Wichita Children's Home offers new help to victims of human trafficking

Published On: Jun 11 2014 12:53:49 PM CDT   Updated On: Jun 11 2014 09:29:36 PM CDT

It's been a safe haven for kids for 125 years.

The Wichita Children's Home (WCH) started as an orphanage, but today it welcomes children who carry unimaginable baggage.

Over the years, the mission has changed to include the current crisis of human trafficking.

Volunteer Betty Suntheimer actually stayed at WCH as a child in 1937, along with four of her siblings.

"I remember even back then the frustration the anger that I felt from being separated from my folks," she said.  "So I understand what these kids are going through."

Once a week, Betty cooks up a comfort meal for the kids.  The kitchen is her place to bond with them and pass along some of the wisdom from her 83 years.

"Sometimes we chit-chat.  Sometimes I just sit and listen."

Since Suntheimer's day the problems that bring kids to WCH have evolved.  What  used to be issues of housing instability or parents struggling financially to keep their kids, have morphed into larger societal problems including human trafficking.

"It would be much easier if we could put it out of our mind and not think about it, or not believe that this happens in our community but it does," said Melanie Miller Garrett.  She runs the different programs at WCH, all of which deal can deal with human trafficking in some way.

Today, WCH is better equipped than ever to handle cases involving kids forced into prostitution.  In February, it opened the state's first specialized housing unit for human trafficking victims.  Police across Kansas can identify victims and bring them to WCH for safety.  Counselors then immediately help them heal and find a way out.

This Friday, the Eyewitness News This Morning team of Brian Heap, Kara Sewell, Mark Larson and Katie Hatfield will join Splurge Magazine to raise money for the Wichita Children's Home.

Splurge's annual Air Capital Classic "Tee-Off Party" is at Crestview Country Club.

Tickets are $60 with the proceeds benefiting WCH and its efforts to fight human trafficking.