Over the past year, I've helped Co-Direct and Co-Produce a short doc with Tiffany Kieran about T. Ortiz and her journey of surviving human trafficking within the foster care system with help from her CASA (Court-Appointed Special Advocate). The film is entitled "I Stopped Counting." This project was spearheaded by Dallas CASA and their program director, Chad Frymire and CEO, Kathy LaValle.
Dallas CASA premiered the film to coincide with the launch of a new training program to help child advocates recognize the signs of trafficking. The training program was created in tandem with LA based Saving Innocence.
There are over 440,000 foster kids in America and the FBI estimates that over 100,000 of them are sexually trafficked. It was a staggering number to read when I came across it during research.
T. Ortiz is an extraordinary person, having survived being trafficked since the age of 10. She's gone on to attain a college degree, which only 3% of foster children achieve. She has gone on to speak at the UN, Congress, and many other platforms to help educate and share her story for the many who are exploited without a voice.
Having served as a Dallas CASA advocate myself for seven years, it was a no brainer when they reached out in finding a partner to help tell this story. There are many people who helped make this film possible and hopefully it will make an impact and help create more awareness for this horrible tragedy that plagues our community and country.
According to Dallas CASA Program Director Chad Frymire:
Foster youth are often looking for anyone to love them, so when an adult shows what looks like love the youth is easily manipulated. Often without them realizing what’s happening, the victim is trafficked. We want every youth to know they are seen and valued and have worth. With better prepared and educated volunteers, we can fight the scourge of human trafficking.
These traffickers are cunning and they look for the most vulnerable, which is all too often kids in foster care. They go to shelters and residential treatment centers. They brainwash these kids to feel like the trafficker loves them, but the trafficker is making money off them. It’s sick and disgusting, and we want our community to come together and fight this horrendous crime.
Representatives from Texas Governor Gregg Abbott's office, the Texas Legislature, the Dallas Commissioners court, the District Attorney's office, Texas CASA, the Fraternal Order of Eagles, and Earthx were on hand for the premiere.