Since 1979, Children of the Night has operated a variety of programs for America’s child sex trafficking victims including a 24-hour toll free nationwide hotline, a drop-in center in the heart of Hollywood, street programs throughout the Western United States, and a world-class shelter home in Van Nuys (1992 – 2017) where 3,048 children lived and received comprehensive case management and onsite schooling.
Over the years, we have maintained a 70% - 80% success rate and we have placed hundreds of America’s child sex trafficking victims in college.
Children of the Night has gained the reputation as one of the most prominent and successful organizations in the nation addressing the needs of America’s sex trafficked children. Since our inception, all Children of the Night programs have been exclusively funded by private donors.
The Early Years
In the mid-70’s Lois Lee, a master’s student in Sociology at California State University Dominguez Hills, reviewed popular literature on civil rights activists, pimps and hustlers.
She catalogued the social psychological strategies pimps used to control women and created a typology of strategies entitled “The Pimp and His Game.”
“The Pimp and His Game” became one of the most recognized works of Lois Lee, and in the 80’s she served as an expert witness for state and federal courts to prosecute pimps who skillfully manipulated women and little girls into prostitution. Lee’s work clearly delineates why victims of prostitution are reluctant to testify against the pimp/trafficker, and she has trained thousands of members of law enforcement worldwide to intervene and engage the victim of prostitution in the prosecution of the pimp/trafficker. Her testimony resulted in some of the first prosecutions of pimps/traffickers, including the first life sentence (United States v. Carlos Curtis).
In 1975, as a PhD student in sociology, Lois Lee initiated lawsuits against the Los Angeles Police Department and Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department for the unequal enforcement of the prostitution law. She analyzed thousands of police reports filed by LAPD and LASO and testified to the police practices of arrests for prostitution. While documenting the number of female and male prostitutes and the small number of customers, she was struck by the fact the most common age of female prostitutes was 19 years old.
This led Lee to the streets of Hollywood where she asked young prostitutes if they were really 19. She was struck by the number of children using false identification provided by a pimp to avoid juvenile hall if arrested – thus they could be easily bailed out as adults.
It was during this time the “Hillside Stranglers” had murdered, tortured and displayed the corpses of 10 young prostitutes on hillsides in Hollywood. A young prostitute defendant Lee met while testifying in the court challenge of police practices of arrests for prostitution called Lois Lee one evening. She told Lee of a young girl she sent to meet a man for prostitution. The girl had not returned and the address the man provided did not exist in the Thomas Guide nor was he answering the phone number he provided. These and other unusual circumstances created an alarm of danger.
Lois Lee tracked the information provided by the caller, relying on expertise she had cultivated in interviews with prostitutes, police and from the police reports she researched and identified the location of the male caller. After hours of talking with the police and standing in the police department she was told by an LAPD officer, “We are not sending a car because this girl is just a whore who changed “trick houses.”
Frustrated, Lois Lee called a KNBC reporter who had been covering her court cases. In the early morning hours, the reporter went to the location and confirmed the facts Lois presented.
The next morning it was confirmed the young girl was Hillside Strangler Victim #11 – she was only 17 years old.
Angrily, Lois appeared on KNBC and stated, “If you are in the prostitution business and you know who the Hillside Strangler is and don’t want to talk to the police, don’t call them call me.” Her home telephone number appeared under her interview, and Lois immediately became a legend among the underground sex trade. This effort eventually led to the arrest and prosecution of Angelo Buono and Kenneth Bianchi.
Lois met members of the adult entertainment world and found children working in adult entertainment and from 1979 – 1981 over 250 children ages 11 – 17 lived in her home – girls, boys and transgender youth from all over America.
Since that time, Children of the Night has been uniquely positioned to identify prostituted children not accessible to law enforcement or traditional social service agencies.
These children were rejected by their parents, social workers and the juvenile courts.
Lee began her crusade to force social workers to include prostituted children in their system of care, but in the meantime, something had to be done about the children who were being referred by the underground.
The Hollywood Drop in Center (1981 – 1989)
In 1981, Lois Lee established the first drop in center specifically for children who were prostituting for food to eat and a place to sleep. Thousands of children came through the doors of the drop-in center in the heart of Hollywood to take showers, receive food, clothes, government identification, medical referrals, dental referrals, take naps, etc. Children of the Night was their home during the day, and they slept on the streets at night – shelters were not available for children engaged in prostitution.
Support for Dr. Lee’s work came from the far right and the far left – from President Reagan’s Kitchen Cabinet to the famed Hugh Hefner of Playboy. The only shared characteristic of Children of the Night’s supporters was their compassion for a forgotten group of children.
Children of the Night’s Street Teams (1977 – 1999)
Children of the Night was noted for its gutsy outreach on the streets to help prostituted children and to find forgotten kids no matter how dangerous or filthy the conditions where they lived. Children of the Night outreach workers put stickers on payphones “Tired of Turning Tricks – Pimps Don’t Care – We Do Call Day or Night,” they ran ads in weekly newspapers and stood side by side with pimps competing for the attention of kids at risk. Children of the Night expanded its street outreach program throughout the Western United States and operated a team reaching out to truckers in the truck stops from Los Angeles to Las Vegas.
Children of the Night’s street programs were so successful that the Los Angeles Police Department’s Hollywood station referred all missing children reports to Children of the Night.
Children of the Night street team’s intelligence network, made up of pimps, parolees, drug dealers, truckers, bikers, detention center staff and undercover cops, could identify a missing child within 3 hours.
Children of the Night staff and volunteers has received worldwide recognition for their work and their expertise has been sought after by law enforcement, politicians, prosecutors and parents for over 40 years.
Our World Class 24 Bed Shelter Home for Prostituted Children (1992-2017)
In 1992, Children of the Night opened a world-class 24 bed shelter home for American children (ages 11-17) who were prostituted right here in the United States. The home maintained 12 bedrooms, 14 bathrooms, an onsite school, case managers, outing directors and 24-hour awake child care staff. Between 1992 and 2017 there were 3,048 children who lived in the Children of the Night home.
Children of the Night residents were required to attend school onsite Monday through Thursday 10 am to 5 pm. Our students participated in the Los Angeles County Science Fair and typically won at least one honorable mention each year. One year a student placed fifth in the State of California competition.
Fridays were reserved for outings to amusement parks, fairs, movie sets, beaches, museums, and more, and Sundays the children participated in our sports program and enjoyed a family-style BBQ lunch.
College bound residents were placed in college prep summer camps at Stanford University with children from all over the world.
Hundreds of our children graduated on to college and Children of the Night maintains over 800 active alumni.
New Laws and New Culture in 2017
In 2018, Dr. Lee claimed victory with mixed blessings. Children who have been prostituted are now accepted in social services and eligible for foster care. These children are now regarded as victims and cannot be arrested for prostitution.
Disappointingly, law enforcement has begun to use federal policies to hold prostituted children in solitary confinement on “witness protection holds” until they testifiy against a pimp/trafficker, and when released they are dumped into foster care or homeless shelters based only on their age.
The social services system is ill prepared to provide adequate intervention and care for the prostituted child. Prostituted children are still viewed as dirty or vulgar and willing participants in their own victimization.
Social workers throughout the United States routinely reach out to Children of the Night case managers for assistance in providing services to prostituted youth. Together, with new entitlements afforded by social services jurisdiction (government identification, public health insurance, funds for placement) we can provide effective intervention and placement services for prostituted children who had no resources prior to recent changes in state laws.
Residential programs are no longer relevant to sex trafficked youth. The digital age has changed the conditions of children who have been sex trafficked significantly.
Today, children run to their friends on social media instead of running to the streets. Frequently they end up with more dangerous people and require rescue services.
For some children, the gang members who dominate the streets become the new residential care, the family, the neighborhood. Gang members do not allow children to live in shelter homes even for a short respite.
In response to children who do not want to be separated from their families or forced to testify against a pimp/trafficker, Dr. Lois Lee developed a new trailblazing case management program taking critical social services and education to the child no matter where he or she lived or moved throughout America.
Our new case management program is in demand by prostituted youth who are rejecting traditional social services. Some of our youth are still active in prostitution, others are in recovery homes or domestic violence programs. We go where prostituted children lead us.
Our new case management program is nationwide, and is complemented with free one on one online tutoring for the high school equivalency exam so graduates can be eligible for the military, law enforcement, trade and vocational schools, and community college.
Our tutoring program only requires 2 – 3 hours a week of regular tutoring. There are no fees, and no need to stay in a program. All the youth needs is a mobile device and Wi-Fi.
Children of the Night’s New Global Programs for Child Sex Trafficking Victims
Our online tutoring program is so much in demand for child sex trafficking victims we have answered the cries of Christian programs providing refuge to child sex trafficking victims in other parts of the world. Today we are tutoring child sex trafficking victims in English and Math in Cambodia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, the Dominican Republic, Nepal, India and Ghana.
To see more about our current programs, click here.