Federal Way mom hopeful of finding own daughter after Bonney Lake teen found safe
FEDERAL WAY, Wash. - A Federal Way mom says the recent arrest of two people charged with human trafficking in Pierce County is a reminder of how prevalent trafficking is in Western Washington.
"It is each and every day 24-7. It's always there," said Federal Way's Dianne Zoro.
Her daughter Danica Childs was just 17 years old when she disappeared more than a decade ago. She was working a job and had just signed up to take classes to get her GED.
Zoro is now one of an estimated hundreds of parents in King County who likely know the pain of losing a child to the sex slave industry.
"She was my second child and she's been missing since December 21, 2007," said Zoro.
For more than 10 years she and her family have been on a mission to find Danica, who turned 28-years-old last month.
"I just want her to know I love her, her sisters and whole family loves her so much," said Zoro who has Facebook page devoted to finding her daughter.
She and her three other daughters helped produce a video with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children to tell their family's story with the hope it will lead them to their precious Danica.
Danica's mom said her daughter met pimps on a bus, she took along Highway 99 while commuting from Des Moines to Federal Way. She believes that is when she was lured, then groomed to be exploited.
She said Danica got in to trouble from time to time, but she had no idea human trafficking was even happening in her community, let alone to her daughter.
News of Bonney Lake's 15-year-old Lily Christopherson found safe at a bus stop on Sunday gives her hope.
"I so appreciate all the attention her case got, I think it made the difference. I think any child in trouble, needs help," said Zoro.
Zoro says two things resonate with her: "The most important thing I've learned is keep open communication with your kids."
And she says never forget human trafficking is all around us.
"I think it's everywhere, small towns, and cities," she said.
"50% of the battle is awareness since you can't see it, since most of it is online, people don't imagine that it is actually going on," said Community Mobilization Director Claudia Lawerence with FWCAT, the Federal Way Coalition Against Trafficking.
Zoro knows all about FWCAT.
She and another woman co-founded the nonprofit, shortly after Danica vanished.
Zoro is not as active in the organization now. She's working and helping to take care of two grandchildren, but she supports the organization and says the group is fortunate to have such dedicated and capable advocates and volunteers.
FWCAT works to help educate other parents and works as a resource for exploited youth and their families.
"I was just shocked that I didn't know, I was so caught off guard -- learning that there were girls here in Federal Way like other towns who didn't disappear like Danica, but were living at home and going to school and still being trafficked," said Zoro.
The group just recently merged with an advocacy trafficking group in Seattle.
Lawrence says the sex slave industry is practically invisible, and gone underground because she believe the bulk of it it has gone from the street corner to the smart phone.
"Right now we have between 300 and 500 youth and young adults, children being trafficked at any given time in King County," said Lawrence, "Before the impact was horrific and vile but now it's on line and so much easier to post about it connect up."
She believes many of the exploited youth never leave or escape the industry out of fear that they or their family will be harmed.
Zoro believes that is likely the case with Danica. She cited a time when her other daughter got a cryptic Facebook message, that quickly disappeared. They think it was from Danica.
She insists that support, her faith and imagining her daughter has a normal life somewhere keeps her hopeful.
"We want to talk to her we want to see her face again. We want to know the Danica today," said Zoro.