Hoyleton HALO Project | National Sexual Abuse Awareness Month

As a nation, our attention is turned to dealing with COVID-19 and helping our communities adjust to the realities of shelter-in-place. While self-isolation slows down the transmission of COVID-19, the flip-side is that self-isolation leaves many individuals vulnerable to abuse. April is National Sexual Abuse Awareness Month. It is not often that individuals catch a glimpse into the lives of commercially sexually exploited children (CSEC). Human trafficking is both in plain sight and hidden. At Hoyleton, we have a unique program, Healing And Loving Oneself (HALO), which offers hope and a means of recovery and healing for youth that have been sexually exploited. Below, a Hoyleton HALO Advocate and a client share their reflections on the journey to the other side.  

To whoever is entering HALO,

It will be tough at first and you will be tested a lot but in the end, it will all be worth it! What is HALO to me? HALO helps people like me stay out of the streets. How? I used to think of running the streets every day. Now, I am almost seventeen, and all I want is to be successful in life. I want to go to college and have a good job and a nice place to stay. Alexis has never given up on me even at the times I wanted to give up on myself. She has stayed consistent and became a very important person in my life. I’ve learned that running away from your problems only makes things worse because eventually, your problems are going to deal with you. 

-Female Youth

I know from my experience of working with victims and survivors of trafficking they often feel loss, trauma, a sense of hopelessness, and other challenging emotions. Individuals describe to me not feeling “normal” compared to others. As an advocate, I want to inspire hope for the individuals in HALO. Every client is unique, as is every session I do with them.  When I start working with them, I try to build a relationship by keeping our session topics light. We try to get to know each other and understand each other’s expectations. It is as important for me to understand their expectations as it is for them to understand mine.

As we begin to progress into the program, we will identify emotions and reactions to situations; this is important for them to learn as it sets the foundation for their coping skills. I do my best to help the client fill the need they are lacking (love, trust, knowledge, comfort, support, skills, etc.). During our weekly sessions, I start by checking in with them. How their week has been? What their struggles have been? Any good news to share? Sometimes the good news is the hardest part for them to identify.

Sessions have a loose structure as I let my client decide where to take the day’s session. Many of the clients struggle with love, trust, and acceptance, so I model to them what a healthy relationship should look like in their life. I do this by being there for them when they call, text, or message me. I listen to them when they are upset or confused. When they are unhappy with me, we talk through that and how they feel about the situation. I also talk with them about their experiences and help them understand their emotions. The clients get to practice the tools we worked on during our sessions when they communicate with me. These new skills help them feel empowered, and it helps them cope with what’s happening in their life. Transparency plays a key role in the client’s recovery. An individual needs to be open with me about where they are struggling in the process, so I know what our next steps should be. Best case scenario, I work with the client on life skills to move towards independence or stability. Worst case scenario, I am the one person in the client’s life that they know will not give up on them, judge them, and will always be there to pick them up when they fall.

While individuals cannot volunteer to work with survivors, they can partner with the Prevention Department. Donations in the form of gift cards are appreciated as youth are transitioning and moving into a place of security. Advocacy is another aspect of influencing the conversation surrounding sexual abuse and exploitation. The Prevention Department is available to educate individuals and groups on the topic to bring awareness to our communities. If you are interested, please contact the Prevention Department at 618.688.4739. Together, we can protect our children’s future.


#Hoyleton #HALO #NationalSexualAbuseAwarenessMonth

Hoyleton | World Day of Social Justice

"Hoyleton Youth and Family Services seeks to enable all people, young and old alike, to realize the wholeness of life that God intends. This will be accomplished with the compassion of Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit reaching out to meet the physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, and social needs of those with whom we journey."

HYFS Mission Statement

On November 26, 2007, the General Assembly of the United Nations designated the 20th of February, World Day of Social Justice. More than just mere observation, World Day of Social Justice brings together individuals, international organizations, and countries to move forward in protecting the rights and human dignity of individuals in a modern, global world. This year’s theme is Closing the Inequalities Gap to Achieve Social Justice, which continues to shed light on the inequities that occur in an interdependent, global economy that affects the means of production, finance, trade, and migration.

The objective of the United Nations is a lofty one, but the use of the word social justice is also a loaded term. As individuals, we tend to analyze the phrase through the lenses of our own experiences, socioeconomic status, political affiliation, and our religion. The phrase social justice can and does cause a strong emotional reaction that leaves individuals seeking refuge in their chosen tribes. To some individuals, social justice is a hand-up, equal access to means and opportunities. For others, social justice is the slippery slope to a handout, and a step away from socialism; two different schools of thought that lead to intractable stances and stifle dialogue.

While it is beneficial to discuss complex ideas on a global scale, most individuals are concerned with the social dynamics occurring within their communities, such as housing, access to quality food, adequate healthcare, and employment. At a fundamental level, individuals want to protect human rights and dignity for all, while striving for fairness. As an organization comprised of social workers, Hoyleton Youth and Family Services advocates for the wholeness of everyone within a community regardless of their circumstances.

Hoyleton's Mission Statement is not a reflection of political correctness, but of human compassion, coupled with building relationships and social networks that strengthen and uplift everyone within the community. Social workers are concerned with issues that hinder a person from achieving their maximum potential and solutions to removing social barriers. While social justice is a complex term to define and thus implement, its essence is enshrined in The Declaration of Independence. The preservation of the unalienable rights of an individual to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and the security of those rights, serve as a foundation for furthering human rights for all individuals.

As individuals, let us not become fixated on defining what is or is not social justice, to the detriment of how we treat others, which is a reflection of ourselves. Instead, ponder the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., "An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity."

To support the movement that Hoyleton has created in helping individuals that need assistance, visit Hoyleton.org to see how we are supporting children and families and how you can help.

Internet Safety Hacks and Child Safety

We were all told before the invention of the internet that the world could be a threatening place. While we have made a lot of progress as a society to make the world a safer place, the truth remains that there are still risks facing us.

Random cyberbullying attacks put children and young adults at risk. These attacks can cause mental stress, anxiety, poor academic performance, withdrawal, and, in some cases, a sense of hopelessness that leads to suicidal thoughts and acts, but there is hope. There are several things that you can do as a parent, educator, or guardian to guard against these senseless attacks and to protect children.

Cyberbullying can be made less effective by starting an open conversation. Create a safe place for your child by talking to them and actively listening. Be conscious of body language, and abrupt changes in behavior and academic performance can be crucial indications there is some harassment. If a child feels comfortable talking to someone in authority, they are more likely to discuss the issue rather than feeling guilty or as if they deserve the abuse.

More than 80 percent of teens use cell phones; 10-20 percent of adolescents experience daily cyberbullying. Accessing social media accounts, computers, and other electronic devices your child has can help you to track communication to and from others. Having this access is not a privacy invasion, but the creation of security around them.

One of our main jobs as parents and caregivers is to protect our children. Some steps to protect them may be as simple as limiting private computer time, parental apps on phones that monitor phrases and actions against a cyberbully, and pornographic sites. Some suggestions of protecting them early on is waiting until your child is a teenager before granting access to the cellphones. Some websites indicate lists of anti-bully apps that are available for parents to review. These apps can be free, or some may have one-time costs or monthly subscriptions.

There's a lot that we can do to enhance internet security, and it starts at home. If you don't have children, you can still be their champion. Reporting violence, fostering a positive self-image, and creating a safe space for encouraging conversations. Hoyleton's Prevention Department provides schools with educational resources as well as partnering with schools, and concerned community members to address these situations. Hoyleton's Prevention Department provides educational resources and partners with schools, and interested community members to expand on these matters.

Tips and Tricks

Information resources:

bullyingstatistics.org, stopbullying.gov, eschool.com

If you are interested in more information for your school or organization, please contact Hoyleton's prevention department at


These stats are from https://safeatlast.co/blog/kids-online-safety/#gref

Stats are from May 2019.

Letter From A Minor Survivor

We hope Holyleton has given you insight into trafficking during the National Human Trafficking Prevention Month. We also hope you have learned how you can be a catalyst for change within your culture. Trafficking is not an epidemic that only happens to other people in other areas, but is happening right here, in our communities and to our youth. Human trafficking takes place in industrial and metropolitan areas, towns, and rural communities alike. Hoyleton's Healing And Loving Oneself (HALO) focuses on mentoring youth and young adults, 11-25 years of age, who are identified as at-risk or survivors of human trafficking and sexual exploitation. The path to healing takes time and an advocate willing to fight alongside a client even when he/she cannot fight for themselves.

Below is a letter from a HALO survivor.

We encourage you to open your hearts and understand the courage it takes to move from a place of trauma to healing.

"What would I tell someone who's just starting out at HALO? Well first, I'd say to them, 'It's not going to be easy.' But I would also tell them that, 'It's worth every bit of time and effort.' The healing and growth from the first session to the last will move mountains in whoever's life.

Alexis (HALO advocate) is literally the reason I'm writing this. Not 'cause she made me, but because if it wasn't for her and her fighting for me, because surely I wasn't fighting for myself, I wouldn't be here now where I am. I cannot say that I'm upset that I was ever invited into the program, 'cause I fought so hard against everyone who had my best interest, and they turned around and fought back.'

The most important thing, I think, is that I've learned so much. I learned about myself. I learned that I deserve to be treated good. I am not an object. I deserve to be loved. I learned that everyone has a story, and what you don't deal with will eventually catch up with you. So find one person to share and talk with, even if it's just a second. The moment you realize what's inside that's one less thing that's going to eat at you. Alexis has taught me so much. One being that she's not easy to get rid of. She is my sister/mom."

*A special thank you to the HALO survivor for sharing their story and their creations.

If you know of an individual in need of help, please contact the HALO advocate at 618.688.4725. Or, if you are interested in supporting a survivor of human trafficking with a monetary donation or gift card, please call the Philanthropy Department at 618.688.7094. 

To learn more regarding human trafficking awareness and prevention, please contact the Prevention Department at 618.688.4739. The Prevention Department offers in-community, educational opportunities for individuals, churches, or organizations interested in being a voice for change for victims and survivors of human trafficking. Together, we can fight against human trafficking and restore the social fabric of our communities. One Voice. One Mission. End Human Trafficking.



National Human Trafficking Awareness | Myths vs. Facts

Can you identify which scenario involves sex trafficking?

  1. Michelle, age 15, lives in an unstable home environment. She attends a party with high school friends at Daniel’s house. Knowing Michelle’s situation, Daniel offers to let Michelle sleep on his couch if she has sex with him. 
  2. Elizabeth, age 17, has been in a relationship with her boyfriend Michael for five months. Michael tells Elizabeth that money is tight and she has to help pay the bills by sleeping with a few of his friends. Elizabeth has sex with Michael’s friend. Michael receives $75 from his friend for having sex with Elizabeth. 
  3. Catherine is 21 years old and from a small rural town when she meets Jonathan, the man of her dreams. Jonathan promises to take away and show her an exciting new life. Cathrine agrees and makes her way to Jonathan and the new life she envisions. Once she arrives, Jonathan forces her to perform sexual acts for money. 


The answer is ALL three scenarios are examples of sex trafficking. Sex trafficking is defined as the “recruitment, harboring, transportation, providing, or obtaining of a person for a commercial sex act, in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion. Or, in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age.”1

Learn the Terms

The term sex trafficking is a relatively new legal term in comparison with other distinct crimes. As more individuals become aware of this epidemic, both domestically and internationally, advocates for children continue to push for legislation to protect minors. The Illinois Safe Children Act of 20102 moved to not prosecute individuals under the age of 18 who performed a sexual act in exchange for anything of monetary value. The change in the criminal code addressed that a minor cannot consent to the commercial sexual exploitation of their bodies, and therefore be convicted of prostitution. Minors who are coerced or lured into commercial exploitation are immune from prosecution and are victims. However, a minor can be detained by law enforcement for their safety.

End the Trafficking

Ending human trafficking starts with educating ourselves on the topic and helping to raise awareness. We encourage individuals, organizations, and church groups to partner with Hoyleton’s Prevention Department on how you can make an impact in your community.  Individuals can support the Prevention Department’s Healing And Loving Oneself (HALO) program in providing care to our clients with a monetary donation, or gift cards (in small denominations for food, cell service, etc.). Together, we can protect our children’s childhood and their futures. One Voice. One Mission. End Human Trafficking. 

To contact our Prevention Department, call 618.688.4739. If you are contributing to this program, please note on your gift as the HALO program

1United States Department of Justice.  (October 28, 2000). The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000. (22 U.S.C. (7102 (9)). Retrieved from: https://www.justice.gov/humantrafficking2Illinois General Assembly. (August 20, 2010). Illinois Safe Children Act of 2010. (Bill Status of HB6462). Retrieved from:http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/BillStatus.asp?DocNum=6462&GAID=10&DocTypeID=HB&LegId=52490&SessionID=76&GA=96

To learn more about human trafficking, watch for our next blog next week.

HALO | Healing and Loving Oneself

Hoyleton's HALO program (Healing and Loving Oneself) is an in-community care service designed to raise awareness around human trafficking and support at-risk individuals between the ages 11-25 who are at risk or victims/ survivors of human trafficking. Survivors of human trafficking include individuals who have been trafficked for labor services and commercial sexual exploitation (CSE). Through both grass-roots effort and state involvement, HALO is reaching out to individuals who find themselves in difficult situations and vulnerable to exploitation. By raising awareness in the community, HALO advocates are changing the way society defines and relates to individuals who have been exploited. 

Youth who have been trafficked were once viewed as criminals within the justice system and now are considered victims. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000 defined trafficking and related offenses as federal crimes. The framework of the TVPA of 2000 brought the legislative power to focus on protecting, prosecuting, and preventing human trafficking domestically and internationally. The Illinois Safe Children Act of 2010 further solidified that youth who are lured or coerced into commercial sexual acts would be immune from criminal prosecution. Both legislative acts opened a dialogue and the need for language sensitivity in defining and protecting youth who have been exploited. Previous use of the term juvenile prostitution implies the child was a willing participant in the exploitation rather than a victim. By removing references to juvenile prostitution from the Illinois criminal code, it changes how law enforcement and community service providers view and treat youth who have been exploited. Now under the law, children are not arrested for soliciting but rather placed under the Department of Children and Family Services’ (DCFS) guardianship. At times, a youth may be detained by law enforcement for their protection and safety.

HALO’s trauma-informed model is woven into the program and strives to provide a safe space where youth who have been exploited can process their experience. Youth are referred to the HALO program through either DCFS or concerned community members. HALO advocates work to meet an individual’s needs, sometimes even starting with a client’s most basic need for food, a safe place, and clothes. As the youth and HALO advocate continues to build a bond of trust, attention is given to healing and processing their experience. It is common for a client to reject the label associated with their experience—human trafficking. Only by discussing and understanding what defines a healthy relationship/environment, can a survivor begin to make sense of their story. The HALO program fosters a positive sense of self and empowerment through learning life skills, creating/maintaining healthy attachments, trigger recognition, and learning coping mechanisms. 

Success for the youth is incremental. And each step forward in their recovery is to be celebrated. It is the goal of HALO to help each youth realize and maximize their potential. For more information regarding HALO or human trafficking advocacy, call the Prevention Department at 618.688.4739. Together we can protect our children’s childhood. One Voice. One Mission. End Human Trafficking.

Hoyleton | National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month

Help Hoyleton raise awareness of modern-day slavery and human trafficking in our communities through participation in the month of National Slavery and Prevention of Human Trafficking. Since January has been designated as a month to bring attention to an epidemic that helps fight as a nation here in the United States, both internationally and within our communities. Modern-day slavery and human trafficking sound like events that happen to “others” in “that part of the world.” The reality is this misconception is far from the truth. Indeed, newspapers are more likely to report stories of children fighting in armed conflicts and teenagers being sold into prostitution by their unstable families, and to recount the untold numbers and forced to work for little or no pay by men and women. However, modern-day slavery and human trafficking knows no borders and affects individuals regardless of age, gender, race, ethnicity, and economic status.

During January, Hoyleton will highlight how we are making an impact in our communities to fight against and prevent the exploitation of individuals, especially our youth. Hoyleton’s Healing and Loving Oneself (HALO) Project and Network Of Voice Against Trafficking And Exploitation (NOVATE) are two in-community programs aimed at reaching and mentoring exploited persons, and education communities in the prevention of human trafficking.

Each of us has an opportunity to make a difference in our communities by watching out for our loved ones, friends, neighbors, and those we meet. Building stronger, more resilient communities means looking out for one another with intentionality. Whether you live in the city, suburbs or the country, human trafficking and modern-day slavery are insidious. Do not allow complacency to rob individuals of their basic fundamental right to freedom, dignity, and peace. Together, we can fight against human trafficking and restore the social fabric of our communities. One Voice. One Mission. End Human Trafficking.

For more information on how you can partner with Hoyleton in our fight against human trafficking, call the Prevention Department at 618.688.4739 or click here to learn more about our services.

To learn more about Human Trafficking click here.

Domestic Violence Awareness Month: Breaking the Cycle

For millions of individuals, home is not a safe place to find refreshment for one’s physical and emotional wellbeing. Instead, their lives, within the four walls of their home, has become a space of uncertainty, shame and pain. The month of October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. A time when focused attention is given to shedding light on a problem that plagues our communities.

¹Domestic Violence, also known as intimate partner violence (IPV), and domestic or relationship abuse, is defined as a pattern of behaviors used by one partner to maintain power and control of another partner in an intimate relationship. Domestic violence can occur at any time within a relationship: dating, living together, or married. And domestic violence affects individuals from all walks of life, socioeconomic and educational backgrounds, and sexual orientation.

There are many reasons individuals stay in an abusive relationship. However, even in the darkest of circumstances, there is always hope. However, situational awareness on the part of family, friends, and neighbors will go far in helping individuals who are locked in a cycle of domestic violence. Abuse is about the interwoven dynamics of power and control. As a person seeking to help a friend or loved one break the cycle, be mindful to not succumb to the false notion of “saving them” from their circumstances. Individuals locked into these relationships have learned to navigate the ebb and flow of their relationship, and are acutely aware of the cost when challenging the balance of power. ²In an abusive relationship, choosing to leave can be the most dangerous time for the victim.

Family, friends, and neighbors can be supportive by listening and being non-judgmental. Empowering the individual to make choices for their life can prove beneficial as they take steps to secure their future. Developing a safety plan and seeking professional guidance through a prevention agency, or counseling center provides the needed resources and support to make effective changes. At Hoyleton Youth and Family Services, our Community Support Services and Counseling Care team can provide help. Individuals can call 618.688.4739, or 618.688.7082 for Counseling Care. Together, we can build stronger, healthier communities for a better tomorrow.

During October, Hoyleton Youth and Family Services in partnership with the Southern Illinois Violence Prevention Center, will host a “Healthy Relationship” Workshop.

Workshop: Healthy Relationship

Date: Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Time: 4:30 p.m.

Location: Fairmont City Library, 4444 Collinsville Rd. Fairmont City, IL 62201


More Information: Call National Domestic Hotline, 1.800.799.(SAFE)7233

Social Media: #1Thing (What one thing can YOU do to help)


1“What is Domestic Violence?”. Retrieved from http://thehotline.org/is-this-abuse/abuse-defined/

2“Help a Friend or Family Member”. Retrieved from http://thehotline.org/help/help-for-friends-and-family/

Back to School: Part 2

With August being back to school month, that means it is also an excellent time for you to go over safety tips with your youth. With the business of back to school shopping, planning after school care/transportation, and creating meal plans – sometimes it can be easy to overlook the things that seem natural; like safety tips. It is always a good idea to go over a safety plan with the children you care for as they start back at school.

Walking or Biking – If your student is walking or biking to school, be sure to go over the best navigation to get there. Go on the walk or bike ride with them before their first day, so that you are familiar with the path they will take as well. Find places that have minimal traffic and always find sidewalks for your student to take. Teach your child what a crosswalk area is and where it is not a safe place to cross.

Driving – If you are the caregiver of a teen who can now drive, go over safe driving tips with them. There can be lots of traffic in the mornings as people travel to school and work, so teaching your teen the importance of school zone speeds and how to drive in traffic is essential. There are also numerous apps, like Driving by Life360, that may be beneficial to have so that you can ensure your teen is safe.

Fire escape plans – One of the first things that are established at the beginning of the school year is a fire safety plan, but are you doing the same within your home? Create a fire safety plan with your kids and discuss the best escape route and what to do in case of an emergency.

Stranger Danger (In-person or Online) – It may seem obvious, but you can never stress enough the importance of educating your child on the dangers of talking to strangers. If you plan on having your child picked up from school by a friend or family member, be sure to communicate that with them. Go over a safe code word with your child so that they know if that person was sent by you to pick them up. Various online apps create many dangers for children. With your kids starting back to school, their peers may introduce them to new apps to download, which is why you must be aware of apps like: Tagged, TikTok, Snapchat, and many more.

Although it may seem small, by reiterating these safety tips with your children, it could prevent a crisis from happening. We always encourage parents to create an open line of communication within their family so that the youth know boundaries and can keep themselves safe.

If you or someone you know needs help or additional resources, please contact us at 618-688-4727.

Three Ways Our Prevention Specialists Are Protecting Community Youth Against Violence

School is out for the summer. But for some neighborhoods, this time of year is anything but carefree. A wide breadth of scientific studies and reports reveal a positive correlation between violence and temperature (i.e. crime spikes with the heat), and in areas already suffering from violent crime, summer brings a new set of safety concerns.

Though June is National Safety Month, our prevention specialists work in different Southern Illinois schools and communities throughout the year to keep youth protected on multiple fronts.



Here are three ways we’re helping reduce violence in communities, starting with youth:

 Understanding community issues

There are several communities where violence prevention efforts are focused, two of which are Cahokia and Dupo, both low-income, neighboring communities. In some ways they differ; Cahokia is predominantly African American community and the majority of Dupo’s population is Caucasian. Throughout both, violence is considered the norm.

“The norm is family and friends taking drugs and being violent. A lot of them have trauma and, unfortunately, they’re seeing things they shouldn’t be seeing. And we’re going in to show them that life doesn’t have to be that way,” says prevention specialist, Yvonne Petito.

 Teaching concrete life skills

To combat the prevalence of drugs and violence in these communities, Hoyleton prevention specialists rely on the Botkins Life Skills curriculum to teach kids how to deal with these issues. Due to the connection between drugs and violence, the Botkins Life Skills curriculum includes coping skills and decision-making strategies, with a focus on substance use and violence issues. For the latter, examples of lesson topics include Violence In the Media and Coping with Anger.

This valuable information is taught to middle school students, while they’re at this critical developmental point in their lives. Youth from 6th to 8th grade go through this curriculum, with a varying number of sessions per grade.

“They both go hand in hand – when you’re on substances, sometimes those substances provoke violent behavior,” says Petito. Student surveys about the program indicate that they are finding this information to be beneficial. Petito theorizes it’s because it’s the only place they have to turn – “they’re just not getting this outside of school.”

 Providing support from all angles

Though the Botkins curriculum has already received positive feedback, Hoyleton prevention specialists are taking further steps toward prevention. Petito regularly works with teachers to tackle issues that may crop up, such as bullying, and helps to incorporate strategies from the curriculum to address them.

Her goal is to increase interaction with parents in the coming months. The first opportunity for this interaction will be at an upcoming health fair, and at a violence prevention program, ‘It Takes A Village,’ to be held at Oliver Parks in Cahokia.

“With teachers, I make it a point to sit in the teachers lounge to have those conversations with them. I really want to give parents a chance to meet me, and talk to them about what’s going on, so I’m trying to make that happen.”

 These are just three ways Hoyleton Youth and Family Services is working in the collective goal to protect youth from community violence and prevent this widespread issue from growing any further.