Hosts Lynette Ezell and Tera Melber welcome back human trafficking survivor Christa Lynn to extend the conversation of how foster and adoptive parents can engage in Holy Spirit-led parenting of children who have been harshly impacted by trafficking. In this episode, she shares the five protective factors used in training people who serve exploited girls and boys through the One More Child Anti-Trafficking organization.

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Speaker 1: Welcome to the Adopting and Fostering Home Podcast. Whether your family has been on this journey for years or you’re just getting started, we’re here to support and encourage you along the way. And now your hosts, Lynette Ezell and Tera Melber.

Lynette Ezell: Welcome back to the Adopting and Fostering Home Podcast. We’re going to pick up again today with part two of our conversation with Christa Lynn. Now, as you remember, Christa was raised by a mom who, herself, was in human trafficking, and she was trafficked beginning really at age 13, but everything changed in her life when she came to know the Lord as her savior at age 29. She’s now working in ministry, thriving. They’re thriving as a family, and she spends every single day pouring her life into those who are coming out of trafficking.

Tera Melber: Lynette, what I especially loved about our conversation in part two with Christa, is that she talked about five protective factors that foster parents can think about when they’re dealing with children who’ve been exploited, or have been trafficked themselves. Honestly, these five protective factors work altogether for foster parents in general. So, I love the fact that she brings that in, and she takes these five protective factors and ties them in with our walk with the Lord and with prayer, which is so important.

Lynette Ezell: Yeah, they’re incredibly useful. I just remember the light bulb coming on when she was sharing those, because I didn’t come from that background. So when I bring a child into my home from that background, I feel like, what was white to me is now black, and that we just aren’t on the same field, and we’re not.

Tera Melber: Right.

Lynette Ezell: And so when she shared those five protective factors, that really helps prepare foster families and adoptive families, especially with an older child adoption, to put up those boundaries, but to parent from grace and to parent that way. Man, we just had to share those and do a part two with her today.

Tera Melber: That’s right. So we’re excited for you guys to hear what Christa Lynn has to share.

Tera Melber: Well, Christa, what I find even through the Lord’s redemption of your life is that He’s using you now to work with victims of human trafficking, which is incredible.

Christa Lynn: Absolutely.

Lynette Ezell: Yes.

Tera Melber: I wonder, because you work with the girls that have been trafficked, why do you think that foster children are such a target for traffickers?

Christa Lynn: Yeah, so at One More Child Anti-Trafficking, we actually work with girls and boys, and sadly I can say there’s plenty of boys that we serve, and there’s even way too many 10-year olds. That just is mind boggling.

Tera Melber: Yes it is.

Christa Lynn: And we serve up to the age of 24. I would say that why it’s so prevalent in the foster care system is because the very things that lead us to needing the foster care system are the vulnerabilities that make us susceptible to exploiters and traffickers. When you look at what it takes to raise a healthy, strong teenager into young adulthood, you’re talking five protective factors:

Parental resilience. If we’re needing the foster care system, then somewhere along the line there was not parental resilience in our home life.

Social connections. They are most often missing while we’re in need of the foster care system, and once we get into it, these things can be there. But it means we’ve already experienced the lack of social connections.

Concrete support in times of need. Again, the foster care system, when done right, and we at One More Child, we do it right, and we see Christ-centered foster families that are just powerfully changing the lives of children and teens. But before they are removed and able to get into the foster care system, which is heartbreaking, they were lacking concrete support.

Knowledge of parenting and child development. You look at my own mom who was, and she always said, “miraculously,” able to keep us in her care. We’re still, as a family, all unsure whether that was good or not. Today we love that we grew up together, but there’s a lot of downside to that.

We weren’t taken into custody, but she lacked knowledge of parenting and child development. And because of that, by the time I was 12 she didn’t understand how to parent a preteen and instead saw my development, and honestly, she can say later years before she passed away, she panicked, and she became an emotional abuser to me because she saw me becoming a beautiful young woman and it terrified her.

Lynette Ezell: Oh, I bet.

Christa Lynn: Because of the things that had happened to her, and instead of protecting me, she started emotionally abusing me, calling me names and things that I had never heard of or even knew, which then disconnected me even further. And so, by the time we’re in the foster care system, all of those things have impacted who we are and the all become vulnerabilities that make a trafficker, like the one who posed as a boyfriend, able to lure me away from anyone healthy, convinced me to come to his house, and then isolate me and make it impossible for me to get help.

By that point, even if I had come back in contact while being trafficked with the school system or healthcare, I didn’t believe adults could help me. I believe they judged me and labeled me and had more harm for me. And that’s the reality that by the time we get to foster care of what you’re looking at, is you as a foster parent may know you have good intentions and that you’re being educated in trauma and have the right insight. But we have years of reasons not to trust adults or love.

Lynette Ezell: Yes. Oh absolutely. And in what I hear you saying in all those points you shared is the need for community and support.

Tera Melber: Right.

Christa Lynn: Oh, my goodness. I mean, 100%. When people ask me the needs, there’s so many tangibles, but you have to start with compassion, a compassionate community, a knowledgeable, compassionate community that not only supports foster families and raises up foster families, but just is building faith community in general for teenagers who’ve come from trauma and exploitation to live in.

Lynette Ezell: Christa, what would you say is one or some of the greatest needs that these young people have as they’re coming out of human trafficking?

Christa Lynn: Yeah, and I would say it goes back to compassion and foster parents who are trained in trauma, who are trained and capable of just giving Christ’s love in such a compassionate way. We call it boundaries, grace and respect. So we want to see foster parents trained in how to use boundaries, grace and respect. We don’t believe compassion means a lack of boundaries.

Tera Melber: Right.

Christa Lynn: Boundaries are the most beautiful thing that help us live in community and overcome the past and build life skills. But those boundaries need to be done with so much understanding that whether it’s punching a wall or skipping school, that the boundaries say, this isn’t acceptable, there’s consequences to this and this has to stop. But the compassion that just exudes through the tone of voice and the look in the eyes says, it makes sense that you’re doing this. And if I had been harmed and exploited the way you have, I can imagine I’d be doing the same thing, yet I still can’t allow you to do this.

Lynette Ezell: Oh, that is such a great point.

Tera Melber: I heard someone the other day who said when she came to the point that she said, this behavior is not acceptable, but it is understandable, it allowed me to forgive and understand the ‘why,’ so that I could give the unconditional love that was needed.

Christa Lynn: Absolutely. That is so well said. It is understandable but not acceptable.

Lynette Ezell: Well, Christa, I know the journey to healing is very long and very hard and the enemy fights at every turn. As you step forward, he wants to pull us back. But I know that you shared with me that having a trusted prayer partner has really made a difference in your life. What has the Lord taught you about prayer?

Christa Lynn: When you look at my story and so many others that at One More Child we get to work with, it has everything. It starts with prayer. You look at that night for me, and it started with prayer before I even understood how to pray. I also can look back and see that it started with the prayers of other Christ followers before I was even ready to accept it. And so, we think that that prayer life with Jesus Christ has to be the foundation. It’s where you’re accessing the Holy spirit guidance and comfort ourselves in order to be foster parents or support foster parents who are taking in trafficked and exploited teens.

When we’re talking adults, prayer in my opinion, is the main thing that is going to break these generational cycles.

Lynette Ezell: That’s right.

Christa Lynn: We know that to break these generational cycles, that a community who prays together, a community of Christ followers who are standing together in prayer, is going to be able to just walk this dark journey. It’s a war. You’re fighting to battle not just adult women who’ve been trafficked and exploited, and the bitterness that Satan wants to use to have us continue in destruction. You’re fighting that. You’re also fighting us being able to raise our children without the years of healthy parenting skills that only through Christ and our relationship and prayer with him, can the Holy spirit guide us in these skills that we’re not going to come to the table with automatically. And then the comfort and support of praying together with other women. I believe God uses those prayers not just to transform us who’ve been exploited, but also to transform those who haven’t been exploited, and to help them be able to access the compassion that can only come from God.

Tera Melber: Christa, I know that when you’re talking about all of these things and the difficulties, especially if you’re fostering a child who’s been exploited or trafficked, that we have to consider… I know there’s a lot of training and knowledge that go into parenting with trauma, but how do you all talk to foster parents about dealing with all of these continuous battles? I just think they have to really be very mindful of their own walk with the Lord, their past and what they’re bringing to the relationship.

Lynette Ezell: And maybe what their triggers are.

Tera Melber: Right.

Christa Lynn: Oh, absolutely.

Tera Melber: Or even just being healthy in general so that they have the most capacity to care for them. But what suggestions do you all give to foster parents in this arena?

Christa Lynn: So we use the five protective factors, and let’s go back to tie the five protective factors into a deep prayer life. Because parental resilience, if you’ve been a parent for a day, it’s stressful, and all of the things out there to help it be less stressful are not as powerful as time with the Lord. It’s just instant peace and ability through communicating with Him and His word, and in just deep prayer that we are able to have that resilience we need.

Social connections through the body of Christ. We are able to support each other through the dark times that exist in many ways, but especially when we’re trying to help a trafficked teen through fostering them. And the concrete support in times of needs is the third protective factor, that again, as foster parents, they need concrete support in times of need. So I’m not just talking about the foster parents giving it to the teen. The foster parent needs concrete support in times of need.

Tera Melber: Right.

Lynette Ezell: Yes.

Christa Lynn: And that should trickle down. And some of that concrete support does start with knowing that people are praying for them and people care. Knowledge of parenting and child development. Again, biblical truth about parenting and child development are what we teach. We do work in the realm of teaching from development from the brain standpoint, but we love tying in scriptures that help just understand our role as parents or foster parents. And then social and emotional competence of children. Social and emotional competence of children is something that we work on with all of our foster parents. And it, again, ties back to prayer, because if we’re trying to build competence socially and emotionally in them, we do need support to weather out the ups and downs and compassionately teach our children and teens who’ve been trafficked how to build their emotional competence.

Lynette Ezell: Well, I love how you share in some of your writings and when you speak that you were able, the Lord brought you so far, that you were just able to say, “Yes Lord, I’m all yours. Now what do you want me to do?” And that’s when the Lord, he was able to take you to One More Child, and you say it was all for the name of Jesus, for his sake and for his glory.

Christa Lynn: Absolutely. I think when I was on my way to that rehab after getting out of jail, they hand you back your cigarettes and your lighter because you’re not allowed to smoke in there. And the whole time I was in there, I had definitely thought, Oh, I want to live for God, but never thought I don’t want to smoke that cigarette when I get out, so I had really been focused on, “I’m going to smoke that cigarette,” and I went to put that cigarette in my mouth and took the lighter and went to put the lighter up, and today can recognize that just whisper from the Holy spirit that you can’t do this, that this doesn’t go with the life that God’s called me to, and I just stopped and threw it out and said right then that I’m going to say yes to God whenever I know what he’s asking, I’m going to be a person who says yes to God.

And my prayer is that as we raise up just women who come together, whether having experienced exploitation and needing healing, or on the side of they’ve had healing and now are giving back, or haven’t experienced trafficking or trauma, but God is calling them to help by fostering, my prayer is that we all have a heart that just says yes to God, that when we hear what he’s asking of us, we say yes, whether it’s through his word or that beautiful whisper from the Holy Spirit.

Lynette Ezell: Well, I know you’re going to share your story on February the 15th during the She Loves Out Loud simulcast, and just tell everyone joining us today a little bit more about She Loves Out Loud.

Christa Lynn: Absolutely. So, She Loves Out Loud is a national prayer movement where we’re bringing women together to pray for a multitude of issues that are facing us as a nation and as women and as families, and my part is for childhood trauma and trafficking. And I just absolutely love that She Loves Out Loud understands that we need a movement that just has us come together as a nation and start to stand firm on just a prayer relationship with Jesus Christ.

That that is where the healing and the peace that we all need, and from out of that spot, we will each know what to say yes to whether it’s military wives coming together, or abortion and adoption. These are all issues that we as Christ followers, whether we’ve suffered ourselves or standing beside those who suffer, need to come together in prayer. And so my part is helping us come together to break the cycles of bitterness that do lead to more destruction, and knowing how to stand together as women in deep, dedicated prayer lives. Not just on February 15th but continually after.

Lynette Ezell: Well, it’s going to be a great day, whether we gather as women in our living rooms, it’s a free simulcast. And so we’re encouraging gals to get your friends together, join together in your living room or at your church or your neighborhood club house, wherever, and stories like yours, Christa, are just going to be a great encouragement to everyone that day on February the 15th.

Christa Lynn: Thank you. I’m super grateful and excited to see what God’s going to do. I know it’s going to be huge.

Lynette Ezell: We’ll share more information, how people can read more about you, and some resources that you recommend in our show notes. But Christa Lynn, thank you so much for your time today and just being so incredibly honest and transparent, but at the same time, at the end of every sentence, pointing us back to Jesus.

Tera Melber: Absolutely. Thanks for joining us, Christa Lynn. We appreciate it.

Christa Lynn: Thank you so much. Fight for what you do.

Lynette Ezell: Thank you. We appreciate you. Thanks for sharing.

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