Madeline Hehir and Nina Aledort
DescriptionColleagues Madeline Hehir (33) and Nina Aledort (55) discuss how they started working in anti-trafficking, share how the work has developed over time, and reflect on what changes they hope to see in the future.
Subject Log / Time Code
- Madeline Hehir
- Nina Aledort
Recording LocationVirtual Recording
Partnership TypeFee for Service
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00:00 Madeline hair. I'm 33. It is April 16th. 2021 is a Friday afternoon. And we're in Rensselaer Albany, New York, which is actually the capital not York City and my interview partner is Nina aledort, and she is both my direct supervisor and also my mentor and work. It's my pleasure to be here today. Thank you for wanting to talk to me. My name is Nina aledort. And I am 55 years old and today is April 16th 2021 also in Rensselaer. And my partner today is Madeline hair and I supervise her and she is my partner in doing the work that we do together.
00:50 So we were asked to do storycorps. Bio tip to talk about.
00:57 The work we've done in the role. We played and anti trafficking and I know that's the way I approach to work is profoundly influenced by working with you for the last.
01:09 10 years. I don't know, a long time. And so I guess I want to start by asking you. How did you start in the work? How did you come to anti-trafficking? I would say that anti-trafficking came to me and and I was aware of it before I really even understood it. I was, I was thinking about this and thinking about how to talk about the journey and Charlie. I think it started with a Broadway. Play turn off Broadway play a woman named, Elizabeth swados, made a play called run away. The musical and talked about what was then called child prostitution in one of the song and that stayed with me. The very deep part of myself. And then as I started,
02:09 Identified that memory came back up. As I was realizing that many, many of the young people, particularly young transgender people. We're out on the Strip because they could not find employment because of their identity. And this was back in the 90s in New York City. And I really the more I worked with in The Runaway and homeless,
02:40 How many adult pray on Children and Youth?
02:50 And how big a problem it was. And then over the years working with you. You really helped me to expand my vision. Even further, that's in a very long journey.
03:03 But you mentioned,
03:11 It's an intense. We're basically right now we work together in a cubicle Bill office. So I'm imagining your work looks pretty different in the New York City and the 90s with also nothing like New York City in the 70s that just when that play was based off of right. And, you know, it was sitting and transmission are always a lot of gentrification. What has been the peers that were you last updated, which was really a CPAP for home. You worked, it is being turned into a park or a Steve. It was Scrappy work, but I think a lot of Grassroots work remains scrapping. Even is the exchange from
04:11 When did you come to the store and was doing in a group home? And it was, I was an infant. Essentially I was like 21 and
04:33 Working in a group home, please girls like 15 of them were in foster care and it was the first time that I had ever moved from reading and writing about social issues and we had a kid was in our program and she call the AWOL at the time. She left and she had a pattern of coming and going and she was one that I particularly connected with she would comment on like, how I can make my nails look better. And like how
05:10 What I should be doing at the 21 year-old in the city, granted you would like this, but she laughed and was gone for a long time. We were very nervous about where she was nothing to do, but wait for her to come back and she did come back on Christmas Eve.
05:39 And when she disclosed where she had bad and why she stayed away for so long, it kind of clicked with I had been to a book talk at us talking and that's where I learned about trafficking at the word and I was like that's what happened to her. And after that, I just started seeing everywhere and I couldn't fathom the stove like that, if it was happening to somebody that I knew and cared about then.
06:09 It's happened to other kids too. And then I basically just into researching it in my Master's and basically made a career out of it. So, you know, what are things that I would and you're talking about privilege and the way privilege plays out and appraise, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity is present or not.
06:53 And your
06:57 Really frustrating and some ways because the way you talked about privilege can be a tool or not. It can be detrimental, depending on how you approach. And I feel like because if you start with an audience, so when we started the work in like 2013 or so the only frame of reference people have taken or maybe Enough To You episode and those stories are all the same and they're all pretty white girl was stolen from her loving family. And so
07:29 When that's the narrative.
07:32 People connect to it because they're afraid and it can get you the attention that you're trying to compete for in a loud world, but it completely misses the point of who the kids actually are at need support, and those kids are around kids, black kids, trans kids, kids, who don't don't feel safe at home and those narratives just don't, they don't make it that far. So, privileges is everywhere and we're going to challenge to try and capture it and use it as a tool in the work to make people.
08:14 Connect with.
08:17 The Y in that that all kids deserve the same future and hope and concern, and care, and response. When they go missing and
08:27 Yeah, you know, as you're talking about the story that captured people, you know, I'm thinking about when we, when we really started broadening the work out more and more geographically in the state. We started talking about it. At the change people's minds, even as late as 2020. I would say 15 people were still write child prostitute and
09:16 I'm talking about, you know, who dies in the probation officer, came up to us. He was like, and when he said, oh my God, all these years. I've been planning, these girls. I never caught it. I always blame them for their situation. I never understood what was happening to them. Understanding that we are.
09:56 Really just have to change the narrative around us. Where do you think? You know, I guess work is right now.
10:12 So, I mean there's like the bureaucracy of the work, but I think the Crux of it and what we've talked about before and I am not sure how to put it into practice, is to talk about love, right? That, that what makes young people vulnerable? What makes them stay when they're in a bad situation? May seem hesitant to come back and say, either do or don't feel loved and how do we provide services and supports young people that are responsible? But that connect with their most basic human need to feel being accepted.
10:59 That's like the biggest tragedy of the homework. I feel is that we even have to have a conversation time. And I think what I'm responding to is how sad it is. That loves you. So radical to talk about when you're talking about and that it is it is such a fundamental human need and recognizing that that is
11:31 Wherever they can find it at making or what. So it's easy.
11:54 So, you know, thinking about how to embed a narrative without breaking all the important Tools around recognizing, what the role of a service provider is or government worker, but helping young people understand, good luck. And I was thinking, on my way in about, I started by talking about the fact is that I haven't worked there in more than 10 years. I remember all their names and what they look like sometimes when I think about them out, see if I can find them on Facebook at their public or whatever. And I look at them, their faces that I can see and
12:42 Just hope that they're having their best life and I don't want them or expect them in any way to remember me cuz I was a long time ago, but like
12:52 I hold that for them whether they know it or not and
12:57 So maybe we are better up, loving them then.
13:02 We're willing to stay, but how are we able to make them believe? They deserve it? That it's real on that people care about them.
13:10 And it's a really big struggle in the field. I think, you know, overall the field of working with youth and children who?
13:21 Their parents. Many of them are doing the best they can but it's still not good enough. It's not good enough for it. To me. The fundamental whole part would need to create 64 young people. You cannot have food in your love and your favorite position then having food and not feeling.
13:54 Northrop Hall.
14:00 What are the other Concepts? We talked about a lot?
14:06 That one fits into but I don't know that we've made that connection publicly yet is is the risk to our conversation and that
14:15 Speaking of bureaucrats, in the child welfare system of the great state, which we work that
14:23 So many people see their job is to keep kids safe. And then when we're talking about teenagers who don't live at home, in most cases.
14:32 The opportunity to fail or to make mistakes and still be welcomed back. And I'm loving, that is like, if I have been kicked out a home when I made a mistake like my life would be so different. How do we
14:46 How do we further that conversation in a way? Where people feel it still live at the
15:02 Helen at the beginning of the expression and the concept is harm reduction was really, really radical in the community. And you know, how much how much beer before they were at and giving them the skills to make the decision to not shoot up before a job interview, but wait until after you clean it all. But I feel like we are similarly situated. As we are turning me to tolerate rest and yet there is real risk for the adults.
16:02 And so continuing this was on Earth. What is a fear? And what is a real liability? And how do we help?
16:14 And support young people.
16:18 Learn how to sail safely and to return when they fell, right? Because so many flee because that's when I was Dory.
16:30 I think that's really.
16:33 I don't know anybody who sells this problem at all. And I know that this is a national conversation, but really if if anybody so they crack this nut.
16:50 But I think, but the person who made me get that idea where I actually
16:57 Is Nicole from Monroe, County and Nicole?
17:13 She just kept challenging me and saying and then what and then what and then what okay, you try this and then what and then made me recognize that what I
17:25 Wanted to do or say would be is really more connected to my urge to control than it is to maintain safety. And that I think it's part of the humility that we've talked about in the work that
17:40 As two people come from privilege. In some way, shape or form. That the work we're doing is so sensitive. And
17:50 Maintain that, you know, ability to question and listen and be flexible. And for me personally, I think that's part of the journey to bowl for me as a individual and also the system. I hope that we are able to bring that humility about what we do, you know, in some ways, I feel like the advantage of their being very little that has been studied and shown to absolutely and evidence-based, intervention, to interrupt the cycle of trafficking write it. You have to fit in that space could be wrong and everything. I believe, it's the right thing to be dealing with and for and around, the young, people could be wrong. I mean, that's fine.
18:59 And, you know, that,
19:02 Idea of controllers were talking and thinking about the power and control wheel that happens. And we're used to be talked about in domestic violence and thinking about the parent of almost teenagers, write anybody who's had a team that is based in fear and love, right? And the need to continually be letting go, but be letting go and responsible and that in when you have a young person in your custody, or in your car, or in your life, who is being trafficked.
19:48 Where the line of responsibility is around, the letting go is very hard to be adults and trained as a voice and to honor that, right? That's coming to your own authentic adolescent boys, remembering who we were at 1515 and what I wanted and then trying to honor that very complicated.
20:30 And I think that that's one of the things in terms of like,
20:34 You and I personally and you being a mentor at that letting go is something that has been really impactful lessons that you've demonstrated like overwhelming.
20:53 You're crushing it important for all the things we're talking about. We're talking about you to see this is one of the best. Absolutely. If you don't know something, you don't have to completely that you have a relationship with somebody who is also and one of us find out together, right? Or cheese. I got that, completely wrong, who knew that was going to be totally the wrong approach to take. Let's let's try it again.
21:53 Well, I don't really know, but I was my favorite part because just watching Adult squirm with.
22:03 Necessary, but you know, where you always say, you know, we're good at talking about trauma, but we're not good at talking about sex.
22:12 Can't really talk about sex trafficking without talking about sex. I'm just remembering that unless it was connected for trafficking. The recessed never came up and that happened again. I guess it was second year that we made the decision to Center the dialogue. Recognizing that the actual romantic people. If we cannot
22:54 Name that as a fundamental development in a lot of places, but in particular, being able to stay the person you have to write, imagine is Bill thing. That's what I have right now.
23:51 The other thing I'm thinking about is,
23:58 I think about you things at the same time, if it was the difficulty for families in the mines campaign to accept their child and understand, their child victim has Survivor, and not blame them, and then not really helping families heal as a family.
24:48 I think there's some really incredible Advocates and Survivor leaders. I'll call them even though they're the parents of the survivors, but how
25:00 They're still even though Survivor leaders and survivors speakers, you know, there are National networks and all the stuff. The parents there are few and far between 70 in publicly. And when they do the questions that they get from audiences and stuff is still so
25:20 Well-intentioned, but miss
25:24 Executed. I'm not sure what the right where it is.
25:29 That even the ones who are brave to step into that space in that way, or are shamed all the time for it. That's really
25:38 Tragic about that there, but for the grace of God go I I I, you know, excessively talk to my own children about Predators on the internet and you know, they're telling me that they got it, they know, but then they don't know, right? And I think we've talked about this a lot.
26:13 Interactive platforms play in.
26:20 You know.
26:22 Really grooming young people, Predators always play a long game and they have the time and they have the expertise, and they are very good and they are able to find young people. You know, who don't immediately say that was inappropriate at the ignore button or about how hard it is to actually. Effectively even report. Like what would you want to see for our kids? And I'm really clear away. The flag report. Get feed back into the failure of the adults.
27:08 Are you going to make a lot of money on this platform and her old patriarchy, right? Because so many of the people who are
27:19 Graphics are young women of color and being you mean? Maybe they do, I don't know them, so I don't know your story but
27:38 The proliferation in the Eat, Drink Alone using platforms, if it's going to be a challenge anymore predator.
27:57 You might not have been out on the street. So my internet coming-of-age was like a name and my face as a ten-year-old like thanking chat rooms or cool that.
28:25 I couldn't articulate at the time but part of the patriarchy was, you know, if the person asking me questions, but I felt were inappropriate. I assumed it was an older male than the response must be that you're polite and you respond that you're not. I hadn't yet had the
28:44 Autonomy or the agency to comfortably, say, like, get out of my face, you loser. It's not always, you know, the heartbreaking.
28:59 Home, but aren't you getting the kids need? Sometimes? It's really just that young people have not yet. Been told that you have Choice over your body and your time and, and who you talk to, who you share stuff with and especially how that plays for the younger girls. Write that politeness. You know, they make me feel yucky, but at least they recognize that female, right?
29:29 Yeah, I think that's huge. That looks like that love.
29:38 So what's something you're proud of you talking about? What's left? What's on our to-do list?
29:49 I'm really proud.
29:52 Because I'm a huge challenge ahead of us in New York state. I'm really proud that we have formulated a community across the state and let you know a very small amount of money. I just rolled it Forward every year and make sure that we were not just paying attention to the big urban center, understood that rural suburban. This is everywhere and got them to understand that it just was a damn problem as well. Not just out of it.
30:52 And Nina really being the New York face and, you know, bright out there with how we're doing the work and always asking, you know, what else is there? What can you do better in always challenging people to do better and buy the kids.
31:19 I think the more things I think when we started the work, I mean I was a trainer on a contract and I didn't know if I'd be employed. Next year to go from that to buy that people recognize that people ask about that.
31:36 And hopefully earned the reputation that it has a positive influence on young people.
31:42 That's a lot. That's a lot to be proud of, but I think,
31:47 The other part of that, that I'm really proud of is that we
31:52 Have maybe not done it all the way, but you've made a real effort to have young people.
31:59 Voice involved in the work and inform the work and that's really challenging but we
32:06 MS, Center at Weatherford.
32:11 Really, really try. And I think that's worth a lot. Having a strong Survivor pure Network.
32:31 Really work with, and for her to help.
32:39 Got their voices and they're bitching about money.
32:56 What would I do if I had the money I want?
33:03 I want to see.
33:07 More services available in the when is Museum, in the way that I think from the systems perspective that case management? I would really love to wave a wand and have young people who need.
33:26 A meal at McDonald's or a clinical fashion to have that need Matt basically on demand for this whole trafficking. Thing even came up, but I would love to have no clue.
33:50 Be at the flip side of that. Question, of course, is where we are. We really not feeding or in my mind that and then I'm thinking about boys and trans non-binary.
34:10 You know.
34:12 I feel like,
34:14 We have not read it as much as we're always asking questions about. We are always after paying fees are cool for girls. Yeah.
34:42 You had mentioned, you know, you survivors that we work for essentially and having that panel or group or whatever. It would be being as diverse as possible representing.
34:55 GMC communities, Boys World communities. That we still have quite a bit.
35:05 And I'm Native American.
35:16 I hope that's helpful. I would love to see that.
35:19 Make a difference.
35:23 Who talked about like, what are kind of wish lists are? What do you hope for the Next Generation? So you and I are retired.
35:33 But I'm not sure if that's going to happen.
35:54 I don't know. I wish I had a crystal ball. I I wish that the next generation of people who are working on. This are all the whelming, the survivors and family members survivors, people like me who have not been directly touched in my life, you know.
36:26 I mean, I think those fantastic Visions. I also keep coming back to housing and housing first and
36:34 How intricately housing is tied to all of this.
36:40 Need and work as pollution and prevention and all of it. And I would love to see you. No affordable housing for all in a housing first approach and that, that would help stabilize people again before they even need to think about your services.
36:58 That would be great.
37:01 Thanking outfit.
37:06 I'm really grateful for having met, you.
37:13 I think it's remarkable what you've done in 10 years and I hope that by the time I'm retired, you know what, the world looks really different City.
37:22 I hope we make a positive impact in that we're redundant.
37:27 I completely agree with that.
37:30 Thanks for being my conversation partner. Thank you for asking.
37:44 We're good.