The Retreat Home For Children has a very specific mission: To provide trauma-informed, medical and psychological stabilization with on-site services for girls, ages 10- 17, who have been exploited through sex trafficking
Used, battered, discarded. This is not what any child should feel or know. Yet, a San Antonio region Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) RN witnessed first-hand numerous exploited children leave the hospital with no real home or safe place to go, only to end up exploited or trafficked again.
Brittany Thompson, RN and Founder of The Retreat Home for Children, saw child after child come in for sexual assault examinations and her heart was burdened for them. It can be difficult to identify a child as exploited or trafficked. Statistics are skewed as social workers and law enforcement can identify a child as abused or neglected but need the trust of a child for them to share their full story. These children might be exploited (trading sex for goods, services, or drugs) or trafficked (taken against their will to various places and forced to perform sexual acts). Brittany shares that exploiting and trafficking children is not a distant problem, but could very well be taking place next door in any neighborhood or home.
“I realized that something didn’t seem right - where could these children possibly be going after I do this exam and they’re discharged from the hospital? Who is taking care of them? I started doing research and realized that there are not many places that take care of them therapeutically,” Brittany says. “A shelter is great temporary care, but they run away, and they’d rather be back in their previous situation and feel safe with what they know. I prayed and asked, what am I supposed to do? Then it just hit me, why not me? From that day I just got after it.”
Even though she already worked full time as a hospital nurse, Brittany also began working full time to build The Retreat. Policies, staffing, licensing and more all laid before Brittany as a mountain to climb.
Although Brittany and her family saw God move mountains, startup was not without its challenges. From political hindrances and policies to Brittany’s first house purchase literally collapsing, it seemed like darkness was determined to thwart her efforts.
“I’ve realized first-hand, when you try to do something good from God, for children, widows, and orphans it’s like the devil does everything in his power to block it,” Brittany says.
The same day the ceiling of her first house fell in, Brittany saw the perfect home posted for sell. She called the realtor in a bundle of nerves to explain their unique needs as a children’s home for exploited cases – needs that were previously rejected by other sellers and neighborhoods. Knowing the battle taking place, God was already going before Brittany and preparing the way.
Now, just a year since Brittany followed her calling, The Retreat Home for Children is one of very few places in Texas that will treat young girls who have been sexually exploited or trafficked. In fact, state agencies have kept their eyes on The Retreat as Brittany was building this highly specialized ministry.
“We are considered a residential treatment and assessment center, and we take the highest intense level kiddos. There are very few places that are specialized for identified victims of human trafficking,” Brittany says.
The girls, “my girls” Brittany says, who are sent to The Retreat come from the state, or even from groups in traffic ring busts. The difference between The Retreat and other shelters, is the level of treatment and care the girls are provided, along with the agape love of Christ and His gospel.
Mariana Fernandez, LCP, serves as The Retreat’s Clinical Director. She organizes group and individual therapy sessions using Bible studies for teens that teach each girl their identity and strengths. In their individualized counseling they learn to recognize triggers as well as normalize negative emotions and how to cope with them, says Mariana.
The Retreat was given enough money for their first 90 days of operations through a donor. The approximate cost for one house mom and four girls to receive therapies is $400 per day. The Retreat receives $400 per day from the state to meet these needs. However, this leaves nothing extra for the girls’ comforts, additional staff or growth. Finances, donations, and volunteers are a desperate need right now.
“Above all I want my girls to know Christ – they will leave here knowing who He is and who to look to. We want to show them Jesus through the way we care for and guide them and they will take that with them. Maybe 20 years down the road they will wonder what was different about this place from others? It was Jesus,” Brittany says. “I need to tell the whole world – there’s nothing you can’t do if there is a need that is for good; God can equip you to do it, you just have to ask, be willing, and He’ll do it!”
Taken from The Beacon July 2021 Edition https://www.sabeacon.com/stories/the-retreat-home-for-children.html
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