficking, and the brainwashing, the control, and the threats,” Litvak said. “So they’re getting a really quick education on the issue, which only increases their fear.
“But they need to know what they’re dealing with. So we inform and educate, empower, equip, provide best resources, and stay with them for 90 days.”
The volunteers will help the family navigate the crisis and provide help with anything from law enforcement to extraction, understanding trauma, and victims’ rights.
The family will also receive a resource guide of vetted services. “It’s local, federal, secular, faith-based, all the way from tattoo removal, to extraction, to counseling for trauma, to residential treatment facilities, for minors and adults,” Litvak said.
“I would have given anything for that when we were going through this with Courtney. I was so bombarded with so many people telling me who to call, I couldn’t even process. I was frozen, you know, you’re in a state of panic. And you have a very difficult time processing all the resources while you’re scared to death for your child’s life.”
Litvak has about 15 volunteers lined up for the Family Guides program as well as the helpline. More volunteers are on standby to provide meals to families in the program, while local chapters of the National Charity League have committed to providing care packages for siblings.
“Even if you’re just delivering a casserole, you need to understand human trafficking,” Litvak said, regarding the training provided.
Livak’s daughter Courtney became a target at her suburban high school in Katy, Texas. She was carefully groomed by fellow students, or “spotters,” who were eventually paid a “finder’s fee” by her first pimp.
The spotters invested almost a year from the time they befriended Courtney to when they handed her over to her first trafficker.
“My life was worth a sum to [them],” Courtney told The Epoch Times in a previous interview. “They took their time, and they slowly broke down those barriers and boundaries to where I myself had not noticed the process in which I had strayed so far.”
They were also careful to wait until she was 18 before pressuring her to leave home, rendering her parents and law enforcement almost useless in their ability to get her back.
For the next several years, Courtney sold herself for her traffickers, receiving no money personally and so brainwashed that she thought she was doing it for the greater good of her surrogate family.
“The main form of brainwashing that I see as a constant in every situation is to convince this person that you love them so much that you’ll allow them to do whatever it takes to provide to the team, to be an asset,” Courtney said. “They will give you permission. They love you so much, but they want you to ‘boss up’ and to be independent and to bring something to the table.”
Behind the brainwashing is the victim’s wish to fill emotional needs, something Courtney says was present in everyone she met while she was being trafficked.
Courtney eventually escaped that life and is now an ambassador for ChildProof America. She is also a member of the U.S. Advisory Council on Human Trafficking, which is run by the State Department.
Under Their Noses
Litvak said 99 percent of the calls she receives from around the country are from educated, white-collar parents in suburban communities.
“They don’t want to think that this very nice school that they’re paying a lot of money for their kids to attend can possibly have any kind of [exploitation]. These are highly vulnerable communities,” she said. “Four years ago, before this all started with Courtney, I was exactly the same way.”
Litvak said she used to think human trafficking was something that happened overseas.
“We’re a joke to traffickers. I mean, they’re just coming in saying, ‘We have free rein in this community, these people, these parents have absolutely no clue,'” she said. “I mean, the pimp was able to come and take my daughter off-campus during school hours, and the teachers marked her present.
“My goal, above everything, is to absolutely equip every family with this education. And if we do that successfully, Family Guides won’t be necessary.”
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
CyberTipLine.com or 1-800-843-5678
Helpline: 1-833-CPGUIDE (274-8433)