Posted on February 13, 2016 by Inka Mathew


Freedom Place is a Christ-centered care and recovery center for underage female victims of domestic child sex trafficking. It is the first long-term, comprehensive care facility in Texas for underage victims of domestic child sex trafficking and is one of only five such facilities in the United States. Our mission is to offer a successful path to freedom for American children who have suffered as victims of commercial sexual exploitation.

139Made is honored to feature Freedom Place and to support them in their fight against sex trafficking in our Houston Metro area. Since Freedom Place is the first program of its kind in the United States, they have become the model that others look to for best practices in serving victims of domestic child sex trafficking. We interviewed Shandra Carter, the Executive Director of Freedom Place, on a short Q&A about their story, work, and mission.

Q:  Could you tell us how what sparked the birth of Freedom Place?

A:  In Summary and simply put God sparked the birth of Freedom Place! These girls are important to Him and the ability for them to get the healing they so desperately need is at the core. Several women, in various stages of their lives, found themselves learning more and more about the atrocities of the crimes of human sex trafficking while overseas. Upon returning to the US, a stark realization occurred, no services were available in Texas for minor, domestic girls coming out of this lifestyle. These women had a vision but the plans and the details were not as clear. That is until a "coincidental" lunch meeting sat Nikki Richnow, and Arrow's Founder, Mark Tennant next to each other. Nikki shared the vision to help these young girls and Mark shared that he had 110 acres, used for foster care summer camps that he was trying to identify the potential purpose. Arrow had the experience of being the premier leader of helping abused and neglected children and little did Nikki know at the time, years prior Arrow had legally named the 110 acres... Freedom Place! In March of 2012, the work of many and the divine assignment of the Lord led Arrow's Freedom Place to open it's doors to serve girls in need.
You can also download the full article on the origins of Arrow's Freedom Place.

Q:  What are the ways in which Freedom Place is helping survivors of sex trafficking?

A:  We are a safe place, but that takes time to fully realize. As we serve these girls, we use the Trust Based Relational Intervention to allow the trauma to be healed and begin to build healthy attachments. Everything we do at Freedom Place is focused on rehabilitative care and this includes therapeutic time all the way to play time! We utilize a fully accredited school to assist them in their educational needs, vocational training to equip them for their next steps after Freedom Place, and incorporate non-verbal communicators to help build trust and value to each girl, including equine therapy, ropes challenge course, and soon a canine therapy program where girls will have comfort and security while testifying on the witness stand when necessary. Transitional planning begins when a girl arrives and is very individualized. All aspects of Freedom Place are focused on helping these survivors become healthy, productive members of society.


Q:  From your experience, what would you say is the toughest challenge in the process of helping and caring for trafficking survivors?

A:  People coming into the field can often be surprised by the healing process required for survivors. Building trust and connection with a survivor is an earned process. We must earn the trusted place as helper not expect instant gratitude or reciprocity for our compassion. This can be a long and sometimes exhausting path. Compassion fatigue and vicarious trauma are always “job hazards” when you choose to work in the field of trauma. Good self-care and healthy boundaries are certainly the prevention to these very real problems but they often get lost in “the work”. Self-care can be seen as a luxury rather than a stewardship or a responsibility. But the truth is keeping ourselves mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually nourished makes us much more effective and present in our jobs and better able to do “the work”. The sense of urgency in sex-trafficking work can become consuming and cause workers and volunteers to sacrifice their own personal boundaries. The role in fighting sex trafficking can start to take over other roles, like parent or spouse or friend. When we become last on the list to be cared for, we are left with little to give and lose our spark and passion as caregivers. There is a reason you are told to put your own oxygen mask on in an emergency on a plane before helping others. It just becomes really difficult to do these things when you are constantly surrounded by suffering.

Q:  What is a favorite story or a victory you were able to see achieved in the life of Freedom Place?

A:  Freedom Place has been able to serve 86 since its inception. Many of the girls keep in touch with us after they leave. We had one girl who was able to graduate high school during her time with us. She recently called and spoke to one of the team as she was about to walk into her first college classroom. This was a tremendous victory for her.

Q:  How can the every day person join Freedom Place in fighting human trafficking? What advice would you give for someone who wanted to really make a difference?

A:  The National Human Trafficking Resource Center has a hotline.  We always encourage people to put the number in their cell phone. 1-888-373-7888. We want people to do something if they see something but they need a resource. This is an excellent resource. If you have questions or need connection to appropriate local resource, they can help.

Freedom Place is a program of Arrow Child and Family Ministries. We know that 1 in 6 runaways will be victimized by trafficking and of those runaways, 68% have been served by social services. Arrow is committed to helping these children and strengthening these families. Arrow’s foster care programs are what we consider prevention work. Getting involved with Arrow, whether directly with Freedom Place or with their other programs, is a great way to make an impact — www.arrow.org

Thank you, Shandra, for taking the time to do this written interview with 139Made.


Another way to support Freedom Place is to purchase our shirts and spread the word about them! 10% of our sales until MAY 13, 2016, will be donated to Freedom Place. You can click here to shop our collection.

For further information on Freedom Place, please check out their:
Website: arrow.org/freedomplace
Facebook  |  Twitter