Unlocking freedom: The value of data

“If there is a single and affordable piece of work to be done to…track progress for children, it is getting every child born, everywhere, an indelible legal record of his or her birth.” – Susan Bissell, Chief of Child Protection at UNICEF

At 14 years old, Maria left her grandparents and five siblings in Guatemala to live with her Aunt Rosa in Chicago and to help care for her two young cousins.  After Maria’s mother was murdered two years ago, Maria’s grandparents sent her to the United States hoping for a better life — a life away from poverty, violence, a crowded house and an uncertain future.

As planned, Maria was smuggled into the United States by Rosa’s boyfriend, Jorge. But instead of taking her to Rosa’s home, Jorge kidnapped Maria and forced her into a dingy house in the Chicago suburbs. Once inside Maria looked into the faces of 15 other girls, all around her age. At that moment, she knew she wasn’t going to see her aunt again.

Jorge threatened to kill Rosa and her two children if Maria tried running away. Reminding Maria that she lacked legal paperwork and identification, Jorge described a worse fate that she could face on the streets of Chicago. Since arriving nine months ago, Maria has never left the house and has been raped every day by Jorge’s “clients.” Maria wonders how anyone will come to rescue her, if no one even knows she exists.

Take Maria’s story and multiply it by more than 200 million—a rough estimate of the number of children living outside family care or considered at risk. While the context of each child’s story is different, the plight remains the same: a child separated from his or her family can be invisible to the rest of the world.

In combatting child trafficking, prevention begins with identification.  As long as a child lacks identifying records, finding solutions that serve the best interests of that child remains elusive. Moreover, there is currently no easy way to collect and guard basic information about each child’s identity, history and status.

In response to this major gap in global efforts to care for and protect highly vulnerable children, Each Inc. is working to build strategic capacity and to provide technology support for child care practitioners.

In Maria’s case, once she is freed from the brothel, her social workers could use tools developed by Each Inc. to find better solutions to rehabilitate her and reunite her with her grandparents.

Not the typical non-profit, Each Inc. sits at the intersection of business technologies and child welfare and protection services. With the help of technology partner Transcompute, Each Inc. has developed innovative, tech-based solutions that can securely track each child’s life story.

This year Each Inc. is launching a pilot program in Guatemala to build a customized case management system for child welfare and government workers. Each Inc. has already secured its first major grant for the work in Guatemala and is in discussions with potential funders for projects in other Central American and East African countries.

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