For All The Lost & Exploited Children

By now, many of you have seen this photo of the little girl known as "Maria."

Greek police have appealed for help in identifying this little girl found living on a Roma settlement, with a family who were not related to her.

Police say she is around four years old and may be of northern or eastern European origin.

The president of the organization now caring for her, Kostas Yannopoulos, said the girl was in a state of shock and confusion. He told the BBC that she was frightened and neglected.

It could be a case of child kidnapping, he added. Or child trafficking.

Police raided the Roma camp, near Farsala in central Greece, to search for drugs and weapons.

The little girl was allegedly being used to beg on the streets.

People do not want to believe that these things happen to children. That such evil exists in this world. 

I am here to say that I was one of the lucky ones. When I was a six week old infant, my parents sold me to pay their rent. They took my older sister and fled. Eventually I ended up with my maternal great-grandmother.

I have not been able to piece together exactly what happened. 

My mother went on to have four more children. She ended up losing each one to child services due to neglect, I have been told.

There are six siblings, now adults, who do not know one another. 


So these things do happen. Fortunately, as I said, I was one of the lucky ones. I was not in the hands of people who would exploit me, as they did the little girl called Maria. 

You can look in her eyes, and see the soul of a much older person. If she has been missing since shortly after her birth, she perhaps never bonded with a care giver. This will cause her problems all of her life. The ability to trust will be sorely lacking. 

These photos have been released in the hope that she might be recognized by someone. This little girl deserves a home and parents who love her. 

On July 29, 2013, Operation Cross Country—a three-day nationwide enforcement action focusing on underage victims of prostitution—was concluded with the recovery of 105 sexually exploited children and the arrests of 150 pimps and other individuals.

The sweep took place in 76 cities and was carried out by the FBI in partnership with local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) as part of the Bureau’s Innocence Lost National Initiative. It is the seventh and largest such enforcement action to date.


Child Sexual Exploitation
  • U.S. law enforcement agencies have seen a dramatic increase in cases of sexual exploitation of children since the 1990s, according to a report to Congress in 2010.
  • In 2006 U.S. attorneys handled 82.8 percent more child pornography cases than they had in 1994.
  • State and local law enforcement agencies involved in Internet Crimes Against Children Task Forces reported a 230 percent increase in the number of documented complaints of online enticement of children from 2004 to 2008.
  • ICAC Task Forces noted a more than 1,000 percent increase in complaints of child prostitution from 2004 to 2008.
  • As of June 2013, the CyberTipline has received more than 1.9 million reports of suspected child sexual exploitation since it was launched in 1998. Suspected child sexual exploitation can be reported to the CyberTipline at or 1-800-843-5678.
  • As of June 2013, NCMEC’s Child Victim Identification Program has reviewed and analyzed more than 90 million child pornography images since it was created in 2002. 


How do I receive AMBER Alerts?

When signing up for AMBER Alerts you will receive geographically targeted information to help identify an abducted child, a suspected abductor or a vehicle suspected to be involved in an abduction.

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Learn more about AMBER Alerts at
Successful Recoveries: 656   Updated July 18, 2013
Read AMBER Alert success stories at

Have you ever heard of NAMBLA? I learned about it while researching data about missing and murdered children years ago. A detective friend who worked undercover told me about it. 

It is my feeling that, though these things make us uncomfortable, it is our responsibility to educate ourselves to what is going on in this world. We owe it to all the children that fall victim to exploitation. 

NAMBLA: North American Man/Boy Love Association. An organization dedicated to the goal of making it legal for adult men to engage in homosexual activity with young boys, without negative consequences from society.

Yes, there is evil that exists in this world. And many times, they are wolves in sheep's clothing. Check out: Evil Unveiled.

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  1. I hope Maria has half of your resiliency. Each time you share a bit of your story and I am amazed at your outlook on life considering the hand you were dealt.

    Thanks for making all of us think and remember that there is far more to life than decorating and great meals.

  2. It's sickening! Our church is very involved in trying to pray and help these girls and women who are part of the sex trafficking destroying so many lives. It's happening all over the world. I tell my nephews to keep a close eye on their girls, but one let's his 7-y-o ride her bikes a few blocks away to her friends house. I would NEVER let that happen, no matter what neighborhoodl No place is safe when a predator is on the prowl. Thanks for bringing this to our attention, Brenda, I know you care.


  3. There has got to be a special place in Hell for all those people who exploit the innocent. It is a sickness that clouds the mind and vision when one puts no value on another life, only to molest, abuse or murder them. Yes, the eyes, the window to the soul, shows us clearly that there has been unspeakable suffering. I was abused when I was about 5 years old and when I told my mother about it when I was in my 30's (yes, it took me that long to tell it) she accused me of lying. I don't know what was worse, the act of being a victim, or the fact that the person I should have been able to trust more than any one else, didn't believe me. So strike a blow a second time and add some guilt where there need not be any. It can still bring me to tears. I spent over 20 years not speaking to my mother and now have forgiven her, but never once has she offered an apology. It is still hangs heavy in the room when we are together. I pray a lot.
    (((HUGS))) Susanne :)

  4. I've known your story for quite awhile, and it sorts of seeps to the back of my mind, and then when I read it again I'm shocked at what a strong woman you are. I am so thankful that you came out w/this story. I've always felt that with your writings you will save the life of someone one day, you might not know it, but I feel you will.
    And if people think their neighborhood is safe, they need to do a computer check for predators in their neighborhood. They just might be shocked to find out who is living where. I just sent this article to my friend in Maine who has ties to Greece. She'd not heard of it yet. This poor this little is so sad, there's no sparkle in her eyes. Thanks for bringing this to light, Brenda.

  5. This post makes me shiver.....a horror story come true. However it is as well that I shiver and also if it produces the effect in others readers as well. It will strike home that way!!! Here in Spain the amount of children going missing seems to grow and grow. Some...their little bodies found eventually, sexually abused or with evidence of other unspeakable atrocities !!! The rest are still missing!! I think some people don't really realize or don't want to realize that child trafficking happens everywhere in the world. It is not a trumped up plot from a Hollywood movie it is totally real nor is it a question of thinking "that never happens here" . It can very well happen here or there! In my opinion there is not enough public awareness!!

    A brave post Brenda!

    keep well

    Amanda :-)

  6. I saw this little girl on the news yesterday and hoped that she would be one whose parents would see and solve the mystery right away ( My God I never even thought of trafficking...I'd assumed she'd been kidnapped ) ; poor little thing and poor you as a little one as well, Brenda :(

  7. Brenda, if she has half your bravery, tenacity and strength, she'll do well, but the sad reality is she will always have problems of one type or another. THIS is one of the best and most important blog posts I've ever read and should be a wake up call to everyone that this exists worldwide, not just "somewhere else".
    Thank you for this post. I pray daily for all children and especially those in harms' way.

  8. Brenda, this is heartbreaking!! I didn't know that part of your story...I am amazed...and so glad that yours had a 'happy' ending.

  9. It is a horrendous life for the poor children who are exploited. Such heartbreaking stories. I have seen the news about little Maria, and you are so right. The look in her eyes makes her seem older. Her little soul has seen way more than she should have at this young age. So, so sad. I so hope a good family will reach out to her and give her the life she deserves. I'm so glad you were able to be cared for by your great grandmother. Thanks for reminding us of these sweet children.

  10. So, so awful but definitely worth everyone's attention. Thank you for telling your story (I'm so sorry that happened to you...thank God you ended up with a relative) and bringing attention to this very important subject.

  11. Shame on your parents for selling you...if they could flee with one child they could of fled with two just as well...maybe you were the lucky one...did you ever see your older sister or parents again? If they could not value you Brenda then you have to value yourself as I know all of us do..I think you are one of the nicest women I know..I am so happy to be your posted a very powerful post today and I hope it helps everyone around the world to wake up and realize how many abusers there are out there in this world..and right under our noses too for that one is really safe in this world anywhere now days...You are an amzing woman and friend Brenda! xoxoxo Carol

  12. I knew of your story but didn't know that part. You were so tiny. I am glad that you found your way back to a grandmother but I know that didn't end your struggle. Whenever you are down on yourself you have to think of how far you have come. I know from adopting our sons what horror stories that are out there. He was one of them. So many people have no clue about what these children go through. They either shut it out or just can't believe that it happens.
    That poor little girl. I saw her pictures on TV. I am saddened at the look on her face. Our son was four when he came to live with us. She has been through more than we can ever imagine. It is going to be a rough road ahead for her. I don't think I have ever seen a sadder child.
    So glad that you had the courage to post this. You are amazing, you know.

  13. It breaks my heart to read about stories of this nature. I just don't get it, involving small children in horrendous acts and the adults who put them there....horrible. I knew your background a little, but didn't know know about the selling part. That was the act of your parents, you however have turned into a wonderful human being, a true ambassador for human suffering. Great work, it's all about education and awareness. Hugs, Diane

  14. Bless your heart, Brenda. (I can't help it...I'm southern) I am so impressed that you are taking what has to be a terribly painful experience and doing something positive, like opening eyes like mine to the horrific life that some children must endure until they are rescued because of efforts of people like you. I learned a lot from this post...I have never heard of NAMBLA before. Thank you for your work in educating others...I know you make a difference.

  15. I am glad you posted this. Child exploitation is the cruelest thing I can think of to happen to a person. You were very lucky to end up with your grandmother.

  16. You are a testimony in overcoming obstacles and allowing the bad things that others choose to do to us to be used as stepping stones to making us better people...your amazing! It is despicable how things like this can happen anywhere...horrible and heartbreaking! Thanks so much for sharing...

  17. Thank you so much for sharing your story and bring awareness to such terrible atrocities being committed upon our children. Until we speak out and stand together, these children have no voice.

  18. Thank you. This needs to be addressed. We need to speak for these children as they can't speak for themselves. Thank you also for sharing your story. I would say that you were luckier then your siblings. But of course I don't know the whole story!

  19. You're an amazing woman Brenda. I hope you know that.

    There will, sadly, always be evil in this world. But there will always be good also, and we must live our lives in such a way that we can help those less fortunate. There for the grace of god...

    Thank you for raising awareness. This little girls face is heartbreaking!

  20. An important post Brenda. Thank goodness you were lucky, and kudos to you for highlighting the plight of those less fortunate x

  21. It looks like the little girl's hair may have been dyed at one point, since the ends are so much darker than the roots -- perhaps it was an effort to disguise her. How very sad, for a child to lose her home and family, and then lose her very self. Brenda, your childhood was so difficult, but you managed to retain your loving and caring heart. Thanks for educating others about the plight of these children.

  22. I was just reading about this before I clicked over to your post, Brenda. I am sickened by these facts and it is wonderful of you to bring them to our attention. No child should have to go through what these precious children endure. Kudos, my friend. xo Laura

  23. I hope her ending turns out like yours...

  24. So, so sad. It is hard to imagine the heartache and terror that you and so many other children have gone through and will go through. Thank you for sharing your story and hers... Hugs to you.

  25. Keep it up -- this is the kind of writing you do best. I saw this story about the little girl the day before yesterday on the online news sources, and her eyes are about a thousand years old. We can only hope that she is fixable.

    I remember reading some of your story in the past, but I guess I don't remember the part about them selling you. Your grandmother who raised you must have been a very strong woman herself, as she obviously taught you to be strong and keep on going. Keep writing these stories.

  26. It's heartbreaking to know what is going on in this sick society. NAMBLA, adult men looking to exploit boys is very, very sad. I heard one of them being interviewed several years ago and I could not believe what they were saying.
    I'm grateful that my daughter is very watchful of her children, she hardly lets them out of her sight.
    Brenda, how wonderful that you are doing what you are doing, your story is very sad also, but you sound like a survivor.
    Children who are mistreated or born addicted to alcohol or drugs are very close to my heart. My husband and I have recently applied to become foster parents, we start our training tomorrow. Most of my friends are foster parents and have such big hearts, I really admire them. They are why we are doing this.
    Have a good day and thank you for bringing this to our attention, I only heard of this precious little girl today on the radio. I hope and pray that they find her parents soon.
    Hugs, Cindy

  27. Thanks for sharing the story of this little girl with us, Brenda. It is brave of you to share these things about your past, and I'm sorry for what you went through. There is so much evil in the world, but the depth of it is overwhelming especially when it involves exploited children. I hope this little girl isn't mentally damaged beyond repair. I saw her on the news this evening and I could see her pain and sadness. Sadly, there are many other stories out there like hers. I just hope she has a loving family looking for her. Thanks for sharing.

  28. That poor little girl!

    I have a button on my sidebar for a group in South America that helps children who are victims of sexual exploitation and other things. A fellow blogger's husband is the director. The good news is there are people's trying to help. The bad new is there there are people who hurt children. I know Howe much this touches your heart.

    I wonder if the internet has made it easier for the criminals or if it is just bringing to light these crimes

  29. Sorry for the typos. This IPAD has a mind of it's own, and the print is miniscule on the replies.

  30. So sad! Some years ago I turned the tv on and was shocked. The Doctor's daughter, just 5 years old,
    had been kidnapped and killed. Her body was cut in pieces and burned. The killers wanted money,of course,but why did they kill the little girl? Because she was crying for her mom,they said. Some time after, a boy,11, went
    out to buy some pencils. The police found his body in a forest. Acording to the killer,he did that because he had to offer a child in a satanic ritual. I know,it is hard to believe, but,being a journalist,like you, I see horrible things all the time. Evil exists, no doubt.
    Is there any hope for this world?
    Ps. Forgive any mistakes. Portuguese is my native language...

  31. Oh what a tragedy! The LORD must weep at this. I live in Toledo, Ohio. It is considered the hub of human trafficking in the U,S. Our churches in the area try very hard to educate people in our area. We have 3 eight year old children that started out as our foster children then we adopted them. One had been kidnapped from Texas. Our other little girl was adopted at 10 months by a family member. She would go on to be neglected and abused sexually and physically until the age of two, when she came back to us and we adopted her. You would think she was so young that the abuse would go away with love and counseling. 6 years later she continues to suffer from the effects of the abuse. Our third child suffers from the effects of crank his mother used while pregnant. All three children have FAS (Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder). There are so many abuses against children that my heart aches. The saddest of all are these children who are kidnapped and put into human trafficking.
    One of the other sad abuses I see is all the foster children who are eligible to be adopted, who languish in the foster care program. Praying for a family to love them forever. Most people are unaware that it is free to adopt a child from foster care. The child receives medicade until the age of 18. It is a win, win situation yet many people opt for foreign adoption costing thousands of dollars! Why does are government not get the word out that all costs for adopting these children are covered. These children need to have families!
    Thank you for so much for your honesty and your heart to help these children.
    GOD bless you Brenda.

  32. Hi Brenda. Did you hear that this child was indeed with her real parents. They did a dna and found out that the people she was with was her parents. Still a sad sorry. This is still a good post for all the children that have been taken and mistreated.


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