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ZOE Advocacy Graduations

In 2019, ZOE was awarded a contract with Los Angeles County’s Department of Children and Family Services to provide advocacy services for children who are victims of sex trafficking or highly at risk of becoming victims.

When law enforcement recovers a child from sex trafficking in the North LA County area, they will call ZOE to respond within 90 minutes to provide victim advocacy support alongside a social worker. Or when a social worker or probation officer believes the child they are serving is a victim of sex trafficking or highly at risk of becoming a victim, they can request a ZOE Advocate to come alongside that youth to build relationship with to help the youth toward goals of safety, well-being, self-sufficiency, and a permanent home.

In 2020, ZOE served 112 youth through this program.These youth are served by an amazing team of about 12 ZOE Advocates including Case Managers, Survivor Advocates who have experienced and overcome commercial sexual exploitation themselves, and aParent Advocate whose child has recovered from sex trafficking.
Advocates’ primary focus in the beginning is to help the youth feel safe emotionally and physically. Many times, youth are in the midst of being controlled, influenced, threatened by traffickers so Advocates learn about the youth’s current circumstances; immediate physical, emotional, social, and other needs; and help the youth problem-solve their very dangerous situations. Through weekly in-person meetings, meals, healthy activities, and simply doing “life” together, Advocates become a mentor and safe person for youth to reach out to in times of need. Advocates spend most of their time on the field driving as far north as Lancaster, as far south as Long Beach, and as far east as Pomona.
ZOE is able to provide formal support up to a year and a half. For youth who complete the program, ZOE hosts a graduation celebration to honor their achievements and strengths. Due to COVID, ZOE had our first graduation in March 2021 and have since had two more graduations. We anticipate hosting approximately

five or six graduations a year.

At the graduations, youth are able to share any words of reflection from the past year while Advocates are able to praise them for their accomplishments. It is always an emotional, encouraging time to remember how far the youth have come. Youth have shared:
“I want to say thank you to my Advocates because if I didn’t have ZOE, I don’t think I would be here today. I think I would be in a very dangerous situation.”

“Looking at myself and comparing it to back then, I’m a completely different person. I know when I’m mad to talk to someone and use my communication. And I know how to have situations in a positive manner. I’m thankful for people who helped me through it all, every step of the way. But all the hard work was from me but I couldn’t have done it without the comfort, the motivation from my Advocate who has helped me in all the ways that she could. To all the Advocates and just the ZOE program in general, I personally would like to say that I appreciate all of you for changing this path and helping kids to thrive.”

At our most recent graduation in August 2021, a youth and his ZOE Advocate shared about how he struggled to engage in the beginning of the program. But with the persistent efforts and care of the Advocate, he began to meet, improve his relationship with his mother, and began to complete school assignments. He also shared about his dream to open his own clothing business. ZOE took him

 on outings to visit the fashion district, interview a business owner, and create a design for his own clothing line with a graphic designer. At the graduation, ZOE was able to present him with a tshirt and sweatshirt with his design. It was a physical representation and reminder of all the hard work he did in the program.

In addition, our Parent Advocate was also able to honor parents who participated in ZOE’s program by encouraging them to continue to love their children unconditionally and support them intheir journey toward healing.

Ongoingly, if individuals, organizations, or businesses wish to support the children served in ZOE’s Advocacy Program, the following are always in need:

  • Updated Amazon wishlist: https://a.co/elZDNLZ
  • Gift cards for birthday/graduation/baby shower celebrations or meals with Advocates: Starbucks, McDonalds, Wingstop, Panda Express, Subway, Chick Fil A, Michaels, Amazon, Ulta Beauty, Sephora, Target, Walmart, Foot Locker, Bath & Body, Uber
  • Grocery gift cards: Food for Less, Albertsons, Vons, Ralphs
  • Snacks: Fruit flavored cans of Arizona Iced Tea, cans/bottles of Coke, spicy chips, cup o noodles, Goldfish crackers
  • Help with special events (baby shower, graduations, shopping for gifts on child’s Christmas wishlist)
  • Church groups all over LA County willing to be trained to minister to some of our families who have basic needs and that we can connect our families to.
  • Be on emergency needs list: We can reach out when we have an urgent need if they are able to help
  • Vehicles/drivers to delivery donated furniture
  • Hosting support groups and events at safe settings like churches
  • Meals for support groups

We are so thankful for community, business, and church partners who have helped ZOE meet the needs of these precious children, including:

  • First and last month’s rent deposit to relocate in order to escape threats from traffickers
  • Extensive dental treatment allowing a youth to smile for the first time in two years after the loss of her front teeth from an assault
  • Emergency cell phones for youth to contact ZOE in crisis
  • Emergency hotel stay for 18+ youth who are escaping traffickers
  • Uber rides for 18+ youth who need last-minute transportation to their job or to escape traffickers
  • Furniture for families whose child is returning home after being reunified

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