Catholic home for sex-trafficked girls to open after 3-year fight with state
SAN DIEGO, California, August 4, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — A Catholic charity is preparing to open a home for underage victims of human-trafficking after reaching a resolution with California officials who refused for years to grant the charity a license to open a refuge.
Since filing a lawsuit in 2019, Children of the Immaculate Heart (CIH), a religious charity that helps women escape sex-trafficking, reached a resolution with the California authorities, allowing them to open a house for girls age 12–17 who have been victims of human-trafficking.
“We were able to meet the state regulations in a way that did not compromise our conscience as a Catholic agency,” Grace Williams, founder and executive director of Children of the Immaculate Heart, told Catholic News Agency.
“It’s a loss for girls that couldn’t be home sooner, but we’re happy we are where we are,” she said.
After three years of being refused a license, CIH decided to file a lawsuit accusing California officials of delaying the license for the project and violating the charity’s constitutional rights.
Licensing officials made it clear that they found CIH’s Catholic identity “offensive” and openly voiced their disagreement with the charity’s religious beliefs when it came to homosexuality and abortion.
Officials originally demanded that CIH certify that it would promote LGBT events, drive residents to get abortions, and support children while they received hormones to make them look like a member of the opposite sex. CIH refused to cooperate.
“Maybe the cultural milieu is not on our side, but the constitution is on our side, which is why we felt comfortable filing the lawsuit,” Williams said. “In the end, we didn’t even have to finish it in court.”
On June 10, the California Department of Social Services issued CIH a provisional license to operate the refuge as a short-term residential therapeutic program after settling the lawsuit out of court.
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This means that CIH may now offer therapeutic services and support for trafficked young people referred to the refuge by the San Diego County Department of Probation and Child Welfare Services.
CIH plans to begin staff training at the refuge next week and plans to open to girls referred from probation and child welfare officials in the third week of August.
“As an organization, our staff is doubling in size,” Williams said. “It’s a big push, operationally, financially, and everything.”
The Refuge, a four-bedroom home on two acres in Escondido in San Diego County, can house up to six girls, who may stay for up to two years. It will provide targeted mental health treatment, family relationship building, life skills development like self-care and job readiness, and individualized academic coursework.
“We want them to become economically self-sufficient and, of course, we want them to encounter the love of Christ, which gives meaning and direction to all of our lives, and eternal life,” she said.