Children and youth who are disconnected from their families are at greater risk of human trafficking. Polaris lists being homeless/having run away and unstable housing as two of the top five risk factors for being trafficked. Contrary to popular perception, children and teens who have been trafficked frequently know and may even trust or love their traffickers. Polaris reports that in 2020, 31% of those trafficked were recruited by a family member or caregiver. And while in person connections remain a top recruiting tool, during the height of the Coronavirus pandemic in 2020, recruitment of trafficking victims over Facebook and Instagram increased 125% and 95%, respectively, over the previous year.
Our work puts us in daily contact with children and youth who are risk of, or who are being or have been trafficked. Sherrita Allen, Executive Director of The Covering House, describes the work of her organization in St. Louis with children and teens who have been sexually exploited and trafficked.
The Covering House provides refuge and restoration, using the least restrictive environment, for sexually exploited and trafficked children and teens. We strive to provide safety, dignity, and freedom utilizing top level staffing and oversight. St. Louis records one (1) substantiated call per day reporting sex trafficking [Source: National Human Trafficking Hotline]. Therapeutic services are offered to youth 12-18 years old in residential treatment and in client homes through our Community-Based Services (CBS) to ages 0-25. We extended our service age limit from 22 to 25, as we discovered youth aging out of our services at 22 continued to need and benefit from our support.
One client expressed, “I don’t want an adult organization. I want The Covering House. TCH is home and I want to come home.” We hear this often with our current and former clients. A recent graduate began her work with us in our community program when she was 13 years old. She had such acute needs and ran away often that we elicited the help of other partner agencies to provide a safer environment for her. As she moved from place to place, we continued to follow her in treatment with mentoring services; it took two years for her to be ready to participate in our program. She recalls, “I didn’t think I wanted to anything but transitional living until I got to The Covering House. Now I want a family. TCH is my chosen family and you’re never getting rid of me.” This youth has recovered from drug addiction, survived trafficking and exploitation, worked through grief and loss, and now stands as a song writer, talented in cosmetology, and a senior in high school, ready for her future.
Sherrita Allen, MA, LPC, Executive Director--The Covering House
Prevention and treatment work. To learn more about resources, advocacy and prevention, please visit:
To report human trafficking, please call or text National Human Trafficking Hotline: